The driverless car
Driverless cars are currently being tested on British roads, but what are the drawbacks of handing over control to a robot.
Driverless cars have already graced the streets of Britain, although they’re still only being tested in Greenwich, Bristol and Milton Keynes. There are some perceived benefits to using a driverless car, one of the main ones being that a robot would not make the same errors as a human, for example crashing due to tiredness or from being distracted.
However, there have been concerns that the driverless car is at an increased risk of being hacked, and transport experts have warned that more should be done to ensure that hackers cannot access the car’s controls and wreak havoc on the roads, causing accidents and traffic jams.
Also, it is unclear whose responsibility it would be if there was a collision. If it was due to a fault with how the vehicle has been programmed, would it be the responsibility of the manufacturer, or with the individual who owns or is in the vehicle at the time, for failing to override the autonomous controls? Or more specifically, would it be the fault of the maker of a specific control that failed, or the software company?
It’s also uncertain whether individuals would still require a driving licence to use a driverless car. Whilst driverless cars are operated autonomously, it does not seem necessary to require those who use them to have a driving licence. However, if the vehicle requires human intervention, then it would seem reasonable to expect the individual to know how to operate a car.
Worldwide, 95% of deaths on the roads are attributed to human error, and it is thought that introducing autonomous vehicles would reduce the number of accidents on the road. Dr Nick Reed from Transport Research Laboratory argues that integrating autonomous vehicles alongside human drivers would cause some serious problems.
Image c/o Department for Transport