KIYC: Is technology ready for self-driving cars? Some drivers have doubts

Each year, 43,000 Americans are killed in car accidents and the car industry says self-driving vehicles will eventually make the roads safer.

Walt Kane

Apr 13, 2023, 10:00 AM

Updated 401 days ago

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Self-driving cars are on the road in some cities, and Congress is considering making it easier for car companies to do that. But is the technology ready? It's a glimpse into a future that's almost here.
In cities across America, fully self-driving vehicles are being road tested in pilot programs.
“Autonomous vehicles can make faster decisions; they don't suffer from things like distracted driving and drunk driving and whatnot,” Jeff Farrah said.
But some drivers don’t seem convinced. Tom Fisher says without more knowledge, he would not trust a self-driving car or get in one.
“The technology is not there yet. And in this area, very densely populated. Maybe Montana. New Jersey, New York City? I don't think so,” Angelo Monnello said.
Automotive advocate Rosemary Shahan worries the technology is getting rolled out too fast.
“They should have to basic driving tests in all kinds of weather conditions,” Shahan said. “The industry is basically wanting to use us all as their guinea pigs.”
Shahan points to the well-publicized problems with Tesla's self-driving software. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating more than 40 crashes involving Tesla’s that were on autopilot, including one in Connecticut. Telsa has repeatedly said its cars are not fully autonomous, and autopilot "is intended for use only with a fully attentive driver who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any time."
“There is driver assist technology, and there is autonomous technology. Those are very different things. What you don't want to have from a safety perspective is people getting into a vehicle and not understanding what their obligations are,” Jeff Farrah said.
A report from the NHTSA also indicates the biggest problem on the road could still be human error. Over a 10-month period, investigators found fully autonomous vehicles were involved in 130 crashes resulting in just one serious injury. By contrast, cars with partially automated driver assist systems were involved in 367 accidents; six people were killed and five were seriously injured.
Each year, 43,000 Americans are killed in car accidents and the car industry says self-driving vehicles will eventually make the roads safer. But some drivers seem to have some doubts about whether that day is here just yet.
“I don't know if the technology is advanced enough that I would feel comfortable yet,” Kevin Steiner said.
“Although the way some people drive it might actually be an improvement,” Susan Steiner said.


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