Are Self-Driving Cars Dangerous? The Answer May Surprise You


One of the biggest advancements in cars is self-driving vehicles. These vehicles have slowly become more common but still have not blown up because of the untrust in the vehicles. Some places have tried to accept self-driving vehicles and many different companies have invested lots of money into developing these technologies. But the uncertainty that these vehicles bring scares a lot of people and because of this, these vehicles haven’t really caught on and are not widely used in today’s world. 

Are self-driving cars dangerous? Self-driving vehicles are not inherently dangerous. They are even considered safer than the average human driving a vehicle. A study found that around 94% of accidents or around 374,610 deaths in a ten-year span are because of human error. If all the vehicles on the road were self-driving almost 352,133 lives could be saved every ten years.

Depending on what your definition of dangerous is and your individual views on these vehicles, self-driving cars may be dangerous or may not be dangerous.

There are two main sides when it comes to viewing self-driving cars. One side, which is the majority side, does not trust self-driving vehicles and believes that they may pose a threat to people’s lives or they just do not want to put their lives in the hands of the technology yet. The other side argues that the vehicles are already safer than human-operated vehicles and should be embraced because they offer more safety even though they may not be perfect yet. Choosing one side or the other does not make you a better or worse person, but it is important to keep an open mind and read all of the correct facts and information when reading about self-driving vehicles.

Are Self-Driving Cars Dangerous?

Self-driving cars can be scary as it feels as though the passenger has no control of the vehicle and if a spontaneous situation arises then how could the car deal with it to protect the passengers. These cars, however, when viewed statistically, are not dangerous. Most crashes that include self-driving vehicles are because of human error in the other car, some crashes and fatalities however are because of a malfunction on the car’s part, although this is much less common. 

About 75% of people would rather drive their own car than ride in an autonomous car. However, the self-driving market is still expanding by about 16% every year. It is not necessarily uncommon for self-driving cars to be in an accident but there have only been about 13 serious accidents involving self-driving cars.

Most of these accidents were also not the fault of the self-driving car. Self-driving cars are not created with the intent to hurt people but with the intent to help and keep people safe. Sometimes, however, even with the extensive technology that is used accidents do happen and people can get hurt.

About 57% of accidents that self-driving cars were involved in were the self-driving cars being rear-ended. Another 29% of reported accidents are from self-driving cars being sideswiped. This shows that a high percentage of self-driving cars accidents that actually occur are because of human errors and mistakes.

This doesn’t mean self-driving cars are much better than human-operated cars. Some people have reported the cars stopping at random times in the middle of the road because it may mistake a small bush for something else. This can cause problems and maybe be one of the reasons that these vehicles are rear-ended so often.

There are also some big worries about having self-driving cars because they do use computers and a network to get around. Some people believe that this will cause problems as they could be susceptible to hackers that have malicious intent and either steal information or cause the car to crash. Many companies are already hard at work to make sure that this never happens. Tesla users have also been worried about car hacking for a while but as of now, one has never been hacked while it was driving and been taken control of remotely. 

How Many Accidents Have Self-Driven Cars Caused vs. Human Operated Cars?

It can be difficult to look at the difference between accidents from human-operated cars and self-driven cars. There are a lot more human-operated cars on the road than there are self-driven vehicles. Most self-driving vehicles are not fully autonomous, which means there aren’t really any cars out there that fully control themselves. Because of this, we can only use certain statistics when looking at the accidents with human-operated cars and self-driven cars. 

When directly compared, a self-driven vehicle beats a human-operated car in terms of safety and crashes as when self-driven cars are in crashes they rarely see serious injuries. There are about 4.1 crashes per million miles driven for a regular vehicle while self-driven vehicles have about 9.1 crashes per million miles driven. This shows that more than double accidents occur from people than self-driven vehicles.

If they are to become common on our roads, this statistic will have to increase significantly as many people still do not trust self-driven vehicles. Although crashes occur less in self-driving vehicles and generally have less significant injuries it is still important that they improve significantly before they are put into common practice.

The National Highway Traffic Administration claims that an accident occurs every 60 seconds, which is about 5.25 million crashes in the US every year. Self-driving cars are said to be able to decrease these crashes significantly. One of the only places to have self-driving vehicles on public roads is in California and currently, there are 1,400 driverless cars in the US. These statistics just show how it may be difficult to have complete statistics on self-driving cars but self-driving vehicles seem to be safer than human-operated vehicles.

How Many Fatalities Have Happened From Self-Driving Cars?

Fatalities from self-driving cars are not very common, but neither are self-driving cars. Generally, accidents with self-driving cars are not as common but when they do occur, they usually occur at low speeds and with only minor to no injuries. California is one of the only places to have a considerable amount of self-driving cars on their roads and these mostly come in the shape of self-driving taxi services. Because these cars are not super common and have not had a large number of accidents, it is hard to have actual data on them.

There is not an exact number of fatalities but one of the only true self-driving car fatalities was when a self-driving uber in California ran over a woman which killed her. This is considered one of the only true self-driving car fatalities because other self-driving features that are in other vehicles, like Teslas, are not considered to be fully autonomous and require the driver to still be paying attention.

