Self-Driving Cars: Are You Safe On the Road with Them?

As driving technologies continue to evolve, self-driving cars are the most anticipated advances. While we are still several years away from 100 percent fully autonomous vehicles, many car manufacturers have implemented an array of advanced vehicle safety features. 

Even with these advances, it is understandable that you may be wondering, are self-driving cars safe? Our car accident lawyers in Las Vegas are here to answer your questions about self-driving cars.

What Percent of Cars in the U.S. Are Self-Driving?

Currently, there are no actual self-driving cars in the U.S. other than a little over 1,400 test models.1 The automated vehicles on the road presently still require some form of human interaction.

Autonomous smart car scans the road & observes the distance

What Does the Future of Driverless Cars Look Like?

One of the biggest challenges facing driverless cars is developing vehicles with artificial intelligence (AI) that are smart enough to adapt to various situations and make quick reactions. Unfortunately, current automated driving systems are nowhere near this level of AI comprehension. As such, drive assistance is still required to ensure vehicles are operated safely. 

However, as testing of self-driving vehicles and AI continue to advance, the possibility of fully automated vehicles is several decades away. In the meantime, we will see further advances in driver-assisted technologies where they continue to become more self-reliant. 

Furthermore, we will see an increase in autonomous vehicles for:

  • Public transportation
  • Delivery services
  • Taxis 

Yet, these will be in limited geographical regions where the vehicles can be better monitored to ensure they are operating safely.

What Is a Self-Driving Car?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a self-driving car is defined by the level of driving automation.2 Each level determines the amount of human interaction and attention while operating the vehicle.

Level 0

At Level 0, there are only limited driver-assisted technologies. Vehicles may provide forward, rear, blind spot, and lane departure warnings. Some vehicles may also offer emergency automated braking.

Level 1

Level 1 driving technologies provide further assistance with various vehicle features, such as lane-keep assistance and adaptive cruise control. The driver still must monitor driving conditions and control the vehicle.

Level 2

Level 2 automated technologies constantly monitor driving and assist with steering, braking, and acceleration, similar to Tesla’s Autopilot. However, you still drive the vehicle and control it.

Level 3

Level 3 self-driving vehicles provide conditional automation. They will perform all driving tasks for the driver. Yet, the driver must be available to take control of the vehicle at any time.

Level 4

Drivers are not required for Level 4 high automation vehicles. These vehicles can take care of all driving tasks. Although, they are only functional in limited geographical areas, such as a set bus route.

Level 5

Level 5 provides full autonomous driving, where the vehicle does all the driving. The driver is no longer required to pay attention and is essentially a passenger.


Currently, Level 3 and higher vehicles are not available in the United States. However, the sale of Level 3 and Level 4 vehicles may become more common in the near future.

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How Do Self-Driving Cars Work?

Self-driving vehicles rely on cameras, sensors, computer systems, and software to operate a vehicle. 

1. Cameras 

Cameras monitor speed and distance between vehicles and also detect people and objects. Furthermore, the camera system can scan speed limit signs, stop signs, and traffic signals. 

2. Sensors

The sensors scan for other vehicles, objects, and pedestrians. 

3. Computer Systems and Software

A computer system and software process the information obtained through the cameras and sensors to determine what action the vehicle needs to take, if any. For example, the computer system and software determine traffic has come to a complete stop, so it instructs the braking system to engage the brakes and stop the vehicle.

self driving car using computer systems and sensors to drive

The software application contains detailed coding and predictive modeling for various scenarios. Additionally, the software can distinguish between motor vehicles, trucks, semi-trucks, bicycles, motorcycles, and pedestrians. 

Using this information, the car can safely drive and obey all traffic rules.

Which Car Currently Has the Best Autonomous Driving System?

According to a study conducted by Auto Pacific, Tesla was selected by 32 percent of the survey respondents as being trusted the most by consumers. The same study placed Toyota, BMW, Chevy, and Ford in the top five. Apple, Honda, Audi, Subaru, and Cadillac rounded out the top ten.3

How Reliable Is the Software on a Self-Driving Car?

The software used in current driver-assisted vehicles is pretty reliable. However, errors can still occur. From July 1, 2021, and May 15, 2022, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined that 392 motor vehicle crashes were linked to semi-automated driving systems.4

This is why human drivers are still necessary when operating a vehicle with advanced driving features. As we have all seen, numerous accidents involving self-driving cars have occurred in recent years. In some of these accidents, the software failed to perform as expected by the driver. 

Yet, several accidents were the result of human error. Many people are relying far too much on automated driving systems and features with the misconception that their vehicles are fully autonomous and will respond accordingly. 

For example, Tesla calls its driver-assisted technology “Autopilot,” which can be misleading to consumers. In addition, they have released their “Full Self-Driving” beta test, which can also be misleading to drivers who assume the vehicle will fully drive itself.

Unfortunately, many people mistakenly assume their vehicles will drive on their own. However, both of these technologies still require drivers to operate their vehicles and be ready to react should the car fail to perform as expected.

man in self driving car

Are Self-Driving Cars Safe?

The biggest issue with self-driving cars is their ability to react to the unexpected, which are referred to as “edge cases.” These types of driving situations occur unexpectedly or are something people learn how to respond to as they develop their driving skills. 

For example, slowing down when a street is flooding during a downpour to avoid hydroplaning. Or a cat or dog that darts out into traffic, and you need to react quickly to avoid hitting it.  

With self-driving cars, even with the latest AI advancements, there is still no feasible way to build this type of reasoning into the software and computer system. Further complicating matters is that there can be billions of different “edge cases” and driving scenarios that simply cannot be programmed into a software application.

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In the same study conducted by Auto Pacific that asked who has the best autonomous driving system currently, respondents were also asked how confident they would be in fully autonomous vehicles. Surprisingly, only 29 percent5 of respondents said they would feel safe and comfortable allowing the car to do all the driving.

So, are self-driving vehicles safe? Based on current technologies, driver-assisted technologies can help keep drivers safer. However, drivers need to remain alert and in control of their vehicles even when using driving technology features.

Should I Hire a Car Accident Lawyer After an Autonomous Vehicle Accident?

It is a good idea to consult with a car accident lawyer after being involved in any car accident, especially if you have sustained severe injuries. Having the expertise and knowledge of a car accident injury lawyer can make a huge difference in the outcome of your injury claim.

Request a Free Car Accident Injury Consultation Today

After a self-driving vehicle accident in Las Vegas, it is crucial you ensure your safety and wellbeing first. In addition, it is recommended you seek medical care, even for minor injuries, since they may turn out to be more severe than you realize. 

Once you take care of your needs, then you should consider contacting a vehicle accident lawyer to discuss your insurance claim, personal injuries, legal options, and potential compensation. Request your FREE consultation with one of our Las Vegas car accident lawyers today.

Sources:

  1. PolicyAdvice. 25 Astonishing Self-Driving Car Statistics for 2022. Retrieved 27 June 2022. 
  2. NHTSA. Automated Vehicles for Safety. Retrieved 27 June 2022. 
  3. CNET. Study Says Tesla the Most-Trusted Brand to Develop Autonomous Vehicles. Retrieved 27 June 2022. 
  4. Engadget. NHTSA: ‘Self-Driving’ Cars Were Linked to 392 Crashes in 10 Months. Retrieved 27 June 2022. 
  5. Newsweek. Study:Majority of Drivers Don’t Feel Comfortable in Autonomous Vehicles. Retrieved 27 June 2022.