Although driverless vehicles are not yet a common sight in the Chicago area, many residents of Chicagoland have heard about automated technology and driverless cars. Indeed, many cities, according to an article in Fortune Magazine, are eager to test out this new technology. But what about driverless buses? The prospect of driverless technology, for many of us, is still disconcerting, and it becomes perhaps even so more when we consider Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) buses driving through the city while being piloted by computers. Should we be anticipating the rise of driverless buses in Chicago? What will the advent of such technology mean for bus accidents in the city?
According to a recent article in Popular Science, some regions of the world have begun testing out automated technology in public transportation, and bus accidents have occurred. Can automated technology really prevent crashes, or does this technology, in its current stages, place us at greater risk of personal injury in a bus accident?
Automated Technology and Bus Accidents Abroad
The most prominent use of technology when it comes to CTA buses is, perhaps, the CTA Bus Tracker system, which allows passengers to use smartphones to track buses and to receive estimated arrival times for transportation. The CTA is not at the point where it has begun testing driverless buses. However, as the Popular Science article clarifies, the use of driverless buses has indeed begun elsewhere, and it has not had especially promising results. It is important for Chicago residents to be aware of the increasing use of driverless technology, because it could soon come to many major urban areas in the United States.
Considering a recent driverless bus accident in Switzerland, the article in Popular Science exclaims that, “robots, too, can be bad drivers.” The article cites a recent trial of PostBus shuttles in Switzerland, which was supposed to turn into an everyday feature following the end of the trial. However, last month, one of the buses crashed into a parked car, leading the people behind the trial to end it early. While only minor property damage occurred and no personal injuries were reported, the bus accident echoed a number of driverless car accidents that have been reported both in the U.S. and abroad.
Problems with Driverless Bus Technology
Similar to problems observed with driverless cars in many of America’s major metropolises, the issue with the driverless bus technology seems to involve sensors. Sensors are key in making driverless technology safe. These sensors act as eyes, essentially, alerting the vehicle when an object may be near. Yet in the Swiss driverless bus trial, as well as in accidents involving driverless cars in the States, the sensors failed.
According to a fact sheet from the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA), intercity buses in the U.S. account on average for more than 40 percent of fatal bus accidents each year. As such, we do need to think about methods for bus accident prevention. However, increasing the use of driverless buses may not yet be an answer to the problem.
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