Would you feel safe on roads with untested driverless cars?
Autonomous technology is certainly a hot topic in the car industry right now. While it has its naysayers, there are plenty of companies envisioning a future of self-driving cars with the recent revelation that Apple is investing in the technology, while manufactures such as Ford and GM are aiming to have autonomous cars ready in the next few years. Bringing this a step closer to reality, Wired reports that the state of Michigan has become the first state to authorize autonomous cars on public roads without drivers or steering wheels. Now there's a scary thought.
A previous law in 2013 required a backup driver to be inside the autonomous car. Five states (California, Nevada, Tennessee, Florida, and Michigan) have now passed laws relating to autonomous driving, but there's little cohesion – California, for example, still requires a backup driver. "The fact of the matter is 75 percent of all the companies that are doing research and development in this space are in southeast Michigan," Transportation Director Kirk Steudle said. While automakers like Ford now have the green light to test its self-driving cars of the future on public roads in Michigan, it's unclear whether the law applies to companies such as Google, which are also entering the autonomous car market.
The new law has unsurprisingly raised safety concerns too. While police will investigate any accidents caused by autonomous cars, Governor Rick Snyder told ABC that there will be crashes and probably a fatality. "It's a risk worth taking because the future of the technologies we know are going to help reduce those crashes and reduce those fatalities," he said, citing that the technology can eliminate human errors that cause 94 percent of accidents and prevent 100 US highways deaths everyday. Michigan has a rich heritage when it comes to the evolution of the automobile. The first production Ford Model T rolled off the assembly line at Henry Ford's Michigan factory in 1908.
Now the state wants to be at the forefront of the autonomous automobile future. "Michigan put the world on wheels and now we are leading the way in transforming the auto industry," Snyder said in a statement. "We are becoming the mobility industry, shaped around technology that makes us more aware and safer as we're driving. By recognizing that and aligning our state's policies as new technology is developed, we will continue as the leader the rest of the world sees as its biggest competition." How do you feel about the prospect of our roads being populated by driverless cars?