New autonomous cars could ease and complicate the future of driving

Global Business

The hottest vehicles at the Los Angeles Auto Show on Thursday don’t require a single driver. CCTV America’s Yakenda McGahee reported this story from Los Angeles.

It won’t be long before autonomous vehicles, also known as self-driving cars, move from conception to production. Manufacturers from Audi and Google to Tesla and Volvo are already testing prototypes on the road and making predictions on the future.

“Today it’s a concept but our ambition is by 2017, we’ll have 100 of these on the road in Sweden,” said Erik Coelingh, senior tech leader for Volvo.

There are many purported benefits of driverless cars, including time savings, a decrease in fossil fuel dependency, and an increase in safety, manufacturers said.

“If we get autonomous cars, maybe we don’t have 33,000 fatalities a year, maybe we save 2.5 million ER visits, 200,000 people hospitalized and the $18 billion a year that costs,” said Mark Platshon, senior advisor for BMW I-Ventures.

But for all the benefits, there are social and legal challenges. For instance, what becomes of drinking and driving laws and road rules? Also, there’s a question as to who would be liable in accidents leading to damage, injury, or death: the autonomous car owner, manufacturer or software developer?

“Well of course there’s many questions, not only technical questions, but also questions about legalities and product liability,” said Coelingh. “We can’t deploy the technology before we have all the answers.”

Finding those answers starts with asking some tough questions.

The technology is coming far faster than people are prepared for it, said Paul Godsmark of the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence.

“There are going to be huge soci-economic impacts,” he said.

Another consequence of the technology is more traffic, added Kyle Vogt, the chief executive of Cruz Automation.

“If you tell people commuting is now less painful and you get that hour of your life back, more people do it,” Vogt said.

Bryant Walker Smith of Univ. of South Carolina discusses driverless cars

CCTV America’s Michelle Makori interviewed Bryant Walker Smith, assistant professor in the School of Law and School of Engineering at the University of South Carolina, about how self-driving cars can change the way people travel.