How Common Are Self-Driving Car Accidents?

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Self-driving cars are hailed as the future of motoring. Most car accidents are caused by human error. Computers can’t drink alcohol or get tired or distracted. However, autonomous cars don’t come risk-free. Baltimore self-driving car accident lawyer Randolph Rice answers questions about the frequency of autonomous vehicle accidents and the future of these cars for people’s safety.

National Self-Driving Accident Statistics

Ever since the Pentagon tasked the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency with developing driverless cars to keep American soldiers safe in 2004, excitement has mounted over self-driving cars.

Over the last 15 years, many automobile and technology companies started developing self-driving cars. Others are working on self-driving trucks to revolutionize the freight industry.

Over 50 companies have been approved by the California Department of Motor Vehicle to test autonomous cars. They include Google, Apple, Waymo, Tesla, Honda, Ford, Nissan, and BMW, ABC News reported.

California is ahead of most states in allowing self-driving car testing. Tests have also taken place in Arizona, Utah, and Florida. East coast states like Maryland have been slower to embrace the new technology. In recent years, serious crashes of self-driving cars have raised new questions about the technology. The question of how many self-driving car accidents have there been is becoming increasingly important. Baltimore car accident lawyer Randolph Rice can answer these questions and help if you were injured in a crash in Maryland.

Examples of Serious Self-Driving Car Accidents

Many of the recorded self-driving car accidents led to critical injuries and wrongful deaths. According to, self-driving cars have been involved in 13 serious accidents to date, including six deaths. However, the total number of accidents is considerably higher. At least 28 rear-end crashes were recorded in California alone in 2018. In most fatal accidents the drivers died. However, two pedestrians died in wrecks involving autonomous vehicles.

Not all of the vehicles involved in accidents were fully autonomous. For instance, many Tesla accidents involved cars that had human drivers who were using the autopilot function. The following are some of the highest-profile self-driving car accidents:

Google car crash in Mountain View, California, Feb. 2016: A Google prototype self-driving car collided with a bus. Both vehicles were traveling slowly and no injuries were reported. The accident occurred when the car swerved to avoid sandbags in the road.

Tesla Model S crash in Williston, FL, March 2016: A driver was killed when his Tesla Model S collided with the side of a semi-truck on autopilot. Some reports suggested sensors failed to see a white truck against a bright sky. However, other reports noted the driver ignored warnings to keep his hands on the wheel.

Uber crash in Tempe, AZ, March 2018: An autonomous Uber car ran down a 49-year-old woman in Tempe, Arizona as she crossed the road, killing her. The car was in autonomous driving mode at the time of the impact. There was a driver behind the wheel. The incident led Uber to suspend its self-driving car trials.

Tesla Model S collision in South Jordan, UT, May 2018: A 28-year-old woman broke her foot when her Tesla slammed into a fire truck while she was driving autonomously at 60 mph. Tesla stated the semi-autonomous mode requires driver vigilance to avoid crashes. The Tesla driver, Heather Lommatzsch has filed a $300,000 lawsuit claiming she was told by Tesla the car would automatically brake for hazards in autopilot mode. Her lawyers claim Tesla was negligent for failing to test the Model S to avoid the risk of it failing to brake as advertised.

Are Self-Driving Vehicles Safe?

Crashes in the self-driving car industry raise questions about how safe autonomous vehicles can become. Given that about 90 people die in human-controlled car accidents every day, six self-driving car accident deaths is a very small number. However, autonomous cars form a minute percentage of the number of vehicles on our roads.

An article in Vox points out there are no safety guidelines on what’s an acceptable accident rate for self-driving cars. The article points out human-controlled driving is a “remarkably safe activity” with one death for every 100 million miles driven. “Self-driving cars would, presumably, need to do better than that, which is what the companies behind them say they will do. But how much better isn’t an easy answer. Do they need to be 10 percent safer? 100 percent safer?” The article asked.

There are also various levels of automation. Many newer cars now have certain automated safety systems that slow cars down when they are facing likely collisions. However, a human driver remains in control so they are not self-driving cars. Many questions linger over self-driving cars.

Important Questions Regarding Self-Driving Cars

How Would Self-Driving Cars Fare in Maryland and the East Coast?

Most of the trials of self-driving cars have taken place in the western United States where the weather is dryer. The question of how well self-driving cars would adapt to the wetter conditions on the east coast remain to be seen.

How Much Human Control Would Remain in Autonomous Cars?

Autonomous cars are never likely to be fully free of human control. When an Uber car hit a pedestrian in Arizona, questions were asked over a human operator miles away.

How Would Autonomous Cars Coexist with Traditional Cars?

If self-driving cars arrive in large numbers on our roads they will be mixing with human-driven cars on a day-to-day basis. Will the technology be able to cope with the unpredictability of human drivers, with distracted drivers, drunk drivers, and road rage?

What Would Happen to Car Insurance?

A widespread move to self-driving cars would mean a massive change in car insurance. If you are hit by a car driven by another motorist, you make a claim against his insurance policy at present. However, if technology fails on a self-driven car you would likely be making a defective products claim against a carmaker or a company like Google. How would the change impact the car insurance industry?

Will People Trust Self-Driving Cars?

Many people are deeply uneasy about the concept of driverless or automated cars. They want to be in control of their own vehicles. It remains to be seen if self-driving cars will win over public confidence. A consumer survey by AAA in 2018 found the number of respondents who said they would be afraid to travel in a self-driving car jumped from 63 percent to 73 percent in just five months.

Call Baltimore Self-Driving Car Accident Lawyer Randolph Rice Today

At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, we spend a lot of time fighting for the rights of people who were injured in Maryland auto accidents. Please talk to us as soon as possible if you or a loved one suffered injuries in a car wreck. If you were injured in a self-driving accident or other vehicle crash, contact our Baltimore personal injury lawyer for a free consultation at (410) 431-0911.


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