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article imageDrivers worry about automated-car liability

By Joe Duarte     Feb 17, 2014 in Technology
Mason - As carmakers continue their drive toward automated vehicles, the driving public is getting increasingly worried about the potential of unattended vehicles crashing on their roads.
A recent Harris Interactive poll in the U.S. showed that some 80 percent of polled drivers are concerned about the potential of “driverless” cars on the nation’s roads. California, Florida, Michigan and Nevada have already enacted laws governing autonomous driving.
Commissioned by Ohio’s Seapine Software, the online poll surveyed 2,039 adults and revealed that 79 percent of them are worried the software controlling autonomous vehicles might fail, leading to loss of braking control or even missing a request for driver intervention.
“As driverless cars enter the market, car manufacturers face the challenge of managing new technologies to ensure quality, safety, and compliance with strict government standards and regulations,” said Rick Riccetti, President and CEO of Seapine Software. “This research confirms that consumers likely won’t hand over the wheel until auto companies can prove equipment is safe from software glitches or failures.”
Only 12 percent of people surveyed reported not having any issues with travelling in an automated vehicle.
Men and women are nearly unanimous in the various concerns, with the biggest split occurring over the question of liability (who’s responsible when a “driverless” car crashes?), where 64 percent of women voiced their nervousness compared to only 54 percent of men.
Similarly, age didn’t prove much of a factor either, with 93 percent of those aged 65 and older concerned about riding in an automated vehicle, compared to 84 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 34.
The biggest concern expressed by poll respondents was liability, with 59 percent reportedly worried about who would be held responsible in the event of a crash. The second highest cause of uneasiness is hacking, with 52 percent of adults concerned that somebody could hack into the vehicle electronic systems and wreak havoc with control of the vehicle. And the third most reported concern is privacy, with 37 percent saying they worry that auto companies, insurance companies, jurisdictional authorities and advertisers might collect personal information, such as where the vehicle travels and at what speeds.
“Some of the liability of operating a car will doubtlessly be assumed by the manufacturer,” said managing editor Des Toups. “A lot of the decrease in rates could come simply because there would be fewer accidents.” conducted its own online survey in November 2013, revealing that 20 percent of the 2,000 drivers polled said they would stop driving if autonomous vehicles were allowed on the nation’s roads.
However, that survey also found that 90 percent of respondents would at least consider a vehicle capable of autonomous driving if insurance rates were to drop by 80 percent, with a third of respondents (34 percent) saying they would likely buy a vehicle capable of autonomous driving if insurance rates were to drop such a significant amount.
And how would people spend their free time behind the wheel? Twenty-six percent told they would text; 21 percent said they would read; 10 percent said they would sleep; eight percent said they would watch movies; seven percent said they would play games and another seven percent said they would work. Other ways to while away the time included enjoying the scenery, watching the road and “hold(ing) on for dear life.”
Car companies such as General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan-Renault, Volkswagen and Volvo are fine-tuning their in-vehicle systems in preparation for public production of an autonomous vehicle, perhaps as soon as 2020.
“To meet these challenges, auto companies must implement suitable methods and measures for software development to manage quality and mitigate risk,” concluded Riccetti.
More about automated driving, Car insurance, autonomous cars, driverless cars
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