Will Driverless Vehicles Reduce Motor Vehicle Accidents?
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Self-driving cars may seem like a far-off proposition, but in reality a number of high-profile automotive and tech companies are hard at work testing and perfecting their respective models. Audi, Nissan, Tesla, Uber, Delphi, and Google are each working on autonomous vehicle designs, including several that are being actively tested on American roads. While it’s unclear when these vehicles will be available for public consumption – optimists say by the end of 2016; other experts believe we may be a generation away – driverless automobiles have great potential not only for their novelty and convenience, but also for their capacity to greatly improve road safety by limiting motor vehicle accidents.

The idea of a driverless car being somehow safer than a human-piloted automobile may seem like a misnomer, but there is substantial evidence to suggest that driverless cars would, in fact, reduce the number of motor vehicle accidents and fatalities we see on the road. The foundation for this claim stems from the fact that most accidents are caused by human error. In fact, the Eno Center for Transportation, America’s national leader in policy and professional development for the transportation industry, says that 90 per cent of all crashes are caused by preventable mistakes, including drunk driving, distracted driving, failing to remain in one lane, and failing to yield to the right of way.

Some proponents of driverless cars believe that putting computers behind the wheel would drastically reduce fatalities, and save billions of dollars in accident costs.

“In theory, if you have 100 percent fully autonomous vehicles on the road, while you still might have accidents on the margin in rare situations, you’re basically looking at anywhere from a 95 to 99.99 percent reduction in total fatalities and injuries on the road,” explained Ryan Hagemann, a civil liberties analyst at Niskanen Center.

To be clear, the prospect of an accident free, driverless society is a long way off: as they exist today autonomous cars cannot drive in heavy snow or rain; have difficulty making left hand turns against fast-moving traffic; and have no means of understanding hand signals, making eye contact, or obeying police directions.

“In the long run, I think that some of the autonomous technology will probably enhance safety,” said John M. Simpson, director of consumer relation at Consumer Watchdog. “But I think that it’s going to be quite a while until we get to that point – if we even can.”

Developing a means for humans and machines to co-exist is perhaps the primary barrier to driverless cars’ public introduction. Recently, Google has been testing 25 self-driving cars on public streets in Mountain View, California, in addition to a small fleet of autonomous Lexus SUVs in Austin, Texas. As of June, they had been involved in 14 minor motor vehicle accidents, each of which, Google claims, was caused by human errors in other vehicles.

Perhaps more encouragingly, Delphi’s Roadrunner vehicle recently completed the 3,400 mile cross-country trip from San Francisco to New York City. Ninety-nine per cent of the voyage, the company says, was fully automated.

The ability for autonomous vehicles to interact with human drivers is perhaps the biggest hurdle left facing the companies working toward a driverless future, but the safety potential of this development is clear. A largescale network of autonomous vehicles would almost certainly reduce motor vehicle accidents and in turn limit the number of injuries and fatalities we currently see on our roadways.

Until that time, Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers is here to help. If you or a member of your family has been involved in an automobile accident, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to arrange a free, no obligation consultation.

Greg Neinstein

Greg Neinstein, B.A. LLB., is the Managing Partner at Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers LLP. His practice focuses on serious injury and complex insurance claims, including motor vehicle accidents, slip and fall injuries, long-term disability claims and insurance claims. Greg has extensive mediation and trial experience and has a reputation among his colleagues as a skillful negotiator.
Greg Neinstein

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