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Did a technology failure cause parking lot crash?

At the recent Detroit Auto Show, the next step in the evolution of autonomous cars was on display. Several automakers, including Internet giant Google were proud to show the progress in their research on how self-driving cars will ultimately join us on Arizona roads.

A recent CBS News report showed that while completely self-driving cars are years away, automakers such as Volvo, General Motors and Mercedes are hard at work testing driver assistance modules that can help maintain lane integrity and see hazards that human drivers may not see. While these advances appear fascinating, they can sometimes go wrong; as was the case of a BMW owner in Florida.

A 2013 BMW 5-series was involved in what is being described as an unusual parking lot accident. The owner was using the car’s parking assist function to park his vehicle when it reportedly accelerated forward and jumped the lot divider and “climbed” onto another car. Fortunately, no one was injured in the crash.

The owner blamed the assist function, saying that he had no control over the car as it quickly accelerated. Meanwhile, BMW blamed the car’s owner; explaining that the park assist is only supposed to be used for parallel parking, not for traditional parking maneuvers in a parking lot. Nevertheless, the story creates an interesting question for future car owners who have automatic assist functions. Essentially, could a driver still be blamed for an accident when an automatic function fails?

The answer remains to be seen. But in the meantime, drivers should be careful about using automatic driving functions.

Source: ABC, “Parallel parking to close for comfort,” Ben Waldron, January 15, 2014

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