May 8th, 2012
03:05 PM ET

Overheard on Autonomous cars reduce 'crashes'? Press any key to continue

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Nevada became the first to approve a license for "autonomous vehicles" on Monday, for search engine giant Google's self-driving cars project. A recent video spot features a 95% blind man in one of the cars, which Google says have driven 200,000 miles without incident. For the most part, our readers are very excited about this technology, but others are afraid that the cars could be susceptible to the same kinds of problems that desktop computer programs have.

Google gets license to operate driverless cars in Nevada

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, unless it is given a ride out by an autonomous vehicle.

Polyglot64: "What I want to know is if, next to the GPS, if there is a button that says, 'I'm Feeling Lucky.' "

moviequotes: "I think that's what took them to the Las Vegas Strip. :-)"

Computer programs "crash," so what about computer-driven cars? And what if Microsoft and Apple put out their own systems? The following commenter also cited an old joke about computer operating systems and airlines.

metalcrow: "Who gets the ticket if the car is speeding? How will police pull the autonomous vehicle over? If Microsoft get into this and puts a Windows OS in the vehicles, who will be responsible for all the crashes? Will MS always say it is the hardware that is the problem? will we need to buy an upgrade every few years? will most of the cars features not work after an upgrade and until a Service Pack is released? Will the car be forced to use Internet Exploder? Lots of questions."

sameeker: "If Microsoft gets into the picture, you will have to stop the car at least once a day, shut everything off, and sit there for 10 minutes before going on your way."

sadtosay: "If Apple gets into the show, you violate the warranty by driving on a street."

Many people are in favor.

halfthestory: "Initially I was against this idea. But every day that goes by in which I have to deal with terrible drivers on the road, I like this idea more and more."

Some are afraid.

OnlySoMuch1: "The Rise of the Machines.......has begun......."

Are we humans unsafe at any speed?

Alex Klatsky: "One of the Google developers of these vehicles said something like 'When these autonomous cars are perfected the question will not be; will we let these cars drive us around. The question will be, will we still let humans drive cars?' These vehicles have already driven over 200,000 miles on roads without a single accident. That is already a lot safer than the average driver who has at least one fender bender per the life of their vehicle."

But some think police will not like a loss of revenue.

caliconor: "Alcoholics should invest in one of these."

sameeker: "That is why the government will never allow them. They do not really want anyone who has had a drink off of the road because they would lose too much revenue. Imagine the money that they would also lose on traffic violations. I bet Illinois will be the first state to outlaw them."

But maybe the real question is, how will they sell you cheap Viagra?

Rexpopulist: "Great. Get ready for 'Movement Spam.' Action-based advertisements where your car drives itself to restaurants that advertise with Google, and orders food you don't want. Or perhaps the theocrats in the crowd will appreciate the idea of a car that diverts to their churches automatically for a force-fed dose of fire and brimstone."

One of the most-debated aspects of autonomous vehicles is who would be responsible in a hypothetical accident.

3mightymutts: "And what happens if one of the sensors fail and the hits a pedestrian?"

drake666: "Seeing how many pedestrians are hit by cars without the driver getting punished, probably nothing."

nevermindme: "What happens if a normal human driver hits a pedestrian? Accidents happen. I would say the person behind the wheel is always responsible, even if their car is on 'auto pilot.' After all, you are responsible for your car even if you are using the cruise control or anti-lock brakes, right?"

ChrkeePrdeOK: "1) Place back-up sensors. 2) Car doesn't turn on without all sensors working properly... busting a sensor will be the same thing as busting a tire. All in all, this idea is awesome ... people with disabilities will become more independent. Woohoo!"

mkkelly: "An expensive wrongful death lawsuit would happen. So Google had better be pretty confident in this thing to put this on the roads."

Hourglass time.

CNNidegaz: "One moment, please ... one moment, please ..."

So, is there a potential for increased lawsuits?

Vincent Wolf: "Google is going to get sued for billions of dollars when one of these has an accident and someone is hurt. What a stupid move by Google. Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest move."


nevermindme: "You are right, we should just be happy with the technology we have. In fact, what were people thinking when they got rid of the horse and buggy! Those new car things were dangerous! Lets go back to the 1800s!"

Lone: "That is what insurance is for. You have that right? I'm sure that would cover a computer. The culture of suing is asinine to begin with, and at the root of so many unrelated expenses that sap our society, but that is besides the point. As Nevermind said, you've pretty much stated the same 'change is scary' argument that every radical technology has ever brought up. Arches and domes, buildings above one storey, water dikes, boats, airplanes, cars, and on. People were dying in droves long before any of that, if not more. If it doesn't work, so be it. But rejecting it outright when people are already being hurt or killed under manual control is silly."

drake666: "That's more a problem of stupid U.S. laws that don't give sensible limits to lawsuits."

Privacy concerns also came up.

fiskenmann: "Now these Google bastards will know where you go also."

truebob: "They already do, it's called Latitude."

If the car follows the rules, some may rebel.

Zhukov2: "Does the car obey the speed limit? If it does, nobody will buy it, unless there is a switch that allows the owner to go faster than the limit. But that would defeat the whole purpose of a driverless car, or at least a lot of the purpose, considering that speeding is a factor in most accidents."

Will people forget how to drive?

Jacob Pernula: "This will probably just make our driving habits worse because we won't have as much driving experience as growing up, increasing human error dramatically. If we go down this route, we will have to depend on computers to drive us everywhere."

