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Posted on 09-12-2016

Autonomous Ubers - An Idea Whose Time Has Come Or Disaster Waiting to Happen?

As a Baltimore Chiropractor that spends the majority of my time treating patients with auto accident injuries such as headaches, neck pain, and back pain, I have begun to see more and more Baltimore auto accident injury victims who have been injured at the hand of an uber cab. We've all seen them and we've probably all used them as they are everywhere these days. Just about anyone with a driver's license and a car and take you wherever you are going for a small fee. These "industry disrupting" uber cabs have been great for citizens looking to make a few extra dollars on the weekend but they are not without their risk and concerns over safety and liability.

In another instance of life immitating art, Uber is attempting to roll out the first every autonomous taxi cab vehicles. I remember first seeing a similar idea watching "Total Recall" with Arnold Schwarzenegger where he was a passenger in a "Johnny cab." These vehicles are set to hit the road in Pittsburgh this week. They are being met with a mix of optimism and skepticism as you might imagine.

I think the IDEA of a self driving taxi cab is fantastic. Companies such as uber won't have to worry about the issues regarding whether their drivers are employees or independent contractors. It seems like it would be easy to get where you are going just by typing in an address in a phone and using a predetermined credit card to pay for the fair.

But what of safety? Opponents say that the technology is largely untested. It views the Pittsburgh citizens as "sitting ducks" and "guinea pigs" in an experiment. Some early reports on these vehicles is that they have trouble with bridges, puddles, rain and snow. Since that is the case Pittsburgh seems like an odd choice as it has tons of all of the above! Not to mention the subtleties of driving from hand gestures to lights blinking- how will the computers on board respond to these "unspoken" communications?

Uber has made it a point to say that each of these autonomous driving taxi cabs will have a "driver" who is able to take over at a moments notice in case of an emergency. So that's a bit relieving. However many people do not feel that there is enough regulation around this new technology and they are fearful of what may happen. And of the data collected in these interactions, who has access to it? Is it just the private companies such as Uber or do they have to turn the data over to the government for evaluation?

One thing is for certain. These self driving ubers, even with all of the sensors and gadgets will inevitably cause crashes. It is likely, therefore, that they will cause injury. Will they permanently disfigure someone? Kill someone? And will their rates of crash and injury be better or worse than we as humans have been responsible for? I suppose it all remains to be seen.

Would you let a self driving Uber take you to the movies? Or would you stick with a normal taxi or uber? Share your thoughts below.

If you, or someone you know, has been injured in a Baltimore auto accident within an uber (autonomous or driven) please contact Mid-Atlantic Spinal Rehab & Chiropractic at (443) 842-5500.

Dr. Gulitz

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