Will Self-Driving Cars Cause More or Less Accidents?

Self-driving vehicles are being tested in various cities in the U.S. in 2016. The tests are taking place on both surface streets and major highways. At least 17 accidents have been reported involving a self-driving vehicle. Some are concerned that more adolescent vehicle thefts will occur if self-driving cars make it to production. Out of the available reports and information about the tests being conducted, the technology is exciting but for the most part, the commentary is less than stellar.

At-Fault Accident Confirmation

Google has accepted responsibility for at least 1 self-driving car involved accident. Well, partial responsibility. Its argument is that the vehicle used the same misjudgment that a human driver would also make. The accident was in California between the self-driving car and a bus.

The incident was caused as the vehicle moved to turn, and had to adjust to miss hitting sandbags in the roadway. As it moved to miss the sandbags, it was hit by a low-speed traveling city bus. The damage was quite minimal and no injuries were reported.

Misjudging Distance

The incident with the city bus and a self-driving car in California was preventable. Had the self-driving car been able to properly judge its distance between the sandbags and the large city bus properly, it could have avoided being hit. Real-time depth perception calculations are not quite 100-percent with the autonomous vehicle. The quickness in which an autonomous vehicle must calculate its distance from objects and vehicles must be instant. There is still a bit of lag in the programming, which is another reason that these vehicles are only being tested at slower speeds.

Malfunctioning Software

Failure to "rethink" the vehicle's location in the roadway is a malfunction that needs some tweaking still with the self-driving cars being operated and tested by Google. The vehicle should have seen ahead far enough to wait to switch to a turning lane to avoid having to make adjustments to miss hazards in the road. This malfunction can lead to a serious accident later.

The vehicles should be tested in non-traffic scenarios with updated technology. The software programs should be adjusted to allow for real-time reactions from the vehicle to prevent minor accidents from occurring. One fear that some have is that sun glare may inhibit the vehicle's perception of color and traffic signals, causing one of them to run a red light and cause a serious auto accident.

DUI Possibility

Even in a self-driving vehicle, you can still be charged with driving under the influence (DUI). How, you ask? The answer is quite simple, regardless of what is powering the vehicle, you are still behind the wheel. Whomever is behind the wheel of the vehicle is responsible and should still not drive while intoxicated as reaction times to react to technological mishaps is hindered.

Owner Responsibility

The car may be driving itself, but a human still has to be inside it. You have the ability to take over manual controls at any time, leaving you responsible for damages occurring in an at-fault accident. This includes damages to personal/private property, medical costs, and the cost of repairing both vehicles.

Safety Concerns

There are dozens of arguments buzzing regarding safety concerns surrounding self-driving vehicles. The vehicles are equipped with sensors and video to have a proper sense of location, distance and have proper depth perception. A concern is that technology will not drive itself safely. This does not always mean that it is a safe setup. Technology can lag due to lack of Wi-Fi signal, inclement weather, or just being in a more rural area. Safety concerns have not been fully addressed as of yet.

Accident Reduction Predictions

Self-driving cars are anticipated to reduce the frequency of accidents on the roads, including fatal crashes. A study conducted by KPMG and the Center for Automotive Research predicted that test results show that 93-percent of accidents are due to human error. Some argue that a full assessment of accident reduction rates could not be properly attained until hundreds of millions of miles had been driven and analyzed before real results could be given. While predictions do exist, none have proven to be remotely close given that technology can fail at any time.

Bottom Line

Self-driving cars may be the future of driving. Toyota already manufactures and sells a self-parking vehicle. Several other automakers have lane assessment notifications, self-braking vehicles, and crash warning technology. These "computerized" cars run routes based upon the starting and ending addresses and choose the safest route to take. The general consensus remains that there is no better way to drive than to operate the vehicle yourself.