Video: Autonomous Mercedes-Benz Commercial Truck Road Tested in Real German Traffic
The future of private automobiles may not involve private motorists. The long march toward automation could potentially save more than a million lives worldwide each year.
Of course, things built by humans can be as fallible as humans. This was demonstrated by Google’s driverless car program, which has been in more than a dozen minor accidents since its inception. It’s important to note that several of these accidents were a result of errors by human drivers in other cars, and may have happened regardless if the car were automated or not.
In the below video, Mercedes executives ride along in real highway traffic as the large commercial vehicle drives itself.
Governments Still Feeling Out Autonomous Vehicles
According to the Stanford Cyberlaw wiki, American states are not oblivious to the impending rise of autonomous vehicles by any stretch. Nearly every state in the union has already passed some sort of legislation either acknowledging the vehicles, defining terms, or directing their departments of motor vehicles to do something about it.
States with larger populations have been quicker and more proactive about it, with California passing preliminary rules years ago. One of the rules passed in 2012 was that manufacturers needed to provide information to owners on what data the car would be collecting. Connecticut has directed its department of motor vehicles to design regulations and outlined under what circumstances such vehicles can be tested. Tennessee passed a bill in February which prohibits localities from banning vehicles solely on the basis of automated technology, a wise move since artificial intelligence of any kind can have a scary effect on people who don’t understand it.
Several states, however, have failed to pass any sort of legislation regarding autonomous vehicles, including Louisiana and Wisconsin. Despite its enthusiasm, nothing yet is written regarding autonomous vehicles in Texas. It could be years before the autonomous vehicle industry is actually safe to be born in the United States, which is home to about a third of the cars in the world.
Globally speaking, Europe seems to be leading the way, with a proposed amendment to the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, published in April 2014, which appears to understand that human error is the largest contributor to traffic deaths. However, the ability to override automatic functions is an important component of the document.
The driver’s obligation to monitor and control any kind of action taken by a vehicle system is addressed by the guiding principle underlying all road traffic rules.
It could be a decade or more before driverless cars become more of a normal sighting on highways and roads. The role of commercial drivers will likely change from one of slave to the map to protector of the cargo. Whether police and other government organizations decide to adopt the technology, and what licensing will look like in a world where the human is mostly not making the decisions, are questions to be answered in the coming years.
Images from Shutterstock.