Up to 94% of all traffic accidents are caused by human error according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. So would removing human error make our roads safer?
This is the concept behind self-driving cars, the innovative vehicles that use technology to stay safe on the road. There are already about 30 million partially autonomous vehicles in the world and this number is expected to exceed 50 million within just a few years.
Truly “driverless” fully autonomous cars exist but they aren’t widespread on the roads – at least, not yet! Companies like Tesla, Waymo, and Uber seem determined to change that as soon as possible.
From a legal standpoint, self-driving cars create complex problems. Plus, driverless car accidents are on the rise. Here in California, some people are skeptical that they’re really making our roads safer.
At Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers, we’ve been watching the autonomous car trend unfold as California has become famous for its driverless car evolution. Here are some of the potential pros and cons:
Pro: Less Room for Human Error
Ideally, self-driving cars minimize the chance of a person making an error that leads to an accident. These vehicles are supposed to stay safely in their lane, follow traffic rules, and protect the people inside the vehicle as well as others on the road.
But reality doesn’t always match this perfect picture. Research shows self-driving features give people a false sense of safety that leads to unsafe driving behavior. For example, someone might assume a partially autonomous car drives on “autopilot” but actually, it still needs human guidance.
Con: More Room for Technological Error
Here’s an obvious but significant drawback about self-driving cars: They rely heavily on technology. So far, self-driving vehicle technology is a bit glitchy and prone to errors.
Look at the famous example of the San Francisco pedestrian killed in a self-driving Uber crash. Investigators determined the vehicle’s technology sensed that the pedestrian was there but failed to apply the brakes. The human driver was too distracted to react before the crash.
Pro: Reduced Traffic Congestion
One of the biggest promises of self-driving cars is the possibility of reducing congestion on our nation’s roads. If driverless cars were widespread, there could be fewer accidents, fewer traffic jams, and reduced demand for highway police and EMTs. Public transportation could become much easier too.
Potentially, this could lead to additional benefits like lower insurance costs, less gasoline usage, and a minimal chance of injuries and damages from car accidents. Traveling in traffic wouldn’t be such a hassle.
Con: Unpredictable Traffic Patterns
We have decades of research about how traffic patterns work with the millions of human drivers already on our roads, but there’s very little information available about self-driving vehicle traffic. How would the roads be different if they were dominated by driverless cars? The truth is, nobody knows.
We tend to view machines as reliable and predictable. However, studies have found that both human drivers and self-driving cars can exhibit unpredictable behavior. Humans drive differently when they’re in a rush and might run a red light out of impatience, for example.
But driverless cars aren’t perfect either, and sometimes get confused by things like construction, gravel roads, pedestrians, and animals in the roadway. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says self-driving cars “could struggle to eliminate most crashes.”
Pro: Potential for Faster Travel
Wouldn’t it be great if we could do away with speed limits and just trust self-driving cars to transport us at rocket speed? This is one of the potentially huge benefits of driverless vehicles.
You could get home from work in a flash. School buses wouldn’t slow everyone down on the road. Big rigs could deliver goods quickly and safely. Ambulances could get people to the hospital faster and save more lives.
Con: Higher Impact Crashes
Extreme speed brings extreme risk. Imagine that a self-driving car traveling at 100 mph crashes into another vehicle. This high-impact crash brings a high risk of death and severe injury.
One study found that for every 5 mph increase in speed, there were 8% more road fatalities. How self-driving cars will factor into these kinds of statistics remains to be seen.
Pro: Environmental Benefits
Here in California, we love keeping things green. Some self-driving cars use less gasoline so if more were on the roads, there could be fewer fuel-guzzling traffic jams to harm the environment.
Plus, there could be a lower risk of semi-truck accidents with chemical spills, explosions, and other environmentally damaging side effects. That’s good for the Earth and good for all of us.
Con: Unforeseen Costs and Consequences
Finally, a major drawback of self-driving cars is that we simply don’t know all of their potential effects yet. There’s a big difference between having a few driverless cars on the road and having a road dominated by autonomous vehicles.
How will the law continue to evolve regarding self-driving cars? Nobody knows! There could be unexpected changes to the law in terms of making personal injury claims and securing compensation if a self-driving car hits you.
As the future of autonomous vehicles becomes a reality, the team at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers will be watching closely. You can trust us to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding the impact of new traffic technology like self-driving cars!
We Handle Your Car Accident Claim So You Can Focus on Your Life
After your accident, contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many areas of personal injury law, including self-driving car accidents. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering from your accident while we handle the legal details. We truly care about the people of California. Call 877-380-8852 today for a free case evaluation.