Are Self-Driving Cars Really Safe?

Every time you check the news, there’s something about self-driving cars—accidents caused by self-driving cars, new technology being tested, or public spats over feedback on these vehicles. Regular drivers are left wondering—are self-driving cars safe, and if not, will they ever be? Autonomous vehicles have their benefits and drawbacks, and no matter how safe they become, accidents are inevitable. If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, call Hedge Copeland at 251-432-8844 to schedule a consultation now.

Humans Are Imperfect Drivers

To start, it’s important to understand why self-driving vehicles are so popular. No one likes using their mental energy to drive, especially when there are dozens of other, more fun things to do. However, another benefit of autonomous vehicles is the fact that they take human error out of the equation.

While mechanical errors and faulty vehicle components can cause crashes, the majority of collisions are the result of human error. Yes, a self-driving car won’t get it right every single time. However, it won’t ever drink and drive, text when it should be looking at the road, or drive too fast just for fun.

Safety Features Have Improved Over the Years

Vehicle improvements over the years have all been made with the end goal of self-driving cars. The NHTSA ranks vehicle improvements over time, starting with rudimentary occasional driver assistance, moving through additional driver assistance, conditional automation, high automation, and eventually full automation.

We’re currently at “level two,” which is additional assistance. Although this does require you to drive and monitor the road, the vehicle does take over some of the work. It detects obstacles and brakes if you fail to do so, regulates your speed in line with the vehicle in front of you, and adjusts to road lines. There is extensive research and testing going on in higher levels of automation.

Abstract Risks

While cars can detect some types of obstacles and risks, there are others they cannot perceive at all. Consider crashes where you have to avoid multiple obstacles. You might notice a crash ahead of you in your lane and realize that you have to slow down, but that the vehicles behind you are driving way too fast to stop in time. In less than a second, you’re able to check your blind spot and change lanes to avoid both types of accidents.

A vehicle is simply not capable of that type of in-depth thought, nor is it capable of reasoning and figuring out complex solutions. Some experts predict that autonomous vehicles will cut down on certain types of accidents, particularly those that are based entirely on human error.

Rear-end accidents caused by distracted driving, T-bone collisions caused by missing a red light, and other crashes may disappear almost entirely when you have autonomous vehicles. The crashes that do occur, though, may be more serious. These are the collisions that will test the limits of AI technology and lead to serious injuries or even fatalities.

What the Future Holds

This doesn’t mean that autonomous vehicles will never be truly safe. In fact, we’re already well on the road to safe autonomous vehicles. Safe doesn’t mean “no accidents at any point in time.” If these cars can cause significantly fewer accidents, injuries, and fatalities than human drivers, then they are a step forward for society.

The NHTSA lists “full automation” as level five. When we reach this point, the vehicle will drive itself in all conditions, on all roadways, and in every situation. Rather than being an active participant, you will simply be a rider. There are many steps between where we are now and where self-driving car advocates want us to be, so it’s up to us to watch, wait, and stay safe.

Get the Legal Help You Need with Hedge Copeland

As technology advances, we may see more crashes involving self-driving cars. If you have been injured in a crash with a semi-autonomous vehicle, let’s talk about your legal options and where we go from here. Call Hedge Copeland at 251-432-8844 or get in touch with us online.