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Repercussions of the Volvo Safety Test Debacle

Posted By Regan Zambri & Long || 24-Jun-2015

Despite the hype over automated safety features on today’s automobiles, the recent debacle over a demonstration of Volvo’s automatic stopping feature shows just how far the industry still has to go in reaching its goals: During this particular test, a dealer attempted to show off the safety feature by heading directly into a group of people, two of whom were struck when the vehicle failed to stop. Understandably, this very dangerous glitch went "viral" and prompted a national, frenzied conversation over social media about automated auto safety features in general.

The ultimate in automated car technology, of course, is Google's self-driving car, which is still in its prototype stages. Although engineers have logged well over three-quarters of a million miles, their self-driving vehicles still have a long way to go, a fact that even Google’s developers admit. According to Chris Urmson, lead developer for Google’s car, the technology still has plenty of kinks that need to be worked out. An article in MIT Technology Review highlighted a few of them:

  • Detailed maps are required of the entire route - even driveways and parking garages - in order for the car to operate properly. On a national scale, that would mean continual updates to millions of miles of roadways as well as individual and privately-owned features.
  • Self-driving cars haven’t been proven in snow and heavy rains. These conditions pose a real problem with visibility, which is obviously necessary for the car to navigate.
  • Although Google's car can detect different traffic light colors, it can be blinded when the sun is too near the light.
  • Construction zones have been proving particularly difficult for Google cars to navigate.
  • So far, the car cannot detect potholes or uncovered manholes. As a result, it simply plows over them. It also has difficulty differentiating among types of road obstacles, and it will veer around any object - even a small piece of crumpled paper.

Still, Urmson says he’s shooting for a ready-for-prime-time target of five years - when his 11-year-old son will reach driving age in California.

Our Washington D.C. auto accident attorneys would be happy to provide a free and thorough consultation about your recent accident and possible case. Call or email use today to explore your strategic options.

When does a defective car part become an issue? Explore this discussion here: "Does a Vehicle Recall Mean Emergency? Sometimes, But Not Always."

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