While Google is yet to commercialize its self-driving car, Tesla is already selling a number of cars with limited self-driving features, paving the way for better autonomous features to find their way into self-driving cars in the near future. Until the technology is completely proven and fool-proof, it is essential for countries to ensure that there is a check-and-balance mechanism to monitor the workings of autonomous car technology. While this will go a long way to ensure safety of the end user, it will also help car makers to track their technologies in real time and to refine them gradually.
Germany's transport ministry has proposed a new legislation to this effect. The legislation says that all self-driving cars must include black boxes which will monitor the times when autopilot modes are turned on, when cars are being driven manually and when autopilot systems ask drivers to take over. It also proposes that while drivers should remain at the wheel while autopilot mode is turned on, they shouldn't have to concentrate on the road ahead all the time. If the legislation becomes law in the future, then carmakers will need to refine self-driving technology in their cars to ensure that drivers won't need to 'take over' or keep concentrating on the road when not driving themselves. In the United States, Google tests its self-driving cars at maximum speeds of 25 mph to ensure that not only will they stay safe at slow speeds, but will also let the company monitor self driving technologies and place sensors whenever required to improve the vehicles' responsiveness. At the same time, the presence of a black box would also let the company monitor the performance of such cars in real time and will better accuracy.
Recently, a Tesla Model S car in autopilot mode crashed into a tractor trailer, killing its driver. The event was followed by two more accidents involving Tesla cars but Tesla said that while the vehicles aren't fully autonomous, there was no way to tell if the autonomous modes were turned on at the time of the accidents. If autonomous vehicles are packed with black boxes in the near future, the authorities will be able to determine precisely if self driving technologies are at fault or if it's the driver's fault. At the moment, the chairman of U.S. Department of Transport is working with other lawmakers to create a framework for autonomous cars by July 14 and if the framework is implemented in due course, autonomous vehicles in the future will be much safer than the ones that ply on the streets now.