Wednesday 22nd March 2017
Driverless cars could cause accidents because they will enable motorists to sleep at the wheel

Does ‘driving’ a driverless car really mean you can take your eyes off the road, or will passengers still need to keep an eye out for potential hazards? In which case, what’s the point of a driverless car in the first place?

Steven Swinford, The Telegraph, reports:

Driverless cars could cause accidents because motorists will fail to react to emergencies while they are asleep, reading a book or answering emails, peers have warned.

The House of Lords warned that motorists could become "overly reliant" on the technology and "react slowly" if they are requited to take back control of the vehicle.

Professor Neville Stanton, an expert in driverless cars at Southampton University, told peers: “As vehicles become fully autonomous, even the most observant human driver’s attention will begin to wane. Their mind will wander.

"This is particularly true if they are engaging in other activities such as reading, answering emails, engaged in conversations with passengers, watching movies or surfing the internet.”

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said that driverless cars pose a "significant challenge" and raised concerns that motorists "might well be asleep at the time" that they need to take control of vehicles.

Research has already found that drivers of automated vehicles are generally not as effective in emergencies as normal drivers.

The report says: "In simulated emergencies, up to a third of drivers of automated vehicles did not recover the situation, whereas almost all drivers of manual vehicles in the same situation were able to do so.

"In addition, research showed that drivers of automated vehicles took, on average, six times longer to respond to emergency braking of other vehicles compared to manual."

Peers also highlighted concerns that driverless cars could be "susceptible to hacking and used for malicious purposes".

Experts told the committee that hackers have already been successful in taking remote control of a Tesla from a distance of 12 months, interfering with the cars brakes, door locks and other electronic features.

The report adds: "The Government should give priority to commissioning and encouraging research studying behavioural questions and ensure it is an integral part of any trials it funds."

The committee also heard evidence that driverless cars have the potential to reduce accidents by eradicating human error, which is responsible for up to 95 per cent of accidents.

The Association of British Insurers said that VW Golfs fitted with automatic emergency braking was involved in 45 per cent fewer insurance claims.

The report says: "[Driverless cars] have the potential to lower the number of road fatalities. But the eradication, or near eradication, of human error will only be realised with full automation."

The Earl of Selborne, chairman of the committee, said: "Connected and Autonomous Vehicles is a fast-moving area of technology and the Government has much to do, alongside industry and other partners, to position the UK so that it can take full advantage of the opportunities that CAV offer in different sectors.

“In order to ensure that the UK can benefit from emerging CAV technologies the Government must continue to take action to close the engineering and digital skills gap. We welcome the focus on skills in the Government's Industrial Strategy Green Paper and urge the Government to find innovative solutions to this problem.

“Long-term developments in CAV have the potential to bring about transformational change to society but these changes will only take place if society is willing to both pay for and to adapt its behaviour to fit the technology.”

Driverless cars have already clocked up hundreds of miles on London’s roads. The Nissan Leaf has been tested in East London with a qualified driver at the wheel.

If driverless cars needing a driver, they stop being driverless! Instead makes them an automatic gimmick which begs the question of the point of their existence. 

Driverless cars could cause accidents because they will enable motorists to sleep at the wheel

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