Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Smart lawyers will kill smart cars

John Tierney has an article in Today's N. Y. Times about a promising technology that would be near the top of my all time wish list ... cars that drive themselves. I won't repeat the details in the article, but the gist is that smart cars would be able to drive anywhere, handle the most crowded road conditions without slowing down, park themselves after dropping off the passengers, etc. As someone who lives in the Boston area, I think this would be a monumental breakthrough!

If such cars replaced human-driven ones, the number of traffic accidents would drop to near 0, and the traffic injury and fatality rate would do likewise. Of course, the cars would have to be able to react not only to the road on which they're driving, and to other cars, but to reckless pedestrians, bicyclists, and others who continually try to challenge the laws of physics. Still, these cars show great promise.

Hower, Tierney errs in writing: Smart cars will never be infallible, but they don’t have to be. They just have to be better than the drivers who now cause more than 90 percent of traffic accidents and kill a million of their fellow humans per year.

Sadly, he fails to account for the lawsuits that will make smart cars economically unfeasible for the manufacturers. Even if there's only one traffic fatality per year, the family of that one
victim will sue that car's maker out of business.