Can self-driving cars stop distracted driving?

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Wouldn't it be nice if our cars were like the subway or a bus, we did not have to worry about the driving and we could just look at our phones or even a newspaper during the trip? If this is the kind of luxury you are hoping for, get ready, because it may not be that far off.

You have undoubtedly heard of autonomous vehicles or self-driving cars. They are no longer in the development or testing phase, these cars are out on the roads. There are some estimates claiming there could be 100,000 autonomous vehicles in use throughout the world by 2021. There are even car manufactures claiming that as more of these cars make their way onto the roads, we will continually see a reduction in highway fatalities.

Distracted and complacency riding

If you are riding in a car that is driving itself, you are supposed to still be overseeing all the operations that the car is doing. If you notice there could be an imminent problem, you should take over the controls. However, studies have concluded that people who are distracted while in an autonomous car have up to two times slower response time than in a regular vehicle. Being distracted is not the only danger while riding in a self-driving car, complacency has also shown to be a problem as people rely too much on the technology which reduces response time.

There has been a fatality

In the spring of 2018 a vehicle that was in autonomous mode reportedly hit a woman pedestrian and killed her in Tempe, Arizona. This was the first incident ever recorded of a fatal accident from a self-driving car. The car was allegedly going 40 mph and did not brake while the person in the car was looking down for up to 10 seconds prior to the collision.

Challenges remain

There is no telling if there will ever be a time that an autonomous vehicle will ever be infallible. Until then, things may have to change dramatically because distracted driving seems to be more dangerous in an autonomous car than in a conventional car. It may take quite some time yet before engineers can figure out a way to have cars detect and react to dangers during normal driving conditions. Until then, having fallible human beings oversee these cars could be a recipe for disaster.

As crashes that involve distracted driving continue to grow with regular automobiles, adding autonomous vehicles to the road with distracted drivers who may have longer reaction times may make the roads even more dangerous.

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