Oklahoma residents who are suspicious of self-driving technology may have good reason to be. Despite what the auto industry has said, such technology has yet to be adequately tested in either real-world or simulated settings. A RAND study states that self-driving cars must be test-driven for billions of miles before they can be considered safe. In addition, when cars are only semiautonomous, they cause drivers to become complacent.
This seems to have been the case recently in Utah, where the driver of a Tesla Model S crashed with a fire truck even though the Autopilot program was engaged. The driver, who suffered a broken ankle, admitted that she was looking down at her phone when the accident took place.
Rather than stating that the company will try and improve safety standards or promote better driving behavior, the Tesla CEO responded to the accident with comments on social media criticizing what he considers to be the undue attention that it has received. Tesla supporters have similarly stated that news media should focus on other more serious accidents.
Many have pointed out the flaws in the criticisms. Anyone who watches the news knows that serious accidents are covered virtually every day. The Utah incident is different because it speaks to viewers' concerns about the safety of self-driving vehicle technology-- concerns that Tesla apparently does not consider.
Until the day arrives when cars are truly autonomous, drivers will still be responsible for maintaining control at all times. When failure to do so causes a car accident, at-fault drivers may be liable for the victims' injuries. With a successful claim, victims can be reimbursed for medical bills, vehicle or property damage, lost wages and anything else that applies. They will want legal representation, though, since lawyers can assist with gathering evidence and negotiating for a settlement.