Self-driving cars have been a controversial, if not heralded, idea for a long time now. The concept is simply: create cars that don’t require a driver at all. Instead, the vehicle relies entirely on robotic sensors and GPS tracking to traverse the roads. On paper, this sounds like an incredible advancement in our ways of transportation. And yet, there are so many potential flaws.

Consider recent news that Google had to release a self-driving car that actually had a steering wheel and pedals because California’s laws didn’t allow for a self-driving car on the road if it didn’t have the ability to allow a person to take over as the driver in an emergency situation. This will be a recurring theme with state laws and self-driving cars: new laws, or changed laws, will have to adapt to this new technology, and things could be confusing during the transition.

The other element here, and the more obvious element, is that the car doesn’t have a steering wheel or pedals in the first place. Though you can understand where Google is coming from — if the car is driver-less, why does it need the tools of a driver? — it certainly seems like emergency scenarios will call for a human to take over and do his or her best to control the situation.

What the future holds for self-driving cars i unknown. There is still a lot of work to be done. But it seems clear that a lot of potential wrinkles need to be ironed out before this radical form of transportation becomes widely used.

Source: Slate, “Google’s Fully Driverless Cars Are Ready for the Road. Well, Some Roads.,” Will Oremus, May 15, 2015

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