We can safely state that the automobile is one of the all-time great inventions that the world has ever seen. They’ve been a staple part of our lives for 130+ years and have provided us with transportation like no other. Over the years we’ve seen vehicles evolve, but thanks to recent obsessions in automating processes, we’re about to see the biggest change yet. That’s right, we’re retiring from the cockpit; welcome to the era of driverless cars.
Driverless cars pose a surreal and futuristic way of transportation that we’ve only ever fantasised about. But as the reality of automated vehicles approaches, there are a few questions that need answering…
Will we need a license for driverless cars?
Although the idea of an automated chauffeur is exciting, there’s a big obstacle that we need to overcome; licenses. Currently, licenses allow drivers to drive manual or automatic (gearbox) vehicles. Many people assume that we won’t need a license as we won’t be in control of an automated vehicle, but they may be mistaken. Although these vehicles are driverless, the ‘driver’ will still exist.
Authorities around the world simply won’t allow driverless cars to be 100% automated; at least not for now anyway. In order for driverless cars to be allowed on the road, they’ll need to have a manual override. We can’t put all our trust in a machine just yet, after all, our lives are in their mechanical hands. This could change in the future as we develop driverless vehicles, but we’ll have to wait until these technologies are proven to be safe.
If there’s an accident, who’s liable?
Now here’s the biggie. Just because a car is driverless doesn’t mean it’ll never be involved in an accident (especially whilst manual cars are still on the road). Collisions wouldn’t be completely avoidable unless manual cars were abolished entirely; something that simply won’t happen in the age of the petrol head.
So what happens when your driverless car malfunctions and veers into a vehicle in the next lane? Suddenly we have a strange situation on our hands. The passenger in the driverless car didn’t cause the accident; nor did the driver of the other car. The automated vehicle caused the collision. Bear in mind that we’re likely to spend a lot of money on these luxury vehicles; finding out who’s liable will be essential.
Car manufacturers won’t throw their hands up in admission. In fact, it’s likely that you’ll be forced to sign over liability when you purchase the vehicle. This could cause huge problems for car owners as they could be penalised even though they aren’t at fault. That being said, Volvo have stated that they will accept liability and not pass the fault onto their customers; we’ll have to wait and see if other manufacturers follow suit. If automated vehicles are intending to take over, this is a huge area that needs to be addressed.