Will Self-Driving Cars Make the Roads Safer?

Blog,Personal Injury • April 6, 2020

From the creation of the automobile, the essential nature of motor vehicle transportation has involved a certain degree of risk. Vulnerable people are riding in large, heavy machines that are traveling at speeds that were once unimaginable. Over time, innovations in technology have created new ways to reduce the risks associated with driving. Safety devices like seatbelts, airbags, and vehicle crumple zones have helped protect us and keep us safe, and driver-assistance features such as departure warnings, blindspot monitors, and front-end collision alerts aid drivers in avoiding crashes by monitoring the vehicle’s surroundings and warning the driver of potential dangers. Recently, companies like Tesla and Google have been laboring to develop vehicle technology that they believe will make the roads safe for everyone. These companies believe that self-driving cars will revolutionize travel and greatly reduce the rate of serious crashes. 

Human Error Is a Significant Contributor to Deadly Crashes

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 94 percent of car accident deaths were caused by collisions due to human error. Based on these statistics, it makes sense that removing the human factor from driving would result in safer roadways and fewer deadly collisions. Ultimately, a computer can’t drive drunk, give-in to road rage, fall asleep while driving, speed or drive aggressively, or become distracted by cellphones, passengers, or other distractions while in the driver’s seat. Statistical data from a US consulting firm shows support for the idea that self-driving or autonomous vehicles would make the roads much safer, claiming that after just a few decades, self-driving vehicles could reduce crash rates by as much as 90 percent. 

Autonomous Vehicles Are Far from Perfect

Will Self-Driving Cars Make the Roads Safer?Certainly, the very fact that there have already been many deadly crashes involving autonomous vehicles seems to suggest that this technology is unable to completely eliminate all risks on the road. However, more the more important question is if this any indication of the inherent limitations of the new technology or just a sign that more development is necessary to make meaningful change. For example, adverse weather conditions create significant concerns for vision-based detection and navigation systems used in autonomous vehicles. Improvements in visual sensor technology, and the implementation of additional sensors on the vehicle and in the surrounding environment, could potentially resolve such issues. 

Other issues with self-driving cars and autonomous vehicle technology are more complicated and nuanced, particularly due to the way computers are involved in these systems. Instead of using a preset list of programmed “if-then” prompts, self-driving tech is developed through machine learning, in which a program reacts and changes in response to new data that is introduced. This more organic method of programming is much more in-tune with how humans learn and develop, potentially letting a computer becoming more able to enact more elaborate and nuanced tasks, but this form of programming isn’t as understand and makes it more difficult for a programmer to track down and correct problems. It’s not possible to simply proofread the code and locate the error or check that the system works and is free from any bugs. Over time, a more sophisticated understanding of machine learning may aid programmers in overcoming these challenges, but the tech isn’t there quite yet. 

The first reported deadly accidents involving autonomous vehicles raised questions in the minds of skeptics concerning the capability of computers to make the necessary kind of instantaneous, life-and-death decisions demanded by highway driving. At the same time, considering current fatality statistics regarding American highways, it’s arguably fair to question if human beings are capable of making those same sorts of split-second decisions. Ultimately, a fair comparison of human and computer driving safety may not be practical within a realistic timespan. We already have over a century of data spanning six continents and billions of vehicles to examine when we are analyzing the safety of vehicles operated by humans. Self-driving vehicle tech is still in its beginning stages, and the amount of time and testing that would be required to generate a data set equivalent to even the past 20 years of human-driven vehicles is completely impractical. 

More Data Is Necessary to Provide a Real Answer

Without that kind of extensive data, it could be impossible to accurately determine how safe self-driving vehicles are compared to more conventional, human-driven cars, though it certainly does seem true that autonomous vehicles offer a chance to reduce the danger of deadly accidents. In the end, it may be impossible to completely eliminate all risks, as long as we continue to climb into metal boxes that travel at speeds often exceeding 60 miles per hour. However, any technology that provides the chance to improve our safety while we ride in our cars is certainly worth exploring — with a healthy dose of caution.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a serious car accident, contact a qualified New Jersey personal injury lawyer to discuss your case today. 

Car Accidents in New Jersey 

While we don’t have all the data on how dangerous autonomous vehicles may be, we do know that driving comes with a host of risks. Each year, car accidents are the number one contributor to death and serious injury in New Jersey. 62,690 collisions in the state reported in 2016 resulted in injuries. 

Across the country, nearly 3 million people are injured in crashes each year, with 6 million accidents reported annually. For every single person killed in a crash, 8 more are injured. Being injured in a collision can leave victims with serious injuries and other damages that can potentially disrupt their lives. Those who are injured in a car accident may be able to recover lost compensation with the help of a qualified New Jersey car accident attorney

You need a personal injury firm with years of experience handling car crash injury claims. The legal team at Brady Reilly & Cardoso, LLC is here to fight for your legal rights and make sure that the at-fault party is held accountable for your injuries. Contact our law offices today at (201) 997- 0030 if you or a loved one has been unfairly injured in a car accident.