Self-driving vehicles may not prevent most auto accidents

On Behalf of | Jun 9, 2020 | Car Accidents |

Auto accidents are a common cause for injuries and fatalities in Georgia. This can impact people from across the demographic spectrum. Medical expenses, the inability to get back to work and long-term damage are some of the most prominent challenges for people who survive a crash. Families left behind after a fatal collision will need to come to grips with having lost a loved one in many ways. Frequently, there is a perception that driver error was a cause for a crash and the future with self-driving (autonomous) vehicles will enhance safety. Recent research indicates that this might not be the case.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), self-driving vehicles would have a problem avoiding two out of three accidents. This contradicts the idea that once people are no longer in control of vehicles, the number of collisions will drastically reduce. A challenge that researchers found is that the vehicles may operate in a similar way to the way people drive. Although the autonomous vehicles will have features that “see” everything around them, accidents will continue.

To come to its conclusions, IIHS assessed more than 5,000 accidents that were reported to law enforcement. To be part of the study, a minimum of one vehicle must have been towed with emergency services called. It then separated the study into five categories that played a role in the crash. They were:

  • Driver impairment whether it was due to alcohol or drugs, a medical issue or drowsiness
  • Driving at excessive speed or too slowly based on the road conditions, aggressive driving or tailgating
  • Poor driving performance with mistakes, overcompensating and inadequate attempts at evasive maneuvers
  • Failing to accurately assess traffic, other vehicles’ speed or maneuvers
  • Being distracted, vision impediments and not preparing for risks before they occur

The breakdown from IIHS’s research found that of the accidents, 2% could not be avoided; 4% had no known cause. Nearly one-quarter happened because of assessment failures. Impairment, medical conditions and drowsiness came to 10%. Because autonomous vehicles do not get distracted and are not negatively impacted by driver issues, these would no longer occur. That accounts for around one-third of collisions which would presumably no longer be an issue. Still, that leaves around 60% of accidents.

The companies putting the autonomous systems into vehicles are relied upon to address the remaining risks. It is understandably difficult to expect a self-driving vehicle to “expect the unexpected” like a speeding vehicle or another vehicle making illegal maneuvers. This is the danger of autonomous vehicles sharing the road with vehicles that are driven by humans. The prioritization of safety would likely be beneficial to reducing these accidents.

Regardless of the steps taken to make the roads safer, it is an unfortunate truth that auto accidents will happen. Self-driving vehicles that require little-to-no intervention from the driver are not yet on the road. There are features in newer vehicles to help drivers such as lane assist, automatic braking and more. Yet accidents still happen and in some cases, programming the technology can be distracting and these features can give drivers a false sense of security.

The number of people who are injured or lose their lives on the Georgia roads remains staggeringly high. After a crash, seeking compensation in a legal filing might be the only way to cover for all that was lost personally, financially and emotionally. The investigation into the cause of the crash could be critical. Garnering information regarding auto accidents might be a wise decision.


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