Self-driving cars have become a thing of the future.

Many companies are releasing self-driving, rechargeable options to combat the increasing climate crisis.

The most famous car has been Elon Musk’s Tesla, but other companies are rising to the plate. Experts are coming out with their opinions following the recent announcement from the California Air Resources Board that the state of California will require automakers to sell cars that only run on hydrogen or electricity by the year 2035. The bill passed the California legislature and will go to the governor for official approval. Although it is a great idea to conserve the environment, many people are asking if self-driving cars are safe.

Living in rural Nebraska, we face strong weather all year long. Four seasons happen in one day, making driving conditions difficult. Many locals own trucks and vehicles with four-wheel drive to endure the never-ending miles of washboard country roads. It’s not odd for you to be stopped on the main highway for a tractor or combine heading out to the fields, especially during harvesting and planting season. Will these self-driving cars be able to handle terrible road conditions and sudden stops?

All of these thoughts are many of the reasons that I believe self-driving cars are not safe. A recent article by Reuters detailed how a GM vehicle was driving through an intersection and took an unprotected left turn (meaning the green light signaling a turn was flashing), causing the car coming from the other direction to nail it at the intersection. The company is claiming that the vehicle was traveling past the speed limit, therefore it couldn’t have been predicted by the self-driving software. However, this begs the question — if the technology can’t predict a car driving at an accelerated speed in an intersection, how can the auto-pilot predict tractors and combines causing a traffic stop or rough washboards on a country road?

Many people are led to believe that these cars are “fully self-driving,” but this is a false belief.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has rules clearly banning the marketing of cars as “self-driving,” although they have never enforced these rules. A project done by Dan O’Dowd, entrepreneur of the Dawn Project, showed that the latest beta software from Tesla for full self-driving failed to detect a child mannequin at a speed of only 25 mph, the speed limit found in most school zones. Many other research projects have found that although the vehicle will travel down the highway without the owner handling the wheel, it is recommended that the users keep a constant eye on the road and have their hands on the wheel, helping the car.

Especially in California, there have been a staggering number of crashes due to the software found in the car and users operating the self-drive feature. Although Tesla has not released these numbers, recent news articles and social media searches will show how many of the recent crashes have been with Teslas. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has ordered all automakers and tech companies to report any and all crashes that have involved self-driving cars. The GM company issued a recall to address a safety issue in its Cruise auto driving software, as was required by law. Unlike normal gas-powered vehicles, these vehicles would have to be taken in for constant updates, software upgrades and recall notices, due to the software and technology that they use.

Although it would be a dream to not have to get leg cramps driving for 16 hours at a time, that dream will forever stay in dream-land. If passed by the California governor, the new bill banning gas-powered vehicles by 2035 will have tremendous effects on the entire country. Tesla glamorizes its vehicles, all at a high price, but doesn’t reveal the not-so-glamorous side of its self-driving technology, much like other companies.

As a student who drives muddy country roads to her school in a cornfield, I believe that this technology and these cars are not safe. I also believe that GM and Tesla need to think about their word branding to warn users that self-driving is truly not fully self-driving. What seems like a great idea is truly anything but.

In other news

The Norfolk Public Schools Board of Education’s retreat on target-based grading and instruction Thursday morning covered a number of topics related to target-based grading and instruction, which has been slowly implemented since the fall of 2019, and aimed to address misconceptions about the…

The following court information includes marriage licenses, domestic cases filed, criminal judgments, felony cases bound over to district court, criminal cases, civil case judgments, city ordinance violations and speeding and other violations. 

A decent-sized group flocked to the kickoff of Norfolk Public Library’s summer speaker series Wednesday afternoon and debated current issues facing media organizations nationwide during a presentation by one of Nebraska’s most revered newsmen.