Will self-driving cars really reduce accident rates?

When manufacturers introduced self-driving technology in cars, safety experts felt it could be a game changer. They expected the technology could greatly reduce the number of accidents on U.S. roadways. However, according to a 2020 study from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), self-driving technology may not reduce accidents as much as first hoped.

Self-driving technology and reducing accidents

In the study, IIHS Vice President for Research Jessica Cicchino says that self-driving technology alone won’t prevent a majority of accidents. In fact, self-driving technology only can prevent about one-third of crashes. To prevent the other two thirds of accidents, programmers would need to have self-driving technology prioritize safety over speed and convenience.

In the IIHS study, researchers examined the factors involved in more than 5,000 accidents. Researchers felt the factors that self-driving technology could best impact were errors in:

  • Sensing and perceiving
  • Incapacitation

Errors in sensing and perceiving would include drivers:

  • Becoming distracted
  • Failing to recognize accident dangers

Errors in incapacitation would include:

  • When drivers are under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • When drivers fall asleep at the wheel
  • When drivers experience medical problems while driving

Who is at-fault for self-driving car accidents?

Because self-driving car technology still requires a driver to be present, it’s likely drivers still may be at-fault when accidents occur now. In a 2018 accident, where a self-driving Uber car hit and killed a pedestrian in Arizona, the driver of that vehicle is facing negligent homicide charges for playing a role in the accident. The driver allegedly was watching an episode of The Voice when the crash occurred.

A manufacturer also may be liable for a crash if:

  • The self-driving technology didn’t detect a danger properly.
  • The self-driving technology warning didn’t go off properly.

Determining fault is often difficult after a crash. So, if you suffer an injury in an accident with a self-driving car, determining fault and liability may be even more problematic. That’s when consulting a personal injury attorney may be necessary to recover maximum compensation.

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