Will we get hacked?

Vatossan: "I'm going to sleep while my car drives me home. Car gets hacked by hacker and takes you to a bad area. Compton LA. LOL!!!!!"

Or will we just sue?

cnnlicksit: "Aw man, I'm gonna drive around and hope I get hit by one. Then I'm gonna sue Google for millions."

Bannister: "They've already thought of that. It's got a video camera ..."

Would you drive an autonomous vehicle? Or rather, be driven by one? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: Google • Nevada • Overheard on • Technology • Transportation • U.S.
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Widia

    I'd choose the Wine, Walnut, and Charcoal Pearl eye shodwas, the Black and Bordeaux eyeliners, the Burnt Red lip liner, and the Goldstone 1 foundation.I'd also like the Black and Bordeaux eye liners.

    August 9, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Lori

    My son's car was rear-ended by a Google self driving car last August in Mt. View, California. . It ended up being a 5 car pile up. There was a driver in it at the time, and Google claimed the driver had previously turned off the automatic system and was driving the car himself when the accident happened. Yeah, right! I call BS. Keep those cars the h*** away from me!

    September 18, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • nsaidi

      Thank you for your comment, Lori. I just spotted it. Sorry to hear that! What happened? (I sent you a note as well offline)

      September 22, 2012 at 2:39 am | Report abuse |
  3. Orion

    This is a great idea and it will change a lot of things for the better and some for the worst but mostly better so i would vote for it and would gladly take a ride in one 🙂 go google....

    September 19, 2012 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
  4. Denise

    I am a blind wheelchair user. Every blind person I know who is asked,"If you could see just to do one thing in your life, what would it be?" will answer "Drive a car." Even if they have never seen the faces of their wives and children. Driving is just that essential. Public transit is so poor in much of the U.S. (unlike Europe) that a car is a necessity.

    In my home town, a tiny rural ton which has no public transit at all, seniors who give up driving often end up in nursing facilities because the nearest grocery store is 15 miles away. My 19-year-old cousin Rick was killed by a drunk driver. As far as I am concerned, the autonomous car can't come soon enough!

    September 19, 2012 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
    • nsaidi

      Yeah, I was wondering about that, Denise. Do you think you'll ever get to drive? I'm sending you a note.

      September 22, 2012 at 2:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Gerg

      ...and you make a great point - in rural town in which yuo live, this may be workable. No way this fits in with high paced driving of LA, DC, and other metropolitan areas. Will 18 wheelers be automated as well?

      October 2, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  5. DJ

    I cannot help but think of the automatic cars in the movie Wall-E... pretty terrifying.

    September 19, 2012 at 2:50 am | Report abuse |
  6. this guy

    I'm sure these cars won't be invulnerable to hacking...what happens when a whistleblower gets into their car and is taken out by a hacker hired by their company?

    Too much to fear with not having control of my own high speed movement. No thanks.

    September 19, 2012 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
  7. Kyrstie

    What about motorcycles? Will people still be able to operate non-autonomous cars? With these variables, how are a few autonomous cars on the road going to make the drivers safer... if everyone else is still speeding and cutting everyone off? Where were the test cars tested, how accurate are the sensors? There seem to be a lot of gliches and un-answered questions to have these cars on the road by 2015...

    September 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • nsaidi

      That's an interesting point. Are you a motorcyclist?

      September 22, 2012 at 2:40 am | Report abuse |
  8. Rob

    As cool as a system like this would be, my concern (which I've not heard voiced yet) is how would it handle changing road conditions or varying vehicle weights and capabilities? Would every vehicle have to travel at the safe speed of the slowest vehicle? And something as simple as tire pressure plays a significant role in vehicle handling in adverse wx. Would the system automatically adjust for that? Clearly there's plenty of time to get this stuff figured out, but I'd be willing to bet that, of all those accident-free miles driven by these test vehicles, precisely zero were in 6 inches of snow.

    That said, I would gladly welcome a commute that lets me read the paper (or, more accurately, a digital facsimile thereof), have a cup of coffee, and relax rather than worrying about the moron tailgating me at 75 mph because he couldn't get his butt out of bed 5 minutes earlier.

    September 25, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  9. Monkeyface

    I'm going to try crash into one of those an sue google for a billion dollars

    September 25, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. DREAM ON

    The Google car is safe because it hangs waaaaaay back from other cars. Way farther than the average driver. If all drivers in commute traffic did the same, the traffic would be 10X worse than it is. Think about it, right now if you put 1 second between you and the car in front of you, 5 cars will cut it. NOT the case for the Google car. It just falls back and back and back. Traffic would be a nightmare.

    September 26, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Gerg

    This is not a bad idea for areas liek Las Vegas - places with long stretches of roads; or, in a tourist area, people can get from place A to place B. But in Los Angeles, Washington DC, and the like, how can this be possible? We already have slow and inattentive drivers; the road systems in these aeras are not set up for the "Hot Wheels Lanes" for cars - there's too much randomness to the highways and roadways for this to work effectively. This is a nightmare waiting to happen. You will need to tighten traffic laws - slow traffic to the right', etc/ And, all the excuses for being a dsitracted driver increased - cell phones, ipods, texting, will be more "convenient" as the car "drives itself". Bad idea for many areas, good idea in other areas.

    October 2, 2012 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  12. Greg

    So what happens when these cars spin out on ice and snow ?

    November 27, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
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