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Self-Driving Vehicles May Not Eliminate Most Crashes

Self-Driving Cars

SELF-DRIVING VEHICLES might prevent only around a third of all crashes if automated systems drive too much like people, according to a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

IIHS found that eliminating driver error won’t be enough to eliminate most crashes. “It’s likely that fully self-driving cars will eventually identify hazards better than people, but we found that this alone would not prevent the bulk of crashes,” says Jessica Cicchino, IIHS vice president for research and a coauthor of the study.

The Institute’s analysis suggests that only about a third of driver-error crashes were the result of mistakes that automated vehicles could avoid simply because they are more accurate and aren’t vulnerable
to incapacitation. To avoid the other two-thirds, they would need to be specifically programmed to prioritize safety over speed and convenience.

Researchers also determined that some crashes are unavoidable, such as those caused by a sudden vehicle failure like a blowout or broken axle.

Crashes due to sensing and perceiving errors alone accounted for 24 percent of the total crashes studied. Incapacitation accounted for 10 percent. Those crashes might be avoided if all vehicles on the road
were self-driving — though it would require sensors that worked perfectly and systems that never malfunctioned.

“Our analysis shows that it will be crucial for designers to prioritize safety over rider preferences if autonomous vehicles are to live up to their promise to be safer than human drivers,” said IIHS research scientist Alexandra Mueller, lead author of the study.

“Building self-driving cars that drive as well as people do is a big challenge in itself. But they’d actually need to be better than that to deliver on the promises we’ve all heard,” she said.

Special thanks to CARS Magazine for the use of their content.