Could self-driving cars mean safer roads?

Self-driving cars could dramatically reduce car accident injuries and deaths.

News reports and press releases concerning companies like Alphabet/Waymo, Uber and Tesla tell a similar yet still somewhat surreal story: autonomous vehicles are closer than ever before to hitting our roads en masse. Large-scale fleet tests of self-driving cars are currently underway in several cities, and most Americans have, somewhat begrudgingly, accepted that fully autonomous vehicles will likely be on every road in the nation in the next few years.

Early data from self-driving vehicle tests shows that they are remarkably safe, with the vast majority of accidents involving them being the fault of other vehicle operators. This is likely because they are designed to remove the single biggest factor in causing car accidents: human error. A 2013 Stanford University study shows that an estimated 90 percent of annual traffic accidents involve some level of human error. Similar studies, notably one in Britain in 1980, have found that as many as 95 percent of traffic accidents are the result of "driver error, pedestrian error or impairment."

Human error and poor judgment comes in all forms where traffic accidents are concerned, including in such common crash causes as:

  • Distracted driving/texting
  • Drunk driving/DWI/DUI
  • Speeding
  • Aggressive driving
  • Not accounting for weather or road changes
  • Drowsy/fatigued driving
  • Improper or inadequate vehicle maintenance

Giving up control

Perhaps the single biggest obstacle to a nationwide rollout of autonomous vehicles (something that used to solely be the domain of science fiction) lies not necessarily with the technology itself, something that has been in the works for years, but with the ingrained nature of our perception of driving. America is, and has been for well over 100 years now, a "car culture." This is particularly evident in such congested metropolitan areas as New York City and Los Angeles, where millions of road miles are driven by countless frenzied commuters each day.

Part and parcel of the car culture itself is an element of control. We are, to a fault, overwhelmingly attached to our vehicles, and are loathe to hand off the operation of them to a computer. As data comes in regarding the overall safety rating for autonomous automobiles, though, tech companies hope that ease of use and the ability to do other things instead of focus on the road, coupled with impressive accident and injury-avoidance rates, will convince drivers to make the switch.

Self-driving vehicles aren't yet being piloted in the upstate of South Carolina, but it is most likely only a matter of time before such a program is put into place. Until then, however, we are at the mercy of the other drivers around us, many of whom are focused on electronic devices, under the influence, or literally falling asleep at the wheel. If you've been injured in an accident caused by someone else's negligence or recklessness, you have legal rights. To learn more in a free initial consultation, contact the Greenville law offices of Philpot Law Firm, PA. Call them locally at 864-990-0226 or toll free at 866-853-3497 or send an email today.