If we looked at these deaths, there would be around six deaths that occurred while a Tesla was using the autopilot feature. These deaths were not blamed on the car because, like mentioned before, when using this feature the driver is still supposed to be aware of the vehicle’s surroundings. 

Because Tesla’s autopilot feature is one of the most common self-driving features on the road today, it is important to look at their fatalities. Tesla claims that there is only one death per 320 million miles driven while using their autopilot feature. As mentioned before, Tesla has also had around six deaths that occurred from a crash while the car was in autopilot mode. These accidents were a combined failure in both the driver’s failure to pay attention and the car’s failure to sense whatever caused the accident.

What Causes Self-Driving Cars To Malfunction?

Self-driving cars can malfunction as they use computers and artificial intelligence to get around the world. This however is not a very common occurrence because self-driving cars have multiple backup systems as well as a way for a person that can manually take control of the car in case of emergencies. Although there are safety precautions even when there is a malfunction, it is not impossible for these accidents to happen. Big Malfunctions in the system are dangerous and can pose a threat to people, so minimizing these risks is of utmost importance to the companies that produce these vehicles.

Small malfunctions are not uncommon unfortunately but rarely do they cause an injury of a person or a crash. Little mistakes such as the vehicle mistaking an object on the side of the road for a person or something else that is trying to get into the road is one of the most common occurrences.

Riders of self-driving ubers in California even say that sometimes the car would stop randomly on the road and it was found out that this is because the vehicle mistakes something on the side of the road for a person or thing entering the road. This can cause dangerous situations if suddenly these cars were to just slam on their breaks but it may also be a good thing as if something really had been there the car was on the safe side of things and may have protected the life of a small child or an animal.

There is not just one answer to why self-driving cars malfunction. Sometimes sensors fail to pick up something, or maybe a camera and computer can mistake an image for something else. In one instance, a Tesla using autopilot crashed into the back of a semi as it reflected back into the cameras and sensors which caused it to not sense the semi and crash into the back of it. There are a few other examples of malfunctions in the systems of these cars and they usually make news headlines when they do.

One of the biggest stories was when a self-driving uber failed to identify a lady that was crossing her street while pushing a bike. The car then ran over and killed the lady in a tragic accident. It was one of the first fatalities from a self-driving vehicle and was all over the news. This story can still be found today when researching self-driving cars because of the tragic nature of the case. The problems that caused the before mentioned have been addressed by the companies and the companies claim that the problems within the systems have been addressed.

Who Is At Fault If A Self-Driving Car Is In An Accident?

This has become a very big deal as more and more self-driving vehicles are on the road, and when they do crash, someone has to be at fault. Depending on who/what is truly operating the vehicle changes who is responsible. Most self-driving vehicles have some sort of human that can take over and control the car when needed. If these vehicles are in an accident and there is someone like that who is supposed to take over during an event then they are held responsible for any accident caused by the vehicle.

In some cases, however, the manufacturer or company that operates the vehicle has been named the party that is at fault. Because they are the people who created and used the technology, they are also the ones who are responsible for whatever the technology does.

This can also mean that various parties can be liable for the costs and responsibilities of the accident. If a company buys a self-driving vehicle and that vehicle hurts someone or something, the company that owns the vehicle as well as the company that made the vehicle may be at fault depending on the case. 

So far, there have only been a few large cases against self-driving vehicles as they are not very common on the roads. We may see an increase in cases as self-driving cars become more common and with the knowledge of these cases, we will better be able to see who may be at fault. Most often operators and manufacturers of these vehicles have been named at fault with the cases that are currently available. It is doubtful that this will change in the future but it may vary from case to case. If you are injured by a self-driving vehicle, it is probably smart to get in touch with a local lawyer and ask for advice before you proceed with anything.

What Are Car Companies Doing To Make Their Self-Driving Cars Safer?

The technology being used in self-driving cars is always being worked on and improved to increase their effectiveness and safety. Not only are technologies being developed, infrastructure is being created and data is being compiled so self-driving cars can drive safely. As self-driving vehicles become more common, new features are being added through physical changes as well as changes in the code.  Many cars only have some self-driving features and are not completely autonomous, this allows for humans to either help or hinders the safety of these vehicles. 

There are tons of different ideas for self-driving cars and improving their safety constantly being researched. One of the most popular is installing brakes for self-driving vehicles so the rider is able to stop the vehicle whenever there is an instance where the vehicle needs to be stopped. Another idea is having screens on the outside of the car that tell what the car is doing.

When the car would stop for a pedestrian it could display a message like “Waiting for you to cross” or when the car is turning right it would show a message that says “turning right”. This could allow people to tell when the car is going to do something so they don’t accidentally get in the way and harm themselves.

These features, as well as others, are ways to improve safety for the vehicles by adding to them. One way to increase the safety of these vehicles would be to have more self-driving vehicles on the road. By having more of these vehicles on the road, they could communicate with each other to protect the passengers from any oncoming dangers. Eliminating human error along with human’s spontaneous nature, these cars could safely navigate the roads with the network that they are able to create. This probably won’t be able to happen for a long time, if not ever, because of the unwillingness of people.

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