The technology for self-driving vehicles has advanced to the point that they’ve finally made it onto the roadways in certain cities. This approval is still conditional despite all the progress that’s been made. The primary reason is that it is tough for safety experts to resign themselves to the notion that we might be able to trust a computer programmed by humans to keep us safe on the roads.
Will self-driving vehicles really make roads safer?
Anytime a computer is involved, the potential exists for errors to occur. How many times have you gotten the “blue screen of death” while working on your computer? How many times has your cell phone crashed and needed to be rebooted? Glitches happen in computers. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t have an entire sector of the technology industry built on creating bug fixes and patches for programs.
Now imagine driving down the highway in your fully autonomous car or truck when a glitch happens. You’ve lost control over everything when the system freezes because a bug needs to be fixed or the software running it has been hacked. It’s very different if this happens while sitting at a desk versus in a car with traffic unpredictably whizzing around you at 80 miles per hour. Companies will say they’ve created safeguards to prevent this, but the truth is that, if they’re electronic systems, they can be hacked, and vehicles can still crash.
What types of vehicles are becoming autonomous?
Something to consider is that once this technology is completely approved, any public, private, or commercial transportation vehicle will be able to use it. This means you could see it across all types of vehicles including:
- Pickup trucks
- Rideshare vehicles
Something to consider that many people don’t realize is that because these systems are built on making predetermined decisions on an infinite number of traffic scenarios, self-driving vehicles may make a deadly choice you’ll have to live with. Computers only know to do what they’re told, and they don’t have the ability to think or react outside of that like a human does. If you’re facing a scenario involving a pedestrian crash, certain situations may very well end in the vehicle hitting and killing or seriously injuring someone.
Are autonomous vehicles safe for public transportation?
Self-driving vehicles used in public transportation like busses and ride sharing vehicles would reduce traffic on the road, which could theoretically have the effect of reducing accidents and injuries. Looking at this through the same safety goggles, public transportation could lead to a vehicle carrying many people being involved in an accident. In a bus and 18-wheeler crash, you’re looking at potentially dozens of injuries and deaths.
These accidents happen more often than you may think. For example:
- A man was killed in early December in South Carolina when a school bus and jackknifed semi collided.
- A driver and five riders were injured in Canada in November when a tractor trailer hit a bus in Calgary.
- An Arkansas school bus was hit by a big rig injuring at least nine children in November.
- Another 10 children were injured when a truck struck the back of a school bus in Georgia in August.
A potential benefit of autonomous vehicles to police
More than one out of 800,000 police officers across the country is killed every week due to highway accidents. These accidents represent about 33 percent of all law enforcement deaths in the line of duty. It’s a reasonable conclusion that if moving toward the use of self-driving vehicles will, in fact, reduce traffic accidents, it could also result in fewer law enforcement deaths and injuries.
Additionally, alleviating the strain on law enforcement by minimizing the number of traffic accidents will allow officers to investigate and clear accidents more quickly. When officers have more time to devote to an accident scene, it can produce more evidence to aid injured drivers and passengers who choose to file civil suits.
Autonomous vehicles are coming, and you need to be prepared for any risks they’ll pose to you and other drivers. If you have been injured in an accident involving one of these vehicles and you have questions about whether you should pursue a personal injury claim, schedule your free case evaluation today with one of our experienced Atlanta car accident attorneys at Harris Lowry Manton LLP. We invite you to call our Atlanta office at 404-998-8847, our Savannah office at 912-417-3774, or to reach out to us through our contact page.
One of the nation’s top trial attorneys, Jeff Harris is an award-winning litigator who handles high-profile, complex cases across a wide variety of practice areas. He excels at securing justice for clients who have been seriously injured or killed, holding responsible parties accountable for their actions as well as their negligence.
Read more about Jeffrey R. Harris here.