The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) see self-driving cars as the way of the future. They believe that the technology could save thousands of lives a year.
However, the American public has much less faith in autonomous vehicles. According to a report from Allianz Global Assistance, less than half of Americans are now interested in using self-driving cars. In comparison, 53% of Americans were interested last year. This change is greatly spurred on by safety concerns after a number of high-profile accidents which led to fatalities. The percentage of those that have safety concerns increased from 65% last year to 71% this year.
Current safety concerns are also leading to pessimism about the future of the technology. The report also states that only 52% of those polled believe that the technology will develop to the point that they would feel safe trading in their current car for an autonomous vehicle.
Once again, the number of accidents in which self-driving cars have been involved plays a great role in this hesitancy. For example, cars programmed by Google’s Waymo being tested in California have been involved in 32 incidents. GM’s Cruise vehicles, on the other hand, have played a role in 52 accidents in San Francisco. In addition, Zoox has had 5 accidents, while Apple has been a part of 2 reports.
This does not even account for the fatal accidents from Uber and Tesla in early 2018. The Uber case is still under investigation and the Tesla accident occurred when the vehicle was in “Autopilot” mode. Since the vehicle was on Autopilot, it does not qualify as autonomous.
California is the only state that requires companies to report on accidents from their self-driving programs.
Upon further analysis of these reports, it becomes apparent that most crashes occurred at low speeds of 1-10 mph. Furthermore, a little over 50% of accidents involved the autonomous vehicle being hit from behind, while another 30% crashes were side swipes.
It is thought that accidents are occurring like this because of the unusual fashion in which these self-driving cars drive. Some think that these cars drive in a jerky way and often stop for no reason, claiming it is for safety. This leads to human drivers slamming into these autonomous cars because of unexpected stops. In addition, some think these side swipes are common because of drivers becoming impatient at cars stopped in the middle of the road and swipe them will trying to pass them.
It is obvious that self-driving cars have not yet adapted to normal road behavior, while drivers have not adjusted to a world where autonomous cars exist. It will be some time before accidents like those mentioned above will be a rarity and not as common as they seem to be in California.