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The risks associated with autonomous vehicles

If you could teach a computer to drive a car just as well as a human being -- then require the computer to follow driving laws -- traffic accidents and their associated injuries and deaths would decrease dramatically across the United States.

The problem is, no matter how safe this technology appears, there are some risks that Americans need to know about the technology.

A closer look at self-driving vehicle risks

The risks associated with self-driving cars relate to (1) unclear liability issues, (2) the current limitations of the technology and (3) the lack of continuity across different self-driving technologies.

Unclear liability issues: It remains unclear who would be at fault for a self-driving accident. Would the owner of the vehicle be partly to blame for accidents and injuries caused by the car since he or she is the owner and responsible through vicarious liability? Would the manufacturer of the car be to blame for failing to create sufficient accident avoidance systems? Or, would the computer company that programmed the car's artificial intelligence be to blame? Maybe the manufacturer would be to blame in a single car crash, since the driver was merely a passenger. Perhaps it would be a mix of all three.

We may never know the answer to this question until after the legal system has had a chance to ferret out the ethical and legal issues involved. At the end of the day, there is the risk of people getting hurt due to no fault of their own and not having the ability to seek clear financial recourse for their damages.

Current limitations of the technology: At this time, self-driving tech is in its infancy. Although these cars can do a good job of navigating traffic, they're not so good at navigating unique scenarios caused by unexpected or random human behavior. The technology is getting better, but it could be that these vehicles will always be better equipped to navigate traffic when the other cars are also being driven by robots.

In addition, current robot-driven vehicle technology performs better on the highway, where conditions are predictable and most of the driving is done in a straight line without much quick decision-making required. City traffic remains more challenging for computer cars to navigate, making accidents more likely in traffic.

Only time will tell with self-driving cars

It appears that self-driving vehicle technology is here to stay. There's no way to know, ultimately, how dangerous or safe these cars will be until the technology has advanced and faced the test of time. In the meantime, if you get hurt or injured by a self-driving car, you might want to learn about your legal rights and options in terms of filing a personal injury lawsuit.

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