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Uber’s Self-Driving Car Accident Raises Questions About Self-Driving Technologies

Are self-driving vehicles safe?

An accident involving an Uber self-driving vehicle has created shock and concern among the public and vehicle safety organizations.  As details emerge concerning the Arizona accident, smart car creators are closely examining the accident to uncover ways to prevent like incidents in the future.  While self-driving vehicles are considered to be the wave of the future by many, car accidents like this one will leave individuals nationwide questioning the safety of these cutting edge vehicles.

Was the Self-Driving Vehicle At-Fault?

According to the police report, the accident happened while a human driver operating a Honda CR-V was making a left hand turn across three lanes of traffic.  The driver began making the turn as the light at the intersection was changing to yellow.  She made it across two lanes, but a vehicle came traveling through the intersection in the third lane.  She could not break in time to avoid a collision.  

Investigations reveal that the car pummeled by Honda CR-V was an Uber SUV operating in self-driving mode with two employees in the car.  The employees report that the Uber vehicle entered the intersection as the traffic signal turned yellow.  While the human driver spotted the car turning left, he reported there was no time to react due to a blind spot created by a line of traffic.

In analyzing the series of events that lead to the accident, it appears that in fact the driver of the Honda CR-V, and not the self-driving vehicle, was at-fault for the accident because she failed to yield to oncoming traffic.  However, the collision happened in a way that many motorists sympathize with.  It is common for drivers to attempt to turn as the light changes.  How self-driving vehicles respond to this scenario is something that engineers must carefully consider.

Safety of Self-Driving Vehicles

Statistically, self-driving vehicles are extraordinarily safe.  Self-driving vehicles have been in approximately 14 accidents total, despite traveling more than 1.8 million miles in California and elsewhere across the country.  In contrast, the average human driver will be in an accident every 100-150 thousand miles driven.  Accordingly, despite much hype surrounding any self-driving vehicle accident, these cars are far less likely to be involved in accidents than human drivers.  

Posted in: Automobile Wrecks