Driverless Cars Are Here To Stay, But Don’t Take Your Hands Off the Wheel

NEW YORK (MainStreet) Driverless cars. Once you get past those two words together in a sentence, the idea starts to seem more and more appealing. Take a nap on the way to work. Sip your latte while your car purrs along safely. Play Scrabble with your kids on the way to the beach.

As it turns out, thats only marginally true.

Jurisdictions like California, D.C., Florida, Michigan, and Nevada that have legalized driverless cars all aim to keep you squarely in the drivers seat, vigilant as ever.

Under D.C. law, there has to be a licensed driver in the car, that driver has to be in the drivers seat and there has to be a manual override feature, says John B. Townsend II, manager of government and public affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic. When anti-lock breaking was first used, for instance, people had a hard time adapting, because, for a long time, you used to have to pump your breaks. With anti-locking systems, brakes are smarter, even if youre still in controland that kind of evolution is a better metaphor for what automated cars will mean.

In other words, the latte scenario is still in play, but youre still on the hook even if youre only blithely driving.

The question of personal safety and driver responsibility is also one that insurance companies are looking it. Even if, as Townsend points out, driverless cars are widely thought to be far safer than conventional cars, putting a number around how that will impact premiums and discounts is another story.