"I had the pleasure of going out for a drive on the autonomous vehicle," California state Senator Alan Lowenthal said before the unopposed vote. "I have to say that there are some still issues with it, but it's a better driver than I am."
Right now, more than 30,000 people are killed in automobile accidents each year. Google, the frontrunner in self-driving technology, is aiming to launch its technology throughout the nation within the next five years. The advance in car safety means Google is paving the road for potentially friendlier and less dangerous roadways -- that is, if drivers get behind the wheel responsibly. Although a computer can work well in simulated scenarios, there is still room for driver error such as drunk driving, distracted driving, and even speeding - driving situations a computer could not self-adjust, leading to potentially dangerous road conditions.
Google's self-driving car works by utilizing a computer to analyze road conditions, thereby reacting to the conditions presented. For instance, if the vehicle's computer senses a car ahead, it will automatically decrease its speed to avoid a collision. Or, if the computer detects another vehicle in an intersection during a green light, it will prevent the vehicle from entering the dangerous condition. Soon, the technology may be able to adjust the vehicle according to weather conditions including slippery roads, hydroplaning, or rough surfaces such as potholes.
"I think if all the cars were self-driving, it would be a benefit," said David Champion, head of auto testing at Consumer Reports in a statement to CNN. "I think a mixture would be a bit chaotic."
Champion added that since most car accidents and auto injuries happen as a result of driver error, having a mixture of vehicles on the road could increase car accident risk otherwise reduced by self-driving technology. This can be particularly true if combined with driver irresponsibility.
"When I'm approaching an intersection, I look to see of the other driver is looking at me," he said. "If he's looking somewhere else and inching forward, I'm going to lift off the gas."
Google's self-driving technology does not entirely allow the driver to be hands-off. In other words, any car equipped with self-driving technology will still require the driver to sit in the driver's seat and pay attention. As a result, if a car accident in San Diego does happen, drivers will still be responsible for the incident despite the technology. While the technology is currently being developed, it's only a test of time to render self-driving technology as completely safe.
Keeping safe: ways to reduce car accidents today
Although self-driving technology has been approved in the state of California, the technology has a few more years to go until all vehicles become self-driving. And even then, drivers must still practice safe driving skills. Ordinary vehicles and drivers must use precaution to avoid car accidents today. Consider the following tips to help reduce your risk of car accidents.