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Safety concerns: Will self-driving cars be able to keep up?

The closer American consumers get to an autonomous automobile market, the more they may want to pay attention to the safety concerns with these vehicles.

Americans remain skeptical these cars will be able to meet the safety standards they enjoy in their manual cars. Fifty-two percent of respondents to a 2018 survey said they were confident self-driving technology would develop enough to persuade them to trade vehicles.

Current state of crash testing

Automakers that have begun developing autonomous cars have either postponed safety testing themselves or were persuaded by others to do so due to the risk self-driving cars pose to those on the road. Waymo Chief Executive Officer John Krafcik admitted that the timeline for autonomous cars reaching ubiquity in the market is longer than many people would expect. Even with all the hype, may safety systems still need fine-tuning.

Among companies currently testing these vehicles, Waymo and GM's Cruise division are the leaders in crashes. Waymo has been involved in 32 incidents in California, or 41 percent of the company's self-driving fleet. Of the 61 autonomous car crashes in San Francisco, Cruise cars were involved in 52; this represents 30 percent of GM's self-driving cars.

While many of these crashes tend to be at low speeds, between one to 10 miles per hour, and at junctions, testing has largely occurred in warm, dry climates. Autonomous technology can be affected by weather, so the potential for crashes to increase in colder, wetter climates where the technology isn't performing at its optimal rate is high.

As companies temper expectations about the entrance of self-driving cars into the market, hopefully they will spend that time developing the technology so there is no doubt about its safety by the time they widely reach consumers.

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