Michigan May Soon Become First State to Allow Self-Driving Cars, Some Consumers Express Concern About New Technology

Story Highlights:
  • An estimated 10 million autonomous cars expected on the road by 2020
  • Consumers cite safety as main cause for hesitation over new technology
  • Several U.S. states allow testing for autonomous vehicles, will possibly follow Michigan's lead with new bill

Fully autonomous cars, self-driving cars without a human at the wheel, will now be allowed on the roads of Michigan, thanks to new legislation which passed this past month. Although many self-driving cars have been testing with humans behind the wheel, in case of an unexpected situation or emergency, this is the first bill of its type to pass. The Michigan bill even specifies that the automaker would be liable in case of an accident, not the driver.

Most (if not all) car manufacturers, including Google, Tesla, and Ford, have been working on self-driving technology recently, and are expected to be in production soon. With the necessity and danger of driving today, self-driving technology will hopefully drastically cut down on the amount of fatal car accidents.

According to a recent report done by Business Insider Intelligence, an estimated 10 million self-driving cars will be on the road by 2020. Although it may still seem like an unimaginable piece of technology from a futuristic Utopian society, many have begun to test and perfect fully autonomous cars before they become consumer available.

With almost every automaker rushing to perfect their autonomous technology to get it to the testing and consumer stages, it may not be hard to imagine a not so distant future where many cars on the road are autonomous, with obvious benefits of this groundbreaking technology being safety and convenience. In the same Business Insider report, it was estimated that this technology will result in 2,500 less deaths in the United Kingdom between 2014 and 2030, a significant figure that would likely be the result of less accidents being caused by human error.

According to a recent survey, fittingly published by the University of Michigan, approximately 56.8% of the respondents from three different countries (United States, United Kingdom, and Australia) had a positive opinion regarding self-driving vehicles. However, still a large chunk of people are not fully onboard with the idea, most likely because of the drastic implications of the new technology.

When asked about the potential benefits of autonomous vehicles, respondents seemed hesitant about self-driving technology leading to shorter travel times and less traffic congestion, but fairly confident that this technology would result in fewer crashes and a safer overall driving experience.

However, when asked to rate their concerns and issues with respect to this self-driving technology, a majority of respondents did express hesitance and worries about potential security vulnerabilities for hackers to exploit, the system's response to unusual situations, or consequences of possible system/equipment failure.

Although many consumers are on board with the idea of autonomous vehicles, most do express concerns about issues that can arise when operating. Especially since this technology is brand new and its implications could be extremely large, it may in fact take awhile to win over customers to prove the safety and decline in risk from humans being behind the wheel. With Michigan passing this bill, this is probably not the last we'll hear about potential controversy arising from the new legislation regarding this life-changing technology.

With many automakers already publicly testing their autonomous cars, it's likely many states will follow Michigan's lead and pass similar bills that will allow fully autonomous cars on public roads. With Uber, a major rideshare company, testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh this month, the technology is becoming extremely prominent and is moving closer and closer to becoming a part of our daily lives. 

In addition, several states, such as California, Nevada, Florida, and Washington D.C., have passed legislation allowing the testing of fully autonomous vehicles. It is likely that these states will soon follow Michigan's lead, especially since the bill passed in Michigan with bipartisan support. Although some consumers hold hesitations about the new technology, more states are slowly passing legislation to test and permit fully autonomous cars to benefit its residents in the near future.

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