Autonomous for the People
(Yes, I’m guilty again of making a lousy song reference as the hook to my blog. If you are not old like I am or an REM fan, you may not even recognize this one.)
At any rate, over the years, I’ve mused deeply about the emerging trend of autonomous vehicles. Will we ever see a completely driverless world? If so, what does it look like, and how soon can I expect it?
When I first started contemplating self-driving cars, about seven or eight years ago, I was genuinely concerned that the world of personal injury as I knew it was going to be transformed within the next decade or so.
Self-driving cars have many advantages. Humans are incredibly bad at driving, and driver distraction has only increased to make them worse. Not having to be “present” for the stress of driving would allow us to be more productive, theoretically noodling on our laptops while commuting. Having fewer crashes would decrease automobile insurance rates.
Sure, some naysayers (me again) wrote blogs worrying about the ethics of programming the decision-making capabilities for these vehicles. In other words, if the driverless car is heading toward either a family of four or a brick wall, do you “decide” to save the driver but kill the family? Or vice versa?
As is often the case, I was wrong.
What happened, and why?
Fully autonomous vehicles do exist. There are some that deliver packages and transport items across college campuses. However, while there may be the occasional autonomous rideshare in some parts of the world, and while there are numerous vehicles with fully autonomous features included, the vast majority of vehicles on the road currently are either not equipped with autonomous technology or are not being used in that mode often, if at all.
First of all, when these vehicles gather data, using cameras, computer algorithms, and other data points, they screw up sometimes, or can’t respond to the screw-ups in their paths. Hence, autonomous vehicles being tested have an annoying habit of crashing into buses, buildings, and sometimes, human beings.
While those who favor this “progress” will tell you that this is how autonomous vehicles improve, by collecting ever more data points, most people would cringe at the carnage that it takes to get to that point.
Another reason for the autonomous growing pains is the pandemic. Simply put, the supply chain is broken. If we can’t get computer chips for regular combustion engine cars and trucks, how can we get them for autonomous ones?
Then there is good old fashioned consumer resistance and inflation. Even in the best of times, there are many for whom a motor vehicle is the largest expense they will ever incur. Think about that. A huge number of people will never own a residence. A large number of people will own a vehicle, but will keep it for a long time. It’s really simple—cars are expensive and not everyone can afford to buy or lease one. Many of those who can afford a car cannot afford to replace it regularly.
Lest we forget, most people are incredibly frightened of change. Many fear giving up all they’ve ever known with regard to how they view cars. There are early adopters, disrupters, and trailblazers. But they are the exceptions, not the rule.
Inflation has just made the income gap between wealthy and not-so-wealthy larger, meaning those barely holding on to their vehicles are in no position to upgrade.
Then, there are rideshares. While I hate to tell you “I told you so” on rideshares, I was actually right about them. Their artificially low costs were a house of cards built on the backs of drivers as “independent contractors.” As the pandemic highlighted, workers want to be treated with a bit of respect and earn a fair wage. Thus, rideshares are more costly now. Nevertheless, for many people, rideshares and other vehicle-sharing services have made possessing a vehicle unnecessary.
There Oughta Be a Law
As we’ve seen recently with rising (now falling) gas prices, in a market economy government policy can only control so much.
The Biden administration certainly is aiming to increase the use of electric vehicles (EVs) and decrease polluting combustion engines with its energy and transportation policies . However, autonomous vehicles do not appear to be a major priority at this time.
What we currently have is a broken supply chain and a labor market that is problematic. The technology is there for fully autonomous vehicles, but it is not perfected or cost-effective enough for the majority of drivers to flock to it in droves.
For now, we know autonomous vehicles will increase in usage in the future; we just don’t know how much or how soon.
In the future, there will be more autonomous vehicles than there are now. At some point, combustion engine vehicles will no longer exist, or be limited to specific purposes or “grandfathered” in for a period of time. Electric vehicles will become ever more prominent.
When, and to what extent, any of this occurs, is to be determined. There will have to be a perfect storm of government priority, economic advantage, safety benefits, and time.
EVs have become mainstream. They are at their nascent stage, yet the number of EVs on the road continues to grow exponentially.
To provide a bit of context, currently only about one percent of the 250 millions cars, SUVs, and light-trucks on the road in the U.S. are electric. Only about 17 million new vehicles are sold annually in America. Yet, one market analysis predicts 45% of all new car sales to be EVs by 2035.
Yes, this will happen. But it will take time.
For now, those who represent people injured in motor vehicle crashes, will, unfortunately, have plenty to do.
Contact Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Stephen Hoffman
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle, immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has over 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything up front and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day; contact Stephen now.