What Do Self-Driving Cars Mean for Accident Safety?

Posted in Car Accidents on January 11, 2019.

Human beings are capable of learning vicariously through stories of others’ experiences, but this type of shared experience unfortunately does not carry over to driving ability. A driver cannot absorb lessons learned by another driver after an accident, but an autonomous vehicle can. Self-driving cars have entered the consumer market from a few automakers, legislators, law enforcement officers, and consumers all wonder what autonomous vehicles mean for accident safety.

Benefits of Machine Learning

Autonomous vehicles have already made a significant stride in improving accident safety: they recognize accidents as errors and adapt to prevent similar errors in the future. This programming is not isolated to a single vehicle, either. For example, when a Tesla autonomous vehicle experiences a crash, the accident data reports back to the central Tesla server and a software update could potentially fix the error that led to the accident, preserving other drivers from similar fates.

When it comes to human drivers, novice drivers are constantly entering traffic and generally represent the highest risk age group of All-American drivers. A teen who just earned his or her driver’s license cannot automatically absorb information from other drivers and become a safer driver, but an entire fleet of autonomous vehicles can instantly absorb and apply information gleaned from one vehicle’s accident.

Growth of Autonomous Vehicles in the U.S.

Countless passenger vehicles in the United States from recent years feature some type of driver-assistance technology or partial automation. A few examples include lane drift detection that can warn a driver when he or she starts to slide into an adjacent lane, automatic safety features such as lights that respond to natural lighting, and parking assistance using cameras to safely back into a parking space or parallel park. Some of the more recent autonomous vehicles like those from Tesla feature conditional automation, meaning the driver must remain present and ready to assume direct control of the vehicle at any given moment during autonomous driving.

As autonomous vehicle technology improves, so does overall road safety thanks to the simple fact that robotic vehicles feature programming that not only encourages, but demands safe driving. Autonomous vehicles do not speed or run red lights, and they do not stop paying attention due to fatigue. An autonomous vehicle will not experience distraction from a phone call or text message and will not engage in any type of aggressive driving. Additionally, these features will improve the longer autonomous vehicles remain on the road and share their experiences with other vehicles in their networks.

How Do Autonomous Vehicles Work?

Most modern autonomous vehicles use an array of light sensors and range detection instruments to produce a full three-dimensional display of the surrounding area around the vehicle. An autonomous vehicle can read street signs, posted speed limits, and consult GPS data in real time to produce an active, dynamic map of the road and respond accordingly. Most of the autonomous vehicles available for purchase today are not actually fully autonomous as manufacturers have not yet refined the included technologies to ensure their absolute safety in every foreseeable situation.

Autonomous vehicle manufacturers must consistently track changes in federal, state, and local traffic laws and account for these changes in their autonomous vehicles’ software. Additionally, autonomous vehicle manufacturers and software engineers face the incredible task of handling unpredictable traffic patterns and random traffic hazards, such as disabled vehicles in the road or a need to pass over a double line to safely avoid a hazard like a human driver would in the same situation.

Most industry analysts predict that autonomous vehicles will inevitably replace human-operated vehicles much like those vehicles replaced the horse and carriage. Once software engineers have the ability to adapt to all possible traffic situations, the lessons learned can carry over to an entire fleet of vehicles almost instantly. Ultimately, autonomous vehicles will eventually remove one of the most dangerous aspects of driving – human error – from traffic entirely.

If you’ve been in an accident involving a self-driving vehicle, contact our office today to schedule a free consultation with our accident attorney.