Autonomous or "self-driving" cars are cars that use a variety of techniques (including radar, laser light, GPS, odometry, and/or computer vision) to operate without a human driver. Many different companies and research groups have begun to develop and test self-driving cars, including Audi, BMW, Tesla, Uber, Mercedes-Benz, Waymo, and many more. Much of that research is funded by the United States through DARPA, and Congress has allocated money for research on autonomous technology. Driver-less cars can be legally tested in several states, although most are tested with a person inside to take over control if needed.
There are many anticipated benefits of self-driving cars, including benefits to safety, once the technology has been fully developed, minimized traffic congestion, less need for insurance, and greater mobility for children, the elderly, and disabled people. However, there continue to be unresolved problems with the technology, including safety concerns, the potential for technological failure, liability disputes, the lack of a legal framework, and potential security concerns with hackers or terriorism. There is also the moral question of who is at fault if a crash occurs. On March 18th of this year, a woman in California, Elaine Herzberg, was killed by a self-driving Uber car while she was crossing the street (not on a crosswalk) with her bike. Although there was a human backup driver, the car was in self-drive mode, and people have suggested that a human driver in control could have avoided the accident. Her death is the first known pedestrian death due to self-driving technology, and Uber has since pulled back from testing.
I personally don't know too much about the actual technology, but I think that self-driving cars might never be able to respond to human unpredicatability. If they were completely safe (or at least more safe than human drivers) I would support their implementation, but I worry about the process to get to that point, and how dangerous it might be.
Are self-driving cars the future? Are they too risky to develop at all? Should they be operating in self-drive mode on real streets? Please share your thoughts.