Just a few weeks ago, the car development company Waymo started test-driving autonomous vehicles on Phoenix-area roads. Although they have been offering free taxi rides over the past year, there has always been a human behind the wheel ready to take over in case of trouble. Starting now, though, the vehicles are driving themselves. Waymo plans to expand its small driverless taxi service into a fleet.
Waymo is not a new or fly-by-night company. They are a spinoff of Google’s driverless car project that began in 2009. They have driven 2.5 million miles on public roads across the United States, run 20,000 individual scenario tests, and their software drives more than 10,000 million simulated miles every day. Their vehicles are equipped with safety features unique to these types of cars, including braking, steering, computer systems, and power that can stop the vehicle in an emergency situation.
Autonomous vehicles are about to change the landscape of driving. Are they safe enough to be ready for prime time?
Driverless vehicles and crashes
Because self-driving vehicles are relatively few and new, there is not enough real-world experience yet to judge their safety. However, there have been some crashes that have hit the news. In early November 2017, a driverless bus was involved in a crash on its very first day on the job. It was reportedly a human driver in another vehicle at fault — a delivery truck backed into the bus. No injuries were reported
In 2016, a Google driverless car collided with a van in Mountain View, California. This accident was particularly notable due to the fact that Google acknowledged some responsibility for the crash and adjusted its software afterward. Again, no injuries reported.
Experts hope that as the technology improves and more driverless cars hit the road, car crashes will decrease. Self-driving cars may reduce drunk driving, distracted driving, and reckless driving—some major causes of traffic fatalities and serious injury. (As an added bonus, some experts think driverless vehicles will save on fuel costs, too, but others disagree; TIME magazine says “automated vehicles could reduce fuel consumption for passenger cars by as much as 90%, or increase it by more than 200%.”)
The truth is that autonomous vehicles may be programmed to follow all the safety rules, but may still not be as safe as an attentive human driver. The world is complex, and computers and sensors may struggle for many years to perceive, interpret, and appropriately react when reality throws a curve ball.
If you or a loved one suffers an injury in a car wreck that was not your fault, you deserve compensation. When the attorneys at Plattner Verderame P.C. take your case, they ensure you feel informed and comfortable with the process. Contact our experienced Phoenix injury lawyers today at 602-783-8793 or through our contact form.