West Virginia drivers who have heard that self-driving cars are supposed to make the roads much safer may be surprised to learn that these vehicles are currently involved in double the number of accidents than those driven by humans. So far, all the crashes involving driverless vehicles have been caused by human drivers. However, they have occurred because the self-driving cars are unable to make the small intuitive adjustments that a human could make.
While the mishaps have all been described as minor accidents, engineers face some challenges in preparing self-driving cars to join human drivers on the road. In one test, a human driver had to take over when a self-driving car on a highway heading toward the Pentagon was unable to merge across heavy traffic. This was a result of human traffic traveling above the posted speed limit.
In another case, a self-driving car pulled slowly out into an intersection while preparing to make a right turn on red. It was hit from behind by another slow-moving human-driven car. When the self-driving cars adhere too strictly to laws, they tend to cause accidents. Ethical issues are also thorny as a car may need to decide between a maneuver that kills its passenger or others.
With issues like these still to be worked out, it may take a while for driverless cars to significantly improve safety on the road. Even if they do catch on, negligent driving by humans or mechanical failure could still lead to serious crashes. These accidents can be life-changing and lead to weeks, months or years of recovery for the person who is injured. The victim may be able to file a lawsuit against the party or individual responsible for the accident.