Thursday , October 21 2021

Autonomous vehicles: who pays when there is an accident?


Actually, that sounds good: a car that drives itself, picks up passengers and transports it to where they want. Driverless cars, without steering, that protect the environment and reduce the number of accidents because, after all, 90 percent of traffic accidents are due to human error.

Euphoria touched reality

However, some cases show that this new technique is not as perfect as it is believed. Also in Germany. Marko Gustke, from the German Automobile Federation (VDA), said that, at the moment, users don't want to spend a lot of money on security systems. "If we package everything in an attractive and functional way, with greater convenience, with an appropriate technological package, the vehicles can be positioned better on the market".

Gustke estimates that the first function will be available next year. First on the highway: "We need obstacles against collisions, dividing the line in good condition so that the vehicle can orient itself and position itself". If there is a traffic jam, the computer controls the car up to speeds of 60 kilometers per hour. There will also be an aid program so that, by 2022, cars can be driven independently on the highway. But "we are still far from driving without driving in the city center", underscoring Gustke.

The United States leads

Autonomous driving has grown rapidly in the United States in recent years. There, the road safety authority, NHTSA, wanted to launch an autonomous vehicle immediately which was handled entirely without human intervention in certain situations. Google has tested this technology for some time in certain areas that are permitted for it.

This is a "level 4" vehicle, on a scale of five levels of autonomous driving. Level five, where computers should dominate driving in all traffic situations and without human intervention, remains pure fiction.

From a simple driver to an observer?

"Level 1" refers to cars that work mostly without automation and only have a simple security system. At "level 2", semi-autonomous cars already have lane guards and parking and also assume driving functions. At "level 3", driving is quite automatic. Control the car driving, but only if the technology works fully. If there is, for example, a snowstorm or heavy rain that makes the camera and radar in action, the system tells humans to take control.

But precisely this level is problematic because "people are not designed to be permanently alert," said technical psychologist Mark Vollrath. Driving automatically will make the driver bored and do other things. In addition, the division of tasks is not entirely clear. "Does the driver know what the vehicle is doing and what should it do?" Vollrath asked.

Psychologists find that reaction time is significantly extended when people only observe for a long time. In extreme situations, experienced drivers experience problems. "Here we experience almost three times more accidents compared to manual drivers," he said.

Driver or vehicle responsibility

Insurers consider this aspect as an unacceptable risk. Therefore, they need a clear division of tasks between drivers and technicians at all levels.

A position supported by Udo di Fabio, president of the Automation and Interconnection Ethics Commission of the federal government. In 2017, the commission produced 20 theses which served as guidelines for technical implementation. Then it must be clearly defined and identified, in each situation, who is responsible for driving, human or computer. "When the vehicle operates, humans should no longer have any responsibility", underlining at Fabio, a former general of the German Constitutional Court.

There will be a lot of confusion in the event of an accident. "If the driver has to supervise this technique, then we have to face a complicated problem of responsibility when something goes wrong," he added. Who has to pay for damage in the event of an accident? "If you drive completely automatically, the responsibility lies with the manufacturer or programmer, but not with the person in the car," explained Di Fabio.

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