Technological firms across the globe are racing to develop the first fully driverless car, although the technology remains unperfected at this point. Nonetheless, Tesla and Volvo have developed and manufactured some vehicles with driverless technology, at least in terms of automatic steering functions. This technology actually will steer the car on its own, negotiate the car’s way through traffic, and change lanes. However, the technology does not allow the car to read traffic lights at this point.
Critics of the technology feel that companies’ testing of the driverless cars is proceeding too quickly. Some believe that the sensors used in the technological developments are not sophisticated enough to properly guide the vehicle, or require the driver to make sudden moves in conjunction with the autonomous features. Others also point out, perhaps rightly so, that the cars are programmed to protect the driver or passengers, even at the expense of pedestrians or bicyclists. This raises moral issues about whether some people will even choose a driverless car if the technology is available. As a result of these issues, critics warn that the transition time between complete and partial driverless technology could be the most dangerous time in terms of road safety, as drivers adapt to the new vehicles and the technology continues to improve.
In anticipation of the deployment of autonomous vehicle technology, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has issued federal policies last fall governing the testing and deployment of driverless cars. As the technology and testing further develops, DOT intends to update the policy guidelines. Currently, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards do not address automated vehicle technology, but the DOT typically does not issue standards until technology develops farther.
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