5 Things to Keep in Mind About Self-Driving Vehicles: How Safe Are They Really?

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Several companies including Uber, Tesla, Google, and Nissan have developed self-driving or autonomous vehicle technologies. Proponents of the technology say self-driving cars will reduce accidents and make roads safer. However, after a self-driving Uber killed a pedestrian in March 2018, more people have been questioning the safety of this automation.

There are still many schools of thought about these vehicles and even more questions. Many people wonder what would happen if they get struck by a driverless vehicle. A lot of legal and regulatory issues still have to be addressed. At this stage, if you get into a collision with any type of vehicle, you should contact a lawyer to get help with your car accident case. Here are some of the things you should consider when thinking about the safety of self-driving cars.

  1. Cars have different levels of autonomy

When you think about an autonomous vehicle, you may assume that the driver has no control. However, autonomy can range from level 0 (where humans control all the key systems) to level 5 (where the car can completely drive itself in all situations). It is possible for a car to have just two automated systems functioning at a time with human input required to ensure safety. It remains to be seen which level of autonomy will become mainstream for either regular passenger cars or public transportation.

  1. Driverless cars use cameras and sensors to detect what is around them

Unlike human beings who take in driving conditions with their eyes, these cars take in data from cameras and radar and lidar sensors. This helps them to determine the shape and location of the objects around them. Their processors create a 360-degree view of traffic, pedestrians, signs and anything else in their path. This is how the vehicle knows the route to take and when to stop. If any of the cameras or sensors fail, there could be problems.

  1. Self-driving cars don’t have the failings of humans

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 90% of all car accidents are due to human error.  At the same time, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says almost 80% of drivers expressed anger behind the wheel at least once in a year-long period. Then there are the thousands of fatalities which occur because of drunk driving or distracted driving. It is believed that if you take human error out of the equation, serious accidents will be reduced and lives could be saved.

  1. Autonomous vehicles follow rules strictly

Unlike human drivers who often bend the rules depending on their assessment of the circumstances, cars are programmed to follow the rules. While two people may come to an agreement on the road with a nod of the head or a wave, cars won’t be able to communicate with humans like this. People, therefore, need to be alert even when the car is in an autonomous mode so they can manually react when necessary.

  1. Hacking and glitches are a possibility

Computer systems are vulnerable to hacking, crashes and glitches and cars are no different. While they may be programmed to operate safely, there is always a risk of them malfunctioning or someone using them maliciously. Cybercriminals could, therefore, reprogram the car to do various things. That being said, in the same way, that there are steps you can take to secure your personal computer, similar solutions can be used for cars.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about how self-driving cars will be integrated into the mainstream. As the above factors show, while these vehicles can make the roads safer, they can present problems in other areas. However, there is still lots of room for further development of the relevant technologies.

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