"It's actually safer to be controlled by a self-driving system during the long stretches of highway. That's where it becomes the most mundane, that's where you get the most fatigue, which plays into accidents."
- Eric Berdinis, Otto Product Lead
Colorado recently made history with a beer delivery. But it wasn't the beer that made history, it was the self-driving truck that brought the beer. Budweiser was just along for the ride. Two hours, 100+ miles later, and Colorado became the first state in the nation to complete an autonomous commercial delivery within its borders.
The problem is that Colorado lawmakers haven't really dealt with this brave new world quite yet, even though the potential of self-driving technology to prevent death and serious injuries by reducing (possibly eliminating) car crashes could be huge.
"There really aren't any laws that govern self-driving vehicles in Colorado," reports Colorado Public Radio.
Autonomous vehicles, or "robot cars," as you prefer, may indeed be safer than the current situation, as Otto employee Eric Berdinis asserts. (Otto is the company that outfits big rigs with self-driving technology.) "It's actually safer," Berdinis said, "to be controlled by a self-driving system during the long stretches of highway."
And that may be true.
In our state, as Colorado Public Radio reports, fatal crashes were up 10 percent in 2015. Apparently, human error caused 92 percent of those crashes. Self-driving cars would likely eliminate much of what we attribute to human error, be it driving while drunk, stoned, sleepy, or distracted by an iPhone. That's because computers don't drive while drunk and they don't get distracted by iPhones.
That said, lawmakers will need to figure out how and in what manner to regulate the industry, as the technology develops. We can be certain that human error will be a continuing factor, even as self-driving cars begin to replace humans, and as the technology is in its infancy, it may also cause its own share of wrecks.
We'll need to figure out how we want to deal with that reality.