Earlier this week I took exception to comments Ralph Nader made regarding autonomous vehicles. Mr. Nader said they were the next “hazard on the highway”. His position was that the people in the driverless vehicles were not prepared to take control if necessary and that the automotive industry was turning automobiles into entertainment arenas and mobile offices.
My response was that vehicles today DO NOT cause accidents. It is the drivers that cause the carnage on our highways and streets. Accidents are caused by lack of attention, distraction, lack of awareness, carelessness, not obeying the rules of the road, not exercising good judgment and sensibility, inconsideration and outright hostility. All of these behaviors ARE NOT exhibited by the vehicle…they are HUMAN behaviors.
I went on to suggest that fully autonomous vehicles, in addition to possessing other desirable attributes obeyed the rules of the road, no exceptions! On the recent cross country trek of 3,400 miles by an autonomous vehicle from Delphi, the vehicle “obeyed” the speed limits, lane change rules, etc., no exceptions. It did aggravate some drivers who did not care, who wanted to drive over the limit, etc…but it made the cross country journey with no issues. Wait a minute…who got aggravated at “not” disregarding the rules? People…humans!
Automotive news this week published an article titled “Fury in China” which stated that there were: 17 million road rage incidents this year with 82,100 accidents caused by angry drivers last year. And they are not talking about garden variety dust-ups. In May a motorist in Chengdu viciously beat a female driver who was cutting from lane to lane. And in another incident an ambulance was forced to pull over as a result of a driver dispute. Add to this the fact that there were 21,570 vehicular fatalities among China’s 169 million vehicle owners. That means that you stand a pretty good chance of bad things happening. And who did we say causes accidents…people do! Think about that for a minute.
Drivers are universally the blame for accidents, for road rage and all things bad on the highways. Not vehicles. The quicker we get drivers, aka humans out from behind the wheel of vehicles the quicker we will realize a polite and “safe” driving experience.
The world may not be ready for that, the infrastructures and the technology may not “quite” be there yet…but even today…systems are being designed into vehicles, collision avoidance, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control…all designed to help the human…we have recognized where the problem is…