Baltimore Auto Accident News: Could Future Autonomous Vehicles Eliminate Traffic Wrecks on Maryland Roadways?

With tens of thousands of innocent victims being sent to emergency rooms all over the U.S. every year as a result of untold numbers of car, truck and motorcycle accidents, it’s reasonable to ask why so many people are being hurt, maimed and killed more than one hundred years after the invention of the automobile. As Maryland personal injury lawyers, my firm is dedicated to helping those who been involved in a car crash or who experienced the loss of a loved one killed in a senseless traffic collision. But why do these incidents continue to happen?

While we can go on and on about how society should have moved on from the carnage of the 20th Century, at least in terms of roadway accidents and the related bodily injuries and wrongful deaths that occur on a daily basis throughout our country, we likely must resign ourselves to the fact that human nature is still a factor in many auto wrecks, commercial trucking crashes, pedestrian accidents and bicycle collisions. As long as human beings are behind the wheel of motor vehicles, there will always be mistakes and errors in judgment, all of which add up to people being hurt and killed in traffic accidents.

Yet, with nearly 90-percent of all automobile and trucking-related collisions on our public roads being preventable, at least according to safety experts, one would hope that there might be a way to reduce those senseless crashes and the injuries they cause. If we could drastically cut the number of closed-head injuries, broken and fractured bones, damage to internal organs and irreversible spinal cord damage, life for tens and hundreds of thousands of injured individuals and those soon-to-be injured could be vastly improved.

With the extreme drain on human and monetary resources posed by preventable car accidents, we were heartened to read about the pace of autonomous vehicle development going on around in this country. While this may be a scary thought for dyed-in-the-wool driving enthusiasts, the rest of the driving public may be relieved to know that help could beon the way in the form of automated cars, trucks and buses.

As Maryland automobile and motorcycle injury attorneys, we have our own personal and professional experiences to fall back on in the coming debate on this kind of technology. But for most people, especially those who have not been involved in a life-threatening or certainly life-altering car or truck wreck, we can say with certainty that you do not want to experience the physical pain, emotional torment or the financial hardship that such an event can have on you and your family.

So what would be the benefit of having a nationwide fleet of autonomous cars, trucks or buses? Technology is bringing the possibility of automated roadways closer every day. According to an article we recently read, “robotic” cars can think and react at least as fast as most average drivers, if not seasoned racing professionals. As explained, the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford (CARS) in California has created its own autonomous vehicle, which they have tried to infuse with the physical and tactile inputs that only human drivers have to this day been able to sense about the driving experience.

And they may have done it. Based on the article, the CARS vehicle has been tested with human passengers riding “shotgun.” The reactions have been unsettling, mainly due to the lack of a flesh and blood human behind the wheel. But the CARS system is apparently set up to do what humans do best: consistently feel out the limits of the car. According to the developers, comparing what humans can achieve as motorists to what the CARS autonomous vehicle is capable of, the engineers say the gap is actually smaller than most people think.

According to the news story, the CARS prototype actually reacts to the race track just as if it was being driven by a human. In testing, with a live person aboard and taking in the experience, the developers said that the human passenger can’t believe the way in which the vehicle responds; almost like it was being controlled in real time by a human being.

Researchers said that after the initial lap around the track, the human passenger relaxed to the point one might if being chauffeured by a race driver. But will people be content to sitting in the back seat and watching an invisible driver turn the steering wheel and apply the gas and brake pedals? With 90 percent of all traffic accident accidents blamed on human error, there may be motivation.

But researchers warn that currently even a really smart algorithm likely won’t be able to maneuver a vehicle out of every dangerous traffic situation. And the problem of programming recognition software that can be ready for any situation is probably a long way off. Still, the people at CARS believe that there is a future where a car will be able to be taught to operate at the same level as a very skilled driver, which will then allow the machine to watch over our safety.

For certain, the CARS developers and engineers can see a day where motor vehicles would be able to assist motorists if they found themselves in a difficult driving situation, such as driving onto a patch of black ice or standing water at highway speeds. The possibilities are only limited by our imagination and the pace of technology, or so it would seem. Time, as they say, will tell.

In a Race Between a Self-Driving Car and a Pro Race-Car Driver, Who Wins?;, October 31, 2012

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