Safety 2.0: How safe are driver assistance devices in cars?

Whenever there are scientific discoveries that lead to advances in technology, the car industry is usually there to take advantage of it. When the microprocessor was introduced to the market, cars started utilizing electronic control units. When GPS navigation was being developed, the automotive industry was one of the first to put it to commercial use.

The next wave of technology advancement is artificial intelligence. After Tesla Motors’ founder and CEO, Elon Musk, decided that self-driving cars would be a main commercial and personal goal of his, the rest of the industry started to follow suit. Even the U.S. Department of Transportation supports self-driving car technology. If you visit the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website on autonomous vehicle technology, it reads, “Fully autonomous cars and trucks that drive us instead of us driving them will become a reality.”

Many supporters of driverless car technology believe that car safety will improve if an artificial intelligence is behind the wheel. After all, a computer can’t get sleepy, intoxicated, or distracted – theoretically. Significantly, this technology could be ready and available for consumers within our lifetime.

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems

New cars are already implementing automated safety systems – officially called advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). Most car manufacturers include ADAS devices as a standard feature in their factory model cars. A device’s level of advancement ranges from semi-autonomous to nearly fully autonomous, as some ADAS systems alert the driver about a safety hazard, while others have the capability of avoiding safety hazards.

Common ADAS devices in today’s car models include:

  • Forward collision warning (FCW). Drivers receive an audible verbal warning of an imminent collision.
  • Automatic emergency braking (AEB). A car will automatically apply the brakes to avoid a collision hazard.
  • Adaptive cruise control (ACC). Cars will automatically match the speed of the traffic in front of the vehicle – accelerating for faster traffic, and braking for slower conditions.
  • Lane departure warning (LDW). Drivers will receive an audible verbal warning if the vehicle drifts out of the current road lane.
  • Lane keeping assist (LKA). A car will automatically course-correct it’s steering to avoid drifting out of the current lane.
  • Blind-spot warning (BSW). Drivers will get an audible alert when a vehicle or other object is in the car’s rear mirror blind spot.
  • Rear cross-traffic alert (RCTA). Drivers will be alerted to oncoming traffic as while driven in reverse.

The Unintended Consequences of Automated Safety

As safety technology advances, does it truly make the act of operating a car safer? Or does it merely give drivers a false sense of security? These issues were the focus of a study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The AAA Study made the following critical observations:

  • 33% of owners of cars featuring ADAS devices were ignorant of the fact that many systems relied on cameras and sensors that could easily be obstructed by dirt, ice, or snow;
  • 30% of surveyed car owners of cars with BSM systems reported that they stopped checking blind spots visually;
  • 29% of surveyed car owners admitted to surrendering their attention to distractions while using ACC; and
  • 25% of surveyed car owners with RCTA admitted to sometimes reversing without looking over their shoulder.

Significantly, artificial intelligence and the peripheral technologies that are necessary for cars to drive with full autonomy – that is, without any intervention by the driver – are still young fields of study and development. Could it be possible that ADAS features were rolled out to market prematurely?

Consider the fact that the driver’s manual for a Tesla car with ACC contains the following warning:

“Traffic-Aware Cruise Control cannot detect all objects and may not brake/decelerate for stationary vehicles, especially in situations when you are driving over 50 mph (80 km/h)… Always pay attention to the road ahead and stay prepared to take immediate corrective action. Depending on Traffic-Aware Cruise Control to avoid collision can result in serious death or injury.” (emphasis added)

Remarkably, one of the flaws of Tesla’s ACC system involved precisely that – an ability to slow down for stopped cars while driving at freeway speeds.

Technology, while helpful, seems to have contributed to an environment where expecting results and performance on-demand is a ubiquitous mindset. We can’t deny that ADAS technology has unparalleled potential in protecting public safety. However, the technology should be refined a little more before introducing it to consumers, rather than counting on accidents as data for making necessary improvements. And, consumers should exercise patience before jumping at the release of a too-good-to-be-true gadget, or else risk being used as a guinea pig for developing safety 2.0.

