Man vs. machine: Which is better at safety? The people at Google think it’s machine, as the company continues to develop its self-driving car. But wait, the self-driving Google car was just in a five-car fender-bender!
The collision was caught on camera and posted on Jalopnik.com. The writers at that website seemed to take a “see, we told you so,” attitude about the mini-crash. Jalopnik is no fan of the idea of Google’s self-driving car.
“This is precisely why we’re worried about self-driving cars,” a post by Justin Hyde on Jalpnik said. “Perhaps the complicated set of lasers and imaging … thought it was just looking at its shadow.”
But wait! Google says at the time of the fender-bender, the car was being driven in “manual” mode by a human. It wasn’t the car’s fault after all.
Putting aside this crash that boosted the Google car into the news, the idea of a self-driving vehicle does pose some interesting safety questions.
The Jalopnik article addresses who is ultimately responsible for safety when a self-driving car is on the road. Is it the person in the car? Is it Google because it developed the system?
“If the operators of Google’s self-driving cars retain all legal responsibility,” Hyde writes, “simply turning the system on would be seen in court as a sign they weren’t paying attention.”
Safety managers: Does this sound familiar?
You provide workers with systems and personal protective equipment (PPE) to help them avoid injuries on the job. But do those protections therefore make workers over-confident, which causes them to take risks and suffer injuries?
It’s still up to workers to use safety gear properly. And no matter how many times you’ve told workers, there’s always one who ends up wearing his goggles on top of his head instead of over his eyes.
As time marches forward, there are constant improvements in workplace safety gear. The same goes for cars.
Most of us probably don’t think too much about it, but driving has become more and more automated as time goes on.
We used to be told to pump our brakes in certain situations to avoid crashes. Now we’re told not to. ABS brakes make that decision for us.
Driving in rain, ice or snow? Now traction control uses an on-board computer to get us out of tough spots in bad weather.
Volvo has developed a laser sensor for its cars that automatically brakes at low speeds if you don’t respond when a vehicle in front of you slows down or stops.
More and more, car safety is becoming more about the vehicles themselves and less about the people driving them. (We won’t get into the debate on using cell phones in cars in this article.)
So here’s the question: Which would you trust more for vehicle safety, a human driver or a self-driving vehicle designed to avoid crashes? How comfortable would you be putting your on-the-road safety completely into the vehicle in which you’re travelling? Would you buy self-driving cars for company vehicles if they helped reduce crashes and therefore insurance costs? Let us know what you think in the comments below.