Self-driving vehicles has been on the rise in recent years, and it’s been made easier by advancing technology.
However, not all technology has positive effects on our lives, and Uber’s self-driving vehicle crash is a stark reminder of how dangerous innovation can be, and how careful we need to be when advancing ourselves.
Safety must always be the primary concern.
Uber’s self-driving vehicle crash
A report to the local police when Uber’s self driving vehicles crashed confirms that a driver was making a left turn across 3 lanes of traffic in her vehicle just as a set of traffic lights were changing from green to yellow. The vehicle approached the 3rd lane, and according to the driver:
“As far as I could tell, the third lane had no one coming in it so I was clear to make my turn. Right as I got to the middle lane about to cross the third, I saw a car flying through the intersection but couldn’t brake fast enough to completely avoid collision.”
The vehicle being referred to was an Uber SUV was operating in self-driving mode by employees Patrick Murphy and Matthew Rentz.
Mr Murphy wrote that:
“There was no time to react as there was a blind spot created by the line of traffic in the southbound left lane.”
The vehicles collided, and the Uber SUV flipped on its side and collided with two other cars before coming to a halt.
Serious questions raised
Though no serious injuries were reported – only soreness and whiplash – it raises a serious question of whether these self-driving cars are reliable and safe enough to operate on the road. How machines and humans react to collisions are most certainly different right now. As with human error, there can also be technological errors.
Uber seemed to recognise the dangers of the self-driving vehicle and therefore temporarily halted its self-driving vehicles over a weekend. However, their fear of danger didn’t last long as the pilot vehicles returned to the road the following Monday.
As its really early stages, it’s hard to see how self-driving vehicles can safely interact with other drivers on the road. Even without rigorous testing, it’s noted that Uber has been moving aggressively to put its self-driving vehicles on the road with passengers in the backseat. However, they note that a safety engineer will be in the vehicle who will take control if and when it becomes necessary.
Self-driving vehicles aren’t a new phenomenon. Google launched their first self-driving vehicle in 2009 (which became Waymo in 2016).
On their page, Waymo’s marketing strategy said:
“Imagine if everyone could get around easily and safely, without tired, drunk or distracted driving. Time spent commuting could be time spent doing what you want, as the car handles all of the driving.”
This tagline would be great if the vehicles were 100% safe. However, Google’s self-driving vehicle crash back in 2016 was described as “one of the worst autonomous vehicle accidents yet“.
Google’s self-driving vehicles have suffered multiple impacts with various other vehicles. Though Google said their self-driving car hit the brakes before the collision, they note that it wasn’t enough to prevent it. The Guardian reports that the Google self-driving cars has been involved in approximately 24 accidents.
Is the technology ready?
Big corporations like Uber and Google are spending a fortune on autonomous self-driving technology with the hope that vehicles will no longer need drivers. But until they can get their technology to a standard where it’s safe to drive with other human drivers on the road, there are many flaws for self-driving vehicles.