The technology behind "driverless" or "self-driving" cars is becoming increasingly advanced. It's still a matter of debate whether they are safer than vehicles that require humans to maneuver them and make split-second decisions. These autonomous vehicles are equipped with sensors, cameras and GPS systems to let them "see" what's going on around them.
Driverless Shuttle Communicates with Traffic Signals
However, these vehicles can't always avoid becoming involved in crashes with vehicles under the control of humans. That appears to be the case in the recent crash of a driverless shuttle in Las Vegas. Within a few hours after the electric shuttle, operated by the City of Las Vegas, was put into service after two weeks of successful test runs, it was involved in a crash with a delivery truck.
The shuttle provides free transportation to up to 11 passengers at a time throughout a half-mile area of Las Vegas, making three stops on its route. Its computer system is programmed to communicate with traffic signals along the way.
Shuttle "Did What It Was Supposed to Do"
According to a spokesperson for the city, the shuttle encountered the semitruck, which was backing up. "The shuttle did what it was supposed to do, in that its sensor registered the truck and the shuttle stopped to avoid the accident," according to the spokesperson. The truck, however, did not stop. It struck the shuttle's front fender.
There were no injuries, and the damage was relatively minor. However, the driver of the delivery truck was cited for backing up illegally.
An executive with Keolis, which is one of the companies behind the Las Vegas shuttle, stressed that this was an isolated incident caused by another vehicle and stood by the safety of the driverless shuttle. He said, "We have operated vehicles like this in six places in the world. We have transported 275,000 passengers with these vehicles and it never happened before."
As more of these driverless vehicles, both private and commercial, are approved for road use, insurance companies, lawmakers and courts are going to have to rethink liability for crashes, particularly when they're caused by a "driverless" vehicle that may well have a human in the driver's seat. Car accident attorneys can provide guidance and support to people injured in these crashes.
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