Self-driving cars are something very new to California roadways. While the idea behind the technology is interesting to many people, it also is scary. This is especially true following some serious accidents involving these vehicles. It raises questions about how safe they really are and what risks they pose to others.
The LA Times describes a fatal accident that happened involving a pedestrian and a self-driving vehicle. After lengthy research into the accident, the determination is that the vehicle was unable to spot pedestrians in the roadway. Its programming was for only specific obstacles in the roadway, and this pedestrian did not fit those specifications.
The good thing about self-driving cars is that everything they do becomes part of its record. So, experts could go back into the record to see what happened at the time of the accident with the internal workings of the car.
What they found was that the car was able to recognize and properly respond to pedestrians in crosswalks, but since the victim in the accident was not in a crosswalk, the car was unable to identify her as a person.
In fact, the car kept jumping through classifications for the pedestrian. Until it could narrow in on a classification, it could not determine how to respond. It also was unable to determine that she was walking across the road.
It is important to note that every self-driving vehicle has a real person in it who monitors what is happening. In this case, the driver was watching videos at the time of the accident. Despite all the information the company gathered, it did not formally acknowledge a cause for the fatal crash.
There is no doubt that there are still some adjustments that manufacturers must make to self-driving vehicles to help prevent fatal accidents such as this. However, there is also a lot of promise for the future of such vehicles.