2 reasons self-driving vehicles won’t automatically end crashes
Human error is one of the main factors that contribute to modern car crashes. Despite training and licensing requirements and the constant risk of collisions, drivers often make mistakes because they don’t treat operating a motor vehicle as a safety-critical task.
People misjudge what following distance they should maintain or travel at speeds too high given current road conditions. Those mistakes end up causing collisions that result in injuries and sometimes also property damage expenses.
Both safety experts and automation advocates have long touted the potential of self-driving vehicles as a means of reducing car crashes. However, they would likely never eliminate collisions fully due to their current limitations. Why are ongoing crashes despite a transition to self-driving vehicles likely?
1. Human error is still a factor
Self-driving software is created by scientists and engineers and is therefore potentially fallible. Humans can have a hard time identifying every possible variable that could lead to safety issues on the road. The software used to operate vehicles could sometimes provide the wrong guidance because human programmers or engineers failed to foresee the situation.
Even when self-driving vehicle software uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help a vehicle adapt to changing road conditions, the AI will likely learn by watching what other drivers do. In other words, the poor behavior of other people on the road will potentially influence self-driving vehicles. There have already been issues with vehicles making unsafe maneuvers because of programming intended to duplicate more assertive driving habits.
2. Sensors may struggle to do their jobs
The ability of vehicles to make sense of their surroundings has certainly increased in recent years, but they still make mistakes. Vehicles have failed to identify pedestrians as humans, and many sensor and camera systems used in technologically-advanced vehicles don’t respond well to inclement weather and other challenges.
Snow, heavy rain and wind could all affect how accurately a vehicle analyzes its surroundings and whether a driver knows to take the appropriate maneuvers. While self-driving vehicles and enhanced safety software, like lane departure sensors, can potentially reduce the number of crashes that occur, human error will continue to cause collisions even when people have partially autonomous vehicles.
Taking personal responsibility for reducing your risk of a motor vehicle collision may help you feel more confident about driving.