The UK-based Institution of Mechanical Engineers makes the claim that self-driving cars could prevent 95% of all accidents.
That report seems to be based on the fact that 95% of all accidents are caused by driver error.
Claiming that self-driving cars could prevent all of these accidents seems like a stretch, and certainly the computer drivers will create accidents of their own making.
And it’s possible that self-driving car accidents could be more rare but also more brutal, particularly if autonomous vehicles are able to routinely travel at higher speeds than human drivers.
But even withstanding all of that, it’s clear why auto insurers are nervous.
I once read a magazine article that relayed the First Law of Ice Cream Truck Driving: “Backing up kills kids.”
I don’t know how specific that law is to ice cream trucks, but it is true that thousands of kids die each year from “backovers”.
Which is why it’s great that Tesla’s Summon feature, which retrieves the car from its parking space, might help make backing up safer.
Unfortunately, Consumer Reports noticed several flaws with the feature, which could have put kids lives in danger.
But never fear, Tesla has already fixed them.
Google just received a patent for lockers in self-driving trucks.
Although this is only a patent, it’s not hard to see from here to a place where Google is directly competing with Uber. And maybe FedEx and Amazon, for that matter.
On the other hand, it’s worth remembering that entering this type of business would be a direct departure from Google’s Android strategy. In that business, Google has been content to own the software and let other companies manage the hardware and services that come on top of it.
A third, more trivial, thought, is – do we really need a patent for this? Putting lockers inside of trucks is a neat idea, but it hardly seems like the type of thing that merits a patent. I would hate to see some small startup get squashed because it doesn’t own the patent for putting lockers in a truck.
The Obama administration, and US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, in particular, are huge fans of autonomous vehicles.
So it was nice to see the news that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration views Google’s self-driving cars as legal and safe, even without a human driver.
On a practical level, this seems like a big deal, but I can’t actually pinpoint how this will affect legal and regulatory disputes. My understanding is that most motor vehicle regulation in the US is done at the state level. So when a federal regulator (the NHTSA) and a state regulator (the California DMV) disagree on whether a self-driving car needs a human driver, does the state win?