Last month, we discussed in our Ontario car accident blog that self-driving cars are one step closer to being available to the public in California. Google has been the leader in testing self-driving cars, which many auto makers believe will eliminate distracted driving, i.e., texting while driving, talking on the phone while driving, etc. In fact, Google has been testing its self-driving cars in California for some time now. The self-driving cars being tested include cars with manual or traditional controls, as well as cars with no manual controls.
In December 2015, California’s legislature published draft proposals regarding the public’s use of self-driving cars. However, the proposals only allow licensed drivers to use self-driving cars. In addition, drivers are only allowed to use self-driving cars with manual or traditional controls, i.e., a steering wheel and pedals, which allows drivers to take over in an event of an emergency.
Google was not happy about the proposed regulations, stating that involving humans actually makes its driverless cars less safe. Though self-driving cars with and without manual controls were tested, Google ultimately wants to provide self-driving cars with no manual controls to the public to eliminate human error. See Google Perplexed by Proposed Regulations RegardingDriverless Cars – By an Ontario Catastrophic Car Accident Lawyer.
It seems that recent research may support Google’s position. A recent study performed at Stanford University indicated that self-driving cars actually give people a false sense of security. In addition, the research showed that self-driving cars are lulling drivers to sleep, which is dangerous if drivers need to take over the manual controls in an event of an emergency.
The research assessed how self-driving cars can safely hand control back to the driver when the self-driving software or sensors are overwhelmed. 48 students were put behind the wheel of self-driving cars, and they were told to monitor the car and road. 13 of the students nodded off while in the cars.
Ironically, research indicated that distractions, such as watching a movie, can keep the drivers awake. When the 48 students were told to watch a video or read from a tablet while in the car, only 3 nodded off.
Though research is ongoing, early data seemed to show that drivers need at least 5 seconds to react and take over the manual controls if they are not totally checked out. Thus, if they are totally checked out, i.e., nodding off, then the reaction time may be longer.
This data seems to support Google’s conclusion that allowing drivers to control the cars would make its cars less safe due to human error. There will no doubt be numerous future studies assessing the safety of self-driving cars. It will be interesting to see what unfolds.
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Source: www.nbcbayarea.com (Self-Driving Cars Can Lure Drivers Into False Sense of Security,Lull Them to Sleep: Stanford Study)