Driverless cars are the latest buzzword in the tech and car industries. This led the public to believe that soon the road would be filled with 100% autonomous self-driving cars. While many early adopters are excited at this prospect, many drivers are uneasy by this idea. It also creates interesting legal questions regarding who could be at fault for injury if an accident involving a driverless car occurs. Without a doubt, the driverless car could be the future, but it is unlikely that the first models will be entirely autonomous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has organized the types of driverless cars into six stages based on their level of autonomy.
Stage 0: No Automation
At this stage, the car is entirely dependent on the driver and offers no self-driving features. In other words, most, vehicles on the road today fit into this stage.
Stage 1: Driver Assistance
This includes some features like steering and acceleration to assist the driver. However, at this stage of automation, the driver has to remain actively aware of road conditions. The driver must still keep their hands on the steering wheel and be ready to operate the pedal
Stage 2: Partial Automation
At this stage, the automated system can gather information from the environment. It has greater control over the steering, acceleration, and deceleration of the vehicle. The driver can relax, but should still keep their hands at two and ten.
Stage 3: Conditional Automation
The driver remains necessary at this stage and can intervene, but does not need to be actively involved. Instead of keeping both hands on the wheel one hand would be enough. This stage would operate reasonably well on a more controlled predictable environment like a highway. This stage is likely the level which most autonomous vehicles will reach in the near future.
Stage 4: High Automation
Here, the car is almost entirely autonomous and can perform nearly all driving functions for an entire trip. However, it is still limited to an operational design domain (ODD) and cannot cover every scenario. Stage four could handle highways with ease, but back dirt roads would require driver intervention and off-roading would still need to be done manually by the driver.
Stage 5: Full Automation
This is the final stage of vehicle automatization and is equipped with an A.I. which can perform in even the most extreme scenarios and environments. It wouldn’t just drive as well as a human it would far better! There are some questions as to whether stage five is even possible as that A.I. may never have the creative or instinctive ability a human as.
Who Is to Blame if a Driverless Car Gets into an Accident?
This question gets brings up a lot of ethical and legal issues such as: If an accident is imminent, does the driverless car have an obligation to protect its passengers even if it could result in the harm to a pedestrian or a person in another vehicle? This question is particularly difficult when we consider if an A.I. could learn ethics and if it could, who would be moral enough to teach it?
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If you need legal assistance regarding a recent car accident or related injury that you or someone you know has been in, then please contact our legal offices at 630-665-5678 for a free consultation with a seasoned DuPage County car accident attorney.