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Self-Driving Cars Implicated In Crashes

Our increasingly technology-dependent transportation systems are supposed to help us avoid car crashes. With the advent of self-driving vehicles, roads that “speak” to our cars, and a growing number of internal safety checks, we should all feel safer on the roads, right? Not so fast.

New Yorkers who may be eagerly anticipating the release of self-driving cars may be disappointed to learn that these vehicles have been implicated in a number of car crashes in other states. Are the safety features included in these vehicles sufficient to protect occupants? Some researchers are not convinced.

State officials in California have released information relating to six separate car accidents that have involved self-driving vehicle prototypes. The state had initially refused to provide any data about these car crash events, citing legal restrictions about the use of individual collision data. More information has come to light in recent days, thanks to inquiries by news organizations in the state.

Statistics show that more than 80 self-driving cars are currently on the roads in California, with more expected to be released in the near future. The majority of those vehicles are operated by Google, though competitors are also entering the field.

One would imagine that the self-driving car would be far safer than a vehicle driven by a fallible human being. We often fail to observe all road conditions, causing catastrophic injuries because of accidents that could have been avoided. What of the self-driving vehicles, then?

Reports show that, at this point, the cars may not be much safer than those operated by everyday human drivers. In fact, the self-driving cars have been blamed for running stop signs, making illegal turns and causing other property-damaging car accidents.

The good news is that so far, it does not appear that anyone has had to deal with serious medical expenses because of self-driving car crashes. As this technology reaches other states, including New York, in the coming years, our nation’s legal framework must adjust to include assistance for those who have been injured in auto accidents caused by self-driving cars. Just how we will identify the responsible party — the driver or the car manufacturer — remains to be seen.

Source: The New York Times, “California Reveals Details of Self-Driving Car Accidents,” June 18, 2015

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