Self-Driving Shuttle Debuts In Houston

autonomous vehicles

Houston’s first self-driving shuttle has launched at Texas Southern University. The autonomous passenger vehicle will hold approximately twelve riders and drive around campus. While the planned speed of the shuttle bus is only eight to twelve miles per hour, a METRO driver will remain in the vehicle at all times to take over if needed. But how autonomous are most self-driving cars? Well, that depends. Currently, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) categorizes vehicles as having one of six levels of automation. But with so many variations, how can one tell who should be held liable in the event of a traffic accident?

The Six Different Levels of Vehicle Automation

  • Level 0 – The human driver does all of the driving.
  • Level 1 – An advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) will sometimes assist the human driver with either steering or braking.
  • Level 2 – An advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) will control both steering and braking itself, but the human driver must stay alert and do the rest.
  • Level 3 – An automated driving system (ADS) can perform all aspects of driving but only under certain circumstances. The human driver must remain alert and be ready to take back over any functions if and when the ADS requests it.
  • Level 4 – An automated driving system (ADS) can perform all driving tasks and monitor the driving environment in certain circumstances. The human does not need to pay attention in those certain circumstances.
  • Level 5 – An automated driving system (ADS) can perform all driving tasks and monitor the driving environment. The human is only a passenger and never needs to be involved in driving.

Dangers of Autonomous Vehicles

While the prospect of getting around a college campus easier sounds awesome, as with any new technology (especially one involving the transportation of human beings) there are inherent dangers involved.

  1. Unregulated: Because they haven’t been around long or tested often yet, information about autonomous technology is limited and there are not enough solid facts to create safety standards, leaving these vehicles largely unregulated.
  2. Security: Any computer device connected to the Internet is vulnerable to hacking. These self-driving cars rely heavily on software to run; if a hacker gets into the system, they could potentially control every aspect of the car. Self-driving vehicles may also be more susceptible to computer viruses. Cars pose a far greater danger than many consumer devices due to their size and mass, so if hacked they can cause serious injury or death.
  3. Software or hardware malfunction: Over 30 computers operate most self-driving cars. Even with highly sophisticated software programming in autonomous vehicles, the current models still have issues like controlling sensors on the rear camera, executing a quick stop when someone steps into the crosswalk in front of the car, freeze-ups during autopilot mode, and accounting for the unpredictable behavior of other motorists.
  4. Weather: One of the more difficult challenges engineers face is how to teach the vehicle to operate smoothly in all weather conditions.

Houston Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyers

Our Houston, Texas personal injury attorneys take cases to trial in both state and federal court. At our firm, we are committed to helping our clients attain the best possible results. If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident with an autonomous vehicle, please contact Dax F. Garza, P.C. to discuss your case at no charge.

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