In 2020, 42,060 people died in traffic accidents, according to the National Safety Council. But what if most of those deaths could have been eliminated? Apple, Google, Tesla, and many others believe they have the answer: self-driving cars.

Imagine a world where there are no distracted drivers, no drunk drivers, and no speeders. This world could exist, and possibly even very soon. But will this really reduce traffic fatalities? Learn more about this interesting issue and what you may see in the near future.

Advantages of autonomous cars

The Coalition for Future Mobility cites the following benefits of autonomous vehicles:

  • Reduction in the number of auto crashes that occur every year
  • Reduction of dangerous driving behavior
  • Elimination of drunk or drugged driving
  • Elimination of distractions that often lead to accidents
  • Greater independence for individuals with disabilities and seniors
  • Possibility of reducing costs of personal transportation
  • Lower insurance costs
  • Greater productivity if people do not have to pay attention while commuting and can tend to other tasks
  • Decreased traffic congestion
  • Reduction of greenhouse gases

Are driverless cars in our near future?

While Tesla has rolled out a self-driving car, it includes a disclaimer that the operator must be ready to assume control at any moment. Seattle Times reports that no vehicle is currently on sale that can completely drive itself. While it was predicted in 2015 that autonomous vehicles would be the norm by 2020, that year came and went without a major change in how we operate vehicles.

It seems that it is still a few years away for autonomous vehicles. To be 95% certain that autonomous vehicles are at least as safe as human-driven vehicles, autonomous cars will need to log 275 million miles without any failures. They will need to log billions of miles to show they are actually safer than human-driven vehicles.

How can driverless cars reduce car accidents?

94% of fatal vehicle crashes are attributable to human error, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Autonomous vehicles would not be, which could potentially reduce the number of traffic deaths by 90% or 30,000 per year.

Self-driving cars could reduce the number of traffic fatalities caused by distractions because computer systems would not be distracted. Self-driving cars could be more effective at detecting dangers and avoid a crash. For example, the same technology that fuels emergency braking and lane-departure warnings would be equipped on vehicles. However, self-driving cars are not flawless. In 2018, a self-driving car that had a safety driver from Uber behind the wheel ran down a pedestrian walking her bike across the street. Uber went back in its research to design a safer option as a result.

Who is responsible for driverless car crashes?

Personal injury liability laws around the country are based on the concept of negligence. In most states, the party that is negligent, or at fault, is responsible for paying the damages he or she caused. If a driver of the man-operated vehicle was negligent, he would likely be responsible for the accident.

People may assume that the designer of a self-driving car would be responsible for accidents found to be the fault of the driver of the self-driving car. However, most vehicles that have any level of autonomy contain disclaimers that say that drivers must still be actively engaged in the task of driving and ready to take control of the vehicle at a moment’s notice. Drivers who sign off on this possibility will likely be held responsible when they get in a crash that is deemed their fault.

A designer of a product can be held legally responsible if it produces a product that is defective in its design, manufacturing, or warning. A design defect creates a problem when the design is followed, like an SUV that is subject to rollover. A manufacturing defect occurs when something goes wrong during the production process that causes a certain number of vehicles or components to not be right. A warning defect is one that does not provide a proper and adequate warning to consumers who use a product in the normal way it is created.

What to do in a car accident as a self-driving car passenger if the driver Hits and Runs?

If you are a passenger in a self-driving car that hits another vehicle and runs or if you are hit by a vehicle that runs, it is important that you stop and report the accident as the only human available to do so. You also want to be able to identify as much information about the vehicle as possible. With a license plate number, you may be able to track down the registered owner. You may also have access to the VIN and be able to check a VIN number to see who the driver is. A VIN check can also help determine the type of vehicle that was involved, whether it was self-driving, and whether it was subject to any recalls that may have contributed to the crash. Cooperate with police to help locate the at-fault driver and contact your own insurance company for information about filing a claim under your uninsured motorist coverage.

Conclusion

Thanks to tremendous advances in technology in the 21st century, self-driving cars are not far away. However, before they launch into the market, it is important that they are carefully vetted. There may also need to be a new legal framework established to deal with them and any collisions involving them.