Call Our Personal Injury Attorneys in Bryan for Legal Advice

If automated driverless car technology is the inevitable vision of our future, we can only hope that public safety does not unnecessarily suffer to attain that goal. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, or by a dangerous product, you should consult an experienced Bryan personal injury attorney for advice. At Waltman & Grisham, Attorneys at Law, we can handle a wide range of personal injury matters, from car accidents to products liability cases.

Call Waltman & Grisham Attorneys at Law at (979) 227-4888 or contact us online today to schedule a complimentary case evaluation with one of our experienced attorneys.

What to Expect During Jury Duty

Many adults have been summoned for jury duty. The experience is roughly the same. You open your mail one day, and an official letter from a state or federal court screams “Jury Summons” to you in large, conspicuous type. Many adults have successfully managed to avoid fulfilling their civic duty to serve as a juror. This article discusses the jury selection process and what jurors can expect if selected to serve on a jury.

The Summons

Both federal and state jurisdictions randomly select prospective jurors to serve on a jury. The court will mail a summons to the prospective jurors mailing address. The summons will have instructions on how to respond, including how to claim an exemption. Everyone should carefully read the instructions on their summons, whether they intend to serve or not.

Under section 62.103 of the Texas Government Code, the following are exempted from jury service:

  • Persons over age 70
  • The parent of a minor child, if service would result in inadequate supervision
  • Students in secondary school
  • University or college students
  • Public officials from the legislative branch of the Texas government
  • Persons who served on a petit jury in the past 24 months
  • Military service members on active duty on assignment away from their county of residence

Jury Selection

Juries are selected in a process called “voir dire.” This is where the court determines whether you qualify to serve on a jury.

According to section 62.102 of the Texas Government Code, a qualified juror must:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be a citizen and resident of the jurisdiction of jury service
  • Qualify to vote in the county they were asked to serve as a juror
  • Be of sound mind and good moral character
  • Be literate
  • Not served as a juror for a total of 6 days in the past 3 months in the county of service
  • Not be a convicted or under indictment for misdemeanor theft or a felony

The counsel for the parties also has an opportunity to disqualify people from serving on the jury in their case. Jurors may be excluded for cause. This usually means that the juror has a personal bias concerning the case.

Jurors can also be removed for no reason. These are known as peremptory challenges. Depending on the nature of the case, each party has a limited number of “peremptory challenges.”

Most people use this stage as an opportunity to try to get out of jury service by claiming that they are biased in favor of or against one of the parties. This tactic usually fails because many experienced attorneys can tell when someone tries to do this. Additionally, bias towards one party is an attractive quality to the opposing party.

During Trial

If you managed to be selected for jury service, congratulations. As a juror, the court will swear you in regarding your duty to act as an objective fact-finder. Jurors are asked to report for service in the morning, although proceedings may not occur until the afternoon.

The court will remind you not to form any conclusions about the case until the parties have submitted all evidence and offered all arguments. Jurors are admonished not to discuss the case with anyone, including the other jurors.

In Texas, Jurors may not ask questions in criminal trials. In the 1992 case Morrison v. State, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that if jurors were allowed to ask witnesses questions, their impartiality would be “imperiled.” However, Texas jurors may ask witnesses questions in civil cases.

Making a Decision

When both parties conclude their case, the jury retreats to a room to deliberate the evidence and arguments presented at trial and reach a decision. Jurors may not make an independent investigation of the facts. This is because the justice system wants to give the parties a reasonable opportunity to address evidence against them.

In Texas, the jurors in a criminal trial must reach a unanimous verdict. In civil cases, a substantial majority may be sufficient for a valid verdict.

Need a Dedicated Trial Attorney in Bryan?

At Waltman & Grisham Attorneys at Law, we have proudly represented Bryan residents in for over 30 years in various personal injury matters. We are dedicated to providing you with comprehensive and effective legal representation through every stage of the litigation process – from jury selection to closing statements. You can count on us to zealously advocate for your right to be compensated for injuries someone else wrongfully caused.

Schedule a free complimentary case evaluation with one of our experienced attorneys by calling Waltman & Grisham Attorneys at Law at (979) 227-4888 or contacting us online today.