Lyft’s Driverless Cars in Las Vegas: What You Need to Know
Driverless cars are no longer sci-fi material. The future is here and so are autonomous vehicles. Companies like Google and Tesla have been perfecting self-driving software for years, but Lyft’s latest program in Las Vegas is the first commercial robot taxi service in the US. Lyft’s self-driving cars have been operating in Las Vegas for almost two years now with no plans to stop.
By June of last year, the autonomous ride-sharing service hit 50,000 rides. For most riders, this was their first time experiencing a driverless ride. Self-driving taxis have their benefits, especially in a busy city like Las Vegas.
But since self-driving technology is still relatively new, let’s take a look at what this technology does exactly and what it means for Las Vegas.
What are Self-Driving Cars?
A self-driving car, also known as an autonomous vehicle (AV), uses technology to move safely with little to no human input. Self-driving technology includes a variety of sensors like radar, lidar, sonar, GPS, and odometry.
The autonomous vehicle has software that processes all this sensory input, plots a path, and sends instructions to the part of the car that controls acceleration, braking, and steering. The car also has hard-coded rules, obstacle avoidance algorithms, predictive modeling, and object recognition to help follow traffic rules and navigate obstacles.
According to the US Department of Transportation there are 6 levels of automation. Levels 0-2 are human monitored, whereas levels 3-5 are monitored by an automated system.
0 – No Automation: Manual control. The human performs all driving tasks (steering, acceleration, braking, etc.)
1 – Driver Assistance: The vehicle features a single automated system (e.g. it monitors speed through cruise control).
2 – Partial Automation: The vehicle can perform steering and acceleration. The human still monitors all tasks and can take control at any time.
3 – Conditional Automation: Environmental detection capabilities. The vehicle can perform most driving tasks, but human override is still required.
4 – High Automation: The vehicle performs all driving tasks under specific circumstances. Geofencing is required. Human override is still an option.
5 – Full Automation: The vehicle performs all driving tasks under all conditions. Zero human attention or interaction is required.
Some self-driving companies include:
- Waymo (Google)
- General Motors
Now that you know a bit more about self-driving cars, we’ll next examine if they’re safe. If you have additional questions, especially if you’ve been the victim in a car accident in the Las Vegas area, please contact us at (702) 857-6000. We know how to navigate the complexities in car accident cases so you receive the compensation you deserve as an accident victim. Contact us today for your free consultation.
Are self-driving cars safe?
With new technology comes new consequences.
Although self-driving vehicles have its benefits—like enhancing the independence of seniors or people with disabilities, reducing congestion, and increasing road safety— autonomous cars also have some repercussions. For example, self-driving taxis could take away thousands of jobs, they could collect personal data, and they would still be susceptible to accidents.
In fact, there have been confirmed fatalities from autonomous vehicles. In 2018, one of Uber’s self-driving vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in Phoenix, Arizona, the first known pedestrian death caused by an autonomous car.
In 2018, a Tesla driver had his car in autopilot and was killed when the Model X SUV accelerated and crashed into a safety barrier on the highway in Mountain View, CA. Last year, a Tesla Model S in autopilot entered a three-way stop sign intersection without stopping. It hit a parked pickup truck, which started spinning and then hit and killed a pedestrian.
Google’s self-driving car (now under Waymo) had 30 minor accidents in the 2009–2018 period. None were fatal.
How do self-driving cars impact Las Vegas?
Since January 2018, Lyft and Aptiv have been operating a small fleet of self-driving cars in Las Vegas.
If you’re in Las Vegas and open the Lyft app, you are given the option to opt into the self-driving pilot. Once you begin the booking process, if the system plans to send a self- driving vehicle, then you can accept or decline receiving a self-driving car at that time. You pay the same amount whether you have a human-driver or a self-driving Lyft ride. If you do select the self-driving option, there is still a backup driver who will remain behind the wheel for the duration of your ride.
As of 2020, Lyft and Aptiv have expanded their program to include 3,400 destinations throughout Las Vegas, including restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues along the Las Vegas Strip and other high-traffic locations, like the Las Vegas Convention Center. As of this month, the program includes McCarran International Airport.
According to Lyft, the average rating of their self-driving rides in Las Vegas is 4.96 stars. With the program showing no signs of slowing down, let’s look at some possible pros and cons to autonomous mobility in Las Vegas.
What are the benefits of autonomous vehicles? They include:
- Elimination of accidents due to human error
- Reduces the chances of car accidents by calculating the proper distance from other vehicles at all times
- No such thing as “distracted driving”
- Savings in insurance costs with lowered accident rates
- Savings in healthcare with lowered accident caused injury rates
- Increase in productivity—while the car drives itself, you can do other things like catch up on work, emails, or reading
- Improved traffic conditions and congestion
- Reduce commute times
- Disabled individuals could experience increased mobility and autonomy
- Decrease in drunk driving accidents
- Police officers can focus on more serious crimes due to less traffic violations
According to the Secretary of the National Department of Transportation, Elaine Chao, in addition to safety, automated driving system technology “offers important social benefits by improving access to transportation, independence and quality of life for those who cannot drive because of illness, advanced age or disability.”
What are some drawbacks to autonomous vehicles on the road? They include:
- Passengers still need to understand how to operate a self-driving vehicle, and therefore would need to spend time on educating themselves regarding safety and operation
- The high cost of implementing new technology
- People need to “opt-in” to the self-driving service in order for any real savings of cost, time, and lives
- Susceptibility to hackers
- Self-driving cars would possess the ability to collect a lot of personal data
- Elimination of transportation jobs such as freight and taxis
- Ambiguity in who is at fault if there is an accident– the driver? The car manufacturer? The software developer?
- What happens if the car’s technology fails?
- How self-driving cars would navigate unique local driving laws
- Self-driving cars rely on GPS, but GPS devices are not always accurate
Because this is still a relatively new technology, there remain a few bugs that need to be worked out. Despite the drawbacks, it appears that the continued development of this technology is inevitable. “The Department of Transportation says the development of this technology will do much to reduce the number of serious automobile crashes, 94 percent of which it says is due to human error.”
Contact an Experienced Attorney if you Have Been Involved in an Accident with a Self-Driving Car
If you or a loved one experienced a car accident involving a self-driving vehicle (or any other vehicle operated by someone else) you should speak with an experienced car accident lawyer for legal advice. While some attorneys deal occasionally with car accident cases, Anthem Injury Lawyers offers you extensive experience in this area. You can rely on our Las Vegas lawyers to provide the best chance at a positive outcome for your case.
You deserve an experienced personal injury lawyer to fight for your rights and make sure that you get the compensation that you deserve. Anthem Injury Lawyers are based in the Las Vegas, Nevada area and are ready to speak to you today. Contact us today at (702) 857-6000 for a Free Consultation.