Driverless utopia? Not so fast

The fierceness of the competition was felt here when erstwhile partner Uber reportedly hired 40 researchers from Carnegie Mellon University. The school and ride-sharing company had been collaborating on driverless tech when cash-flush Uber apparently offered the scientists doubled salaries and six-figure bonuses to jump ship and staff the company’s technology center here in Pittsburgh.

Regardless, the race includes much more than Carnegie Mellon and Uber. Google has perhaps the inside track (its driverless vehicles have logged nearly 2 million miles), while Nissan and NASA are partnered up, Ford is in the chase and so is the University of Michigan.

In fact, a former Ford CEO predicted that a “fully autonomous” vehicle would be available by 2020. But many experts urge consumers not to pick out movies to watch while a car takes you around town just yet. One expert said we shouldn’t expect to see fully autonomous cars in our lifetimes, while another said he is frequently asked if he’s concerned about driverless cars.

He responds that yes, he’s concerned about their safety, legal issues, ethical questions and more. “But I’m terrified of today’s vehicles,” he told a newspaper. “Thirty-three thousand people in the U.S. are killed every year in car accidents, and (more than) a million are injured.”

We don’t know what tomorrow’s technology will hold, but we know that if driverless cars can eliminate drunken driving accidents, thousands of lives will be saved each year, and many more will be spared painful injuries.

Pittsburgh residents injured by a drunken driver can speak to attorneys experienced in holding irresponsible people accountable for the damage they cause.