A few decades ago, self-driving, assisted and fully autonomous vehicles only existed in sci-fi movies. Today, every year, we get closer and closer to our sci-fi dreams of fully autonomous vehicles.
Right now, almost every automaker in the United States offers some level of driver assistance. Some, like Tesla, offer vehicles that are capable of partly autonomous driving.
Still, fully autonomous vehicles remain experimental. There are currently no fully autonomous vehicles available for mass purchase or use.
Are they safer?
Theoretically, yes, but, in practice, there is no definitive answer to that question.
From July of last year until May of this year, there were 400 car accidents that involved at least some automated driver-assistance feature, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
These included vehicles from every major manufacturer. From the 400 car crashes, there were five killed and another six seriously injured.
What model had the most accidents?
Tesla cars topped the list, with nearly two-thirds of NHTSA-reported accidents.
The NHTSA cautioned against making any conclusions based on that fact, because these are only raw, self-reported numbers. They are not weighted by the number of vehicles on the road or how many miles driven with these systems or by these cars.
In other words, Tesla might have topped the list mostly because the automaker has more semi-autonomous vehicles, with more advanced systems, on the road than some of its competitors.
Are they really that big of a problem?
There are several autonomous features in these vehicles. They are called Autopilot, Adaptive Cruise Control, Full Self-Driving, Traffic Aware Cruise control, etc.
Tesla has nearly a million vehicles with these systems, and Honda alone has over 6 million vehicles on United States’ roads with such systems.
As such, there are millions of these vehicles on the roads today.
What about full AVs?
Although their status remains experimental, there are fully autonomous vehicles on the road today in limited quantities and areas.
During this same reporting period, there were no serious injuries or deaths reported in 130 car crashes. These were reported by Google’s spinoff company, Waymo, Transdev Alternative Services and the General Motors controlled, Cruise LLC.
What about accident victims?
Most, but not all, full AVs require a human driver for safety reasons, and all driver assistance systems should have a driver.
If you are injured in one of these car accidents, the personal injury lawsuit that results will look much the same as one that does not involve these systems. However, the legal outlook in these cases might also require claims against the manufacturers, making these cases more complex.