Are Self-Driving Cars Safe?

Cars that can drive themselves without a human behind the wheel were once nothing more than a sci-fi trope. That may change within your lifetime. Several automotive companies have been experimenting with self-driving cars in recent years. Some have even claimed that self-driving cars will be so common that owning and driving one’s own vehicle will be a thing of the past by 2025.

Not everyone agrees with such predictions. However, many still believe self-driving vehicles will be commonplace on our roads in the near future.

With that in mind, you might question: “Are self-driving cars safe?”

There’s no definitive answer to this question right now. To explore the topic more deeply, we have to cover some of the pros and cons of self-driving cars.

Pros of Self-Driving Cars

Self-driving cars can theoretically offer many safety benefits. They include the following:

Preventing dangerous behavior

Many car accidents occur when a driver engages in dangerous behavior. This may include speeding, driving while intoxicated, driving while drowsy (which may be as dangerous as drunk driving), and more.

Self-driving cars could address this problem. The ideal self-driving car would be programmed to abide by all applicable traffic regulations and reduce the risks of dangerous driving habits.

Guarding against human error

Not all accidents occur because a driver is negligent. Accidents sometimes happen because of basic human errors. For example, someone driving at night may cause an accident if they fail to see a dark vehicle or a pedestrian in their path.

Self-driving cars use artificial intelligence to navigate roads. Ideally, the AI will one day be strong enough to avoid mistakes that humans would make. Whether it will ever reach that level of strength remains up for debate.

Cons of Self-Driving Cars

Although self-driving cars may one day be safer than cars driven by humans, they may have drawbacks, such as:

Ineffective AI

Accidents involving self-driving cars have happened. Most investigators believe these accidents occur because the AI systems self-driving cars cannot prevent accidents 100% of the time.

Some predict that will change as AI continues to improve. Others argue AI will never be powerful enough to render self-driving cars truly safe.

Hacking

It may be possible for hackers to “break into” self-driving cars’ systems and operate them remotely. Efforts are underway to develop cybersecurity measures that would guard against this, but it’s a safety issue that must be considered.

Liability

There are still questions regarding who may be liable for compensating victims if a self-driving car causes an accident. In at-fault insurance states, the driver who caused an accident is typically responsible for compensating victims. How will victims seek compensation when an accident occurs but a driver wasn’t behind the wheel?

Debate over liability issues is one of the reasons legislation allowing for self-driving cars has yet to be passed. Some argue it’s clear a vehicle’s manufacturer should be the liable party when self-driving cars cause accidents. Others suggest a vehicle’s owner may be at-fault if it can be shown an accident occurred because they failed to install an update.

Some self-driving cars also feature steering wheels, gas pedals, and brake pedals. These are to allow drivers to take over if the AI makes a mistake that could result in an accident. Would a driver be considered negligent if an accident happened because they didn’t take control of the vehicle quickly enough to prevent it?

It’s critical that these questions be addressed. If self-driving cars do become more common, there needs to be a clear path to compensation for accident victims. Victims should remember that their chances of collecting full injury compensation will be greater if they seek representation from qualified car accident attorneys.

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