In the not-too-distant future, cars linked by wireless networks will drive themselves, using sensors to avoid collisions. This is the prediction of Bill Ford, Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company and great-grandson of Henry Ford himself. Ford presented his ideas in early March at the 2012 Mobile World Congress technology show held in Barcelona, Spain. Based on technology that is currently in development, he believes cars with some capacity for driving themselves, using sensors and wireless communication devices, could be available within five years.
A technology known as V2X could enable cars to interact directly with one another and with their surroundings. "V2X" refers to technology that enables wireless communications between vehicles and infrastructure. The two main types of this technology are those that communicate between vehicles ("V2V") and those that allow vehicles to communicate with devices embedded in buildings, medians, guardrails, and other infrastructure ("V2I").
A study conducted in 2010 by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), looked at the frequency of crashes in vehicles that had an embedded safety system known as IntelliDrive. According to the NHTSA's report, IntelliDrive uses V2V and V2I technology to provide advisories and warnings to the driver, and to provide vehicle control when necessary. It does not enable the car to drive itself, but it provides regular information to the driver about obstacles, collision risks, and other dangers.
The study concluded that V2V systems could potentially prevent up to seventy-nine percent of crashes, and that V2I systems could address up to twenty-six percent. When combined, the V2X systems seemed to prevent eighty-one percent of crashes. The DOT began a pilot program in 2011 to test 2,000 vehicles with V2X technology on the roads in real-world scenarios.
Turning over even part of the task of driving a car to a computer raises many important legal questions. For a personal injury attorney, the first question that might come to mind is this: who is responsible when accidents occur if no human is in control? Our system of liability for automobile accidents rests on the idea that drivers have the ability to control their own vehicles. Drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles safely and obey traffic laws. If they breach that duty and cause an injury, they are liable for damages. When the "driver" of a car is actually not the one driving, questions of liability become much more difficult.
The nearest analogy to an accident involving wireless sensor devices might be a 2010 train crash in Washington, D.C. A glitch in the automated system that regulated the trains caused a Metro train full of passengers to collide with a parked train car, killing nine people and injuring dozens. The city's transit authority and several equipment providers admitted liability in several lawsuits brought by family members and survivors. V2X systems would provide a different challenge, though. The train crash involved a single system failure, while a crash involving V2X technology would require examining multiple systems to see which one or ones failed.
People who suffer injury because of the negligent or illegal actions of others may be entitled to compensation for their damages. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a Connecticut automobile accident attorney, contact Paul Levin online or at (888) 560-7226.
Frequency of Target Crashes for IntelliDrive Safety Systems (PDF), National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, October 2010
More Blog Posts:
Study Finds that Men In Connecticut are More Likely than Women to Text and Talk on the Phone While Driving, Connecticut Injury Attorney Blog, March 13, 2012
New Car Accident App available to Connecticut Drivers, Connecticut Injury Attorney Blog, February 25, 2012
Federal Safety Agencies Recommend Banning Almost All Electronic Device Usage While Driving, Connecticut Injury Attorney Blog, February 20, 2012