Is the Safety of Self-Driving Cars a Myth?

Is the Safety of Self-Driving Cars a Myth?Car accidents happen every day. Several times a day, actually, and they are often the result of driver error. Even the most responsible, well-trained, and well-intentioned driver can cause an auto accident. But what if you or your loved one suffers injuries in an accident that was not caused by a person – but by a computer? While this may sound a bit far-fetched, the growing number of driver-assist programs in today’s vehicles and even fully self-driving vehicles on the road is making it a reality.

Not sure about that? Consider this: In late 2022, a self-driving car allegedly caused an eight-car pileup on a San Francisco-area highway after the car suddenly braked while traveling in the left lane. The Thanksgiving-day crash left nine people injured, although most of the injuries were, fortunately, minor. One juvenile had to be hospitalized. According to a report by CNN Business, the car’s driver explained to law enforcement that the “full-self-driving” feature was engaged when the accident occurred. Per the report, the car, a Tesla Model S, that was traveling at approximately 55 mph, “shifted into the far left-hand lane, but then braked abruptly, slowing the car to about 20 mph. That led to a chain reaction that ultimately involved eight vehicles to crash, all of which had been traveling at typical highway speeds.”

It is worth noting that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is currently investigating Tesla’s driver-assist technologies, including the “full self-driving” feature due to reports of “unexpected braking that occurs ‘without warning, at random, and often repeatedly in a single drive.’” After receiving hundreds of complaints from Tesla drivers, the NHTSA upgraded the investigation to an engineering analysis, which experts say indicates the safety organization is considering a recall.

Don’t driver-assist technologies make us safer?
When even one moment of distraction can result in a car accident, it makes sense that autonomous vehicle technology such as driver-assist programs would make driving safer. This is especially important here in the United States, where traffic accidents are among the leading causes of death for people ages one to 54. A recent NHTSA study of the number of accidents involving autopilot and other driver-assist systems for 10 months in 2021 and 2022 revealed that autonomous technology and artificial intelligence played a part in a high number of those accidents.

And, just as in any other car accident, a crash caused by a driver-assist system can result in serious, catastrophic injuries or even death. In fact, from July 1, 2021 through May 15, 2022, the NHTSA found 392 of these incidents in which six people were killed and five suffered serious injuries. The New York Times reported that the study is part of the NHTSA’s effort to “determine the safety of advanced driving systems as they become increasingly commonplace.”

While some automated driver-assist systems do offer significant safety benefits, those typically include back-up cameras and warning systems, lane-change assistance technology, and parking assist. Alerts that warn drivers that they are following too closely have also proven to be effective features that help drivers operate their vehicle more safely. Driver-assist systems that rely more heavily on automated technology to operate the vehicle are touted as being incredibly safe. However, this technology can bring its own dangers and does not entirely eliminate the possibility of an accident – and can in fact be the cause of a car accident.

How do driver-assist systems cause car accidents?

The main cause of accidents involving autonomous technology in cars is software malfunctions. These occur when the software fails to recognize a potentially hazardous situation and adjust the way a human driver would when faced with the same circumstances. This includes, for example, locational hazards like unanticipated roadway conditions due to weather, or another vehicle stopping suddenly in the road or even a large animal unexpectedly entering the car’s path.

Driver-assist systems also rely on the human driver’s ability to take over driving at any point with only a moment’s notice. This can lead to an accident, as the driver’s reaction time may be delayed since they were not actively driving the vehicle – or monitoring all aspects of the drive – as they would have been without the automated technology.

Additionally, automated driver-assist systems may be vulnerable to hacking, meaning that someone can remotely take control of the vehicle. This can put everyone on the road in danger.

The York, PA car accident attorneys you need

Even a seemingly minor accident can result in serious injuries or death. If you or a loved one were injured in a car accident in York, you know firsthand the trauma and stress involved in not only the accident and its immediate aftermath, but the weeks, months, and even years that follow. The physical, mental, and emotional toll a car accident can take on those involved can also cause financial challenges, leaving individuals and families struggling due to medical expenses and the cost of ongoing care, lost wages, or changes in employment due to the injuries incurred. Whether you were injured in an accident caused by another driver, or if it was your car’s driver-assist technology that caused the crash, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. It is imperative that you have an experienced York, PA car accident lawyer on your side.

The personal injury lawyers at KBG Injury Law have extensive experience handling car accident cases in South Central Pennsylvania. We investigate all aspects of the accident and build your case based on the facts, protecting your legal rights and interests at every stage. We fight hard to secure the compensation you deserve to cover your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by the other party’s negligence. With offices in York, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Hanover, and Gettysburg, we represent clients throughout South Central PA. To learn more about how our skilled car accident attorneys can help you, give us a call or complete our contact form today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.