While some may see self-driving cars as both the inevitable future and a necessary innovation for safer roads, it is clear that these ambitions have yet to be realized. Uber, for example, has dealt with blowback from the first self-driving car death involving an autonomous vehicle in March of 2018, and a Tesla driver passed away relying on a self-driving car’s autopilot mode in 2016.

These deaths raise questions as to whether self-driving cars are truly ready for primetime and a world where drivers can feel confident enough to take their own two hands off the wheel.

Will Human Hands Ever Be Unnecessary for Truly Safe Driving?

In the March 2018 self-driving car death involving Uber, the facts eventually highlighted that the "safety driver" was not monitoring the road at the time of the accident. That said, the facts also showed that even the self-driving car’s most basic autonomous system functions failed, according to experts.

In effect, Uber intuitively understood that, at this point in time, self-driving cars are not safe enough to drive without a human standing by to intervene when necessary. And, while Uber eventually scrapped their self-driving car program in the aftermath of this negative publicity, practical questions about human "safety driver" intervention necessarily remain.

If and when Uber’s self-driving car program returns, will human safety drivers still be there to control the vehicle in the event of a system malfunction? In all likelihood, human drivers will still be required since handing complete control to, essentially, computers will not be an absolute substitute for human involvement.

After all, it is exceedingly difficult (if not impossible) to name a single automated system that is free of any malfunction possibilities and similar flaws. Unless and until self-driving automation is perfectly free of glitches, then it is unlikely any company will take the chance on removing humans from the equation entirely. And, these are early days for the push toward self-driving vehicles, which is also evident when one takes a look at the current laws in place.

Is the Current Legal System Truly Ready for Self-Driving Cars?

States have been moving rapidly to make new laws that will usher in the era of self-driving cars, but the recent high-profile accidents have led to increased scrutiny in recent months.

California, for example, has already started rolling out new driverless car regulations, but legal questions abound. For example, it is reasonable to assume that some accident investigations will reveal that it is not quite clear whether the self-driving car failed or the driver should have been more responsible and taken over control to avoid the accident.

With novel legal questions and cases, it is safe to assume that self-driving car law will continue to evolve, grow and adapt in the coming years. Still, it is clear that society is not yet ready for completely autonomous vehicles, and it may be decades before we will be.

For more questions about self-driving car laws or to speak with a lawyer after a self-driving car accident involving Uber or another rideshare company, contact us to speak with a Ledger Law accident lawyer today.

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