While autonomous vehicle makers offer big promises for safer, more efficient roadways, there is good reason to be concerned about the risks. Many policymakers and law enforcement agencies are currently reviewing how to handle self-driving vehicle and car accidents. This is no longer merely a theoretical question.
Earlier this year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a report that found that a semi-autonomous vehicle system was partly at fault for a fatal Tesla crash in Florida in 2016. Shortly afterward, Uber temporarily grounded its self-driving testing fleet in Pittsburgh after a vehicle was involved in a crash.
Law enforcement agencies and self-driving car companies need to be prepared to handle the challenges that come with accidents in autonomous vehicles. Waymo (formerly known as the Google Self-Driving Car Project) is now working with law enforcement agencies in four states, including Texas, to better engineer its cars and to help police officers prepare for self-driving car-related accidents.
When Will Autonomous Vehicles Be Released?
While the precise timeline for the release of fully autonomous vehicles remains unclear, there is no doubt that things are moving at a rapid pace. On November 7th, 2017, Waymo announced that the company will begin to remove human drivers from its safety testing process. This means that for the first time, fully self-driving car testing is taking place in real-world conditions on public roads, without any backup driver on board. In the coming months, volunteer passengers are scheduled to be added to these tests.
Law Enforcement Training: Self-Driving Cars and Emergency Situations
In training law enforcement officers to handle self-driving car accidents, Waymo is working with two dozen police departments around the country, including the Austin Police Department (APD).
The training is designed to integrate the vehicles and emergency response system to improve overall safety in communities that have self-driving cars on the road. Specifically, the training has highlighted four key elements to help law enforcement address accidents and other emergency situations:
- Detect emergencies: Fully self-driving vehicles will be designed to come to an automatic safe stop in any emergency situation. This includes accidents, software malfunctions, vehicle maintenance issues and poor weather or road conditions.
- Recognize and react to sirens: These vehicles are being designed with sensors that allow them to "hear" emergency sirens. With this capability, the car will then safely pull over to allow the emergency vehicles sounding their sirens to pass.
- Communicate crash data: If a self-driving car is involved in a crash, it is designed to communicate all relevant post-accident information to company headquarters to allow for a response.
- Facilitate law enforcement response: Law enforcement officers are being trained to recognize and access certain software elements of a self-driving vehicles, so that they can better deal with the aftermath of a collision.
Get Help From a Texas Car Accident Lawyer Today
At Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP, our dedicated car accident lawyers have experience handling complex auto accident claims. If you were injured in a self-driving car accident, or any other type of crash, please contact our office today to schedule a free review of your case.