37, 461 people were killed in crashes on U.S. roads in 2016. Because most crashes are caused by human error, many see driverless vehicles as a solution to reduce crashes. Automakers and others are rushing to market with vehicles that have autonomous driving capability. Are they doing enough to ensure driverless vehicles are safe? Distasio, Kowalski & Yelen is an injury law firm that focuses on protecting the victims of car accidents and truck crashes. As such, we are hopeful that when properly tested and regulated, driverless vehicles will help to reduce injuries and fatalities as the result of auto accidents. The key is adequate testing and regulation to ensure safety.
Harvard Business Review published a research and computer model conducted by Accenture and the Stevens Institute of Technology. The study indicated that “as many as 23 million fully autonomous vehicles will be traveling U.S. highways by 2035.” Both Tesla and GM introduced new vehicles with self-drive capabilities recently. Tesla rolled out a fully electric semi truck with autopilot drive capabilities. The semi can apparently go 500 miles between charges while hauling 80,000 pounds. It’s equipped with automated braking, lane keeping, and lane departure warnings. General Motors also just unveiled its new driverless cars. It seems like a race to see which automakers can bring driverless vehicles to the market first. In addition to automakers, Google, Apple and Uber are testing driverless technology as well.
Google’s driverless vehicle safety report
Google recently submitted the first-ever safety report to regulators regarding Waymo, its self-driving car company. The company has done extensive research and testing and hopes to better educate the public regarding driverless vehicle technology. Statistics quoted to support the introduction of this technology, include: 94% of crashes in the U.S. involve human error and $594 billion in harm from loss of life and injury each year. Waymo’s self-driving system is designed to operate without any human driver. When the hardware and software is implemented, it will perform all driving function.
The report includes an overview of the pre-built maps, sensors and software that surround this technology. The safety process began with identifying potential hazardous scenarios and what could be done to reduce risk.
Google addressed five areas of safety for driverless vehicles:
- Behavior Safety – how are driving decision made.
- Functional Safety – vehicles must operate safely at all times, even if there is a system fault or failure.
- Crash Safety – vehicles must protect the passengers inside in the event of a car crash. These vehicles must meet safety standards.
- Operational Safety – consumers must have a safe experience inside a driverless vehicle.
- Non-Collision Safety – Physical safety for the range of people who may interact with the vehicle.
Are driverless vehicles safe?
While Google’s report was an overview of everything they are doing to ensure safety, the question remains, are these autonomous vehicles safe? AAA released a study on public perception of driverless vehicles earlier this year. AAA found that although majority of U.S. drivers seek autonomous technology in their next vehicle, they continue to fear the fully self-driving car. Most noteworthy, three quarters of U.S. drivers reported feeling afraid to drive in a self driving car and only 10 percent said they’d feel safer sharing the road with driverless cars. This public feeling about driverless vehicle technology and safety will be a major hurdle to overcome in the widespread introduction of these cars and trucks.
Personal injury safety concerns of driverless vehicles
- First of all, an education of the driver would be required. Although the vehicle is driving itself once the computer takes over, a driver must still be educated in safe operation.
- Because driverless vehicles would be coming from many different companies, they must somehow be connected to work together and share the road together for optimum safety. This will not be an easy task.
- A self-driving vehicle does not guarantee safety. In the event of a car accident, who would be liable? This needs to be addressed.
- How will self driving cars and trucks operate in various weather conditions? Would snow and rain affect the sensors and impact vehicle safety.
- Furthermore, how will road hazards impact driving? If a roadblock or construction zone goes up suddenly. If dangers exist on a road such as potholes, debris or other dangers.
- The danger of other outside influences. What happens if there is a power outage and a stop light is not working properly?
- The threat of the vehicle computer being hacked. This can pose a real danger to those inside the vehicle and also around it.
Autonomous vehicles are on the way to a road near you and the car accident lawyers at Distasio, Kowalski & Yelen hope that safety is a top priority as these vehicles are introduced. In conclusion, public safety must be a primary focus of federal legislators as they introduce laws regarding driverless cars and driverless trucks.