Earlier this year in late March, an Uber controlled by autopilot in Tempe, Arizona, struck and killed a pedestrian who quite literally darted out into the road directly in front of the autonomous vehicle.
The vehicle didn’t have enough time to react to the now-deceased pedestrian; there was a professional Uber driver who was sitting in the driver’s seat, behind the wheel – and she was devoting her entire attention to what was on the road that night.
While this event is tragic, it does not mean that self-driving cars are inherently unsafe. After the unfortunate death, many people questioned whether we should continue pursuing self-driving technology and allow these cars on the streets. However, there is plenty of research that shows self-driving cars are quite safe and can actually decrease the amount of risk associated with driving when compared to human drivers.
Let’s be fair – think about this for a moment
Autonomous cars are slowly being developed, tweaked, and manufactured as we speak. Every day, scientists are running tests and developing new technology to use in self-driving cars in an effort to make these cars as safe and accurate as possible. Thus far, no federal or state government in the United States allows people to ride in fully-autonomous motor vehicles. We’re still taking steps to ensure the safety of all people where self-driving cars are concerned.
Although the technology unarguably exists right now, intellectual property related to self-driving cars won’t be released anytime soon. This information is guarded and only partly shared with test drivers and companies who want to share the technology with interested business parties who helped contribute to the robotic technology.
We can assume that there aren’t any autonomously-operating cars out there just driving around putting humans at risk. Even if the cars were dangerous, it’s not a current concern. Companies are taking steps every day to ensure that the cars will be as safe as possible once they are released for business and commercial use. Businesses and governments will not allow self-driving cars on the roads if they haven’t completely proved their safety.
Official statistics from the United States National Transportation Safety Board, the go-to government agency for transportation in the United States, show that about 95 percent of all car crashes result from human error. That statistic should say it all; self-driving cars are as safe as they get.
When dangerous car crashes do occur, almost always it’s because of a mistake humans made, whether that’s not paying attention to the road, driving in an altered mental state, or moving themselves or their vehicle in front of another vehicle without considering how quickly the other car can stop.