People who live in California and particularly in the Bay Area have likely seen a self-driving car on the road at some point in the past few years as more of more of these vehicles are being deployed largely for testing purposes. However, this testing alone has garnered some criticism as opponents highlight the potential safety issues with doing so.
As reported by Curbed, there are many groups and individuals that dispute the ultimate safety of a computer-controlled vehicle, saying it is not appropriate to test autonomous cars on road with real human beings as it puts humans in harm's way. The death of a pedestrian in an Arizona accident involving a self-driving car was followed by an increase in these assertions.
Robotics Tomorrow explains that there are five different levels of vehicle ratings when it comes to autonomous features or functionality. The lowest level is no autonomy at all and the highest is, of course, complete autonomy. There are also varying types of autonomous features that can be built into a vehicle that do not completely take over the responsibility of driving but do take some of it. The goal is always touted as safety.
The features in a self-driving car rely on both hardware and software but ultimately is it the software that may require some of the most attention as it can be thought of like the brain. It is the software that learns via testing and driving experience how to adjust to unplanned events, such as a pedestrian stepping out in front of a vehicle. In addition, software for these vehicles will need to be developed to accommodate evolving legislation.