Are Self-driving Vehicles Safe?

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Legally reviewed by:

Erik Abrahamson, J.D. February 05, 2019
Are Self-driving Vehicles Safe

In March of 2018, a woman in Arizona died after being struck by one of Uber’s self-driving car. This was the first time a pedestrian was killed by a self-driving car. The vehicle was traveling at approximately 40 miles per hour at the time of the accident and did not appear to slow down in any way once the pedestrian entered the roadway. There was an operator sitting behind the wheel at the time of the crash. This incident sparked heated debate over the safety of self-driving cars. 

Even before this incident, Americans had concerns about self-driving vehicle safety. Fully autonomous vehicles that drive us instead of us driving them may slowly become the norm. The technology, however, has not been fully developed, and there are some serious concerns about whether this future mode of transportation is safe. 

Other Incidents

The pedestrian death in Arizona was not the first collision involving an autonomous vehicle. In another accident in Arizona, a car turning left across three lanes of traffic was struck by a self-driving car also operated by Uber. No one was seriously injured, and the driver of the vehicle that was turning was ticketed for failing to yield the right of way. In addition, in Florida, the human operator of an autonomous Tesla died when the car failed to stop once a truck turned in front of it. It was later determined that the self-driving vehicle did not apply the brakes because it could not differentiate between the white truck and the bright sky. In November of 2017, there was a collision between a self-driving shuttle and delivery truck when the truck backed into the shuttle that failed to move out of the way. In most of these cases, it was determined that driver error was the primary source of the accident.

What are the Concerns?

Concerns about the technology involved in self-driving cars and the negligence of the users of these vehicles have been identified as the causes of many crashes. Self-driving cars are programmed to obey the traffic laws and to follow the rules of the road. But they should also be programmed on how to respond when pedestrians and other vehicles do something out of the ordinary. In addition, sensors in the car need to be properly designed to detect what’s happening around the vehicle.

The majority of accidents involving self-driving cars are the result of user error. In October 2018, a motorcyclist was injured in a crash with a Waymo self-driving vehicle when the operator disengaged the self-driving feature of the vehicle and attempted to change lanes. Self-driving cars are pitched as a way of reducing car accidents , but you can’t avoid the negligence of human operators.

Contact a Trusted Attorney

If you’ve been seriously injured in a car accident, you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. Contact the trusted lawyers at Abrahamson & Uiterwyk online or call us at 1-800-538-4878 to schedule your free consultation.