The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says human error causes about 94% of all crashes. While autonomous vehicles/Robocars promise to reduce this number the Institute says the best we can hope for is the elimination of up to one-third of them. These vehicles will be able to identify hazards and react faster than humans and avoid those crashes and they won’t become distracted or drive drunk. Trying to stop the other crashes will be more difficult.
The group studied 5000 crashes with detailed causes using information from the NHTSA. They separated out sensing and perception errors including distraction, driver impairment and avoidable hazards. Researchers also separated out crashes caused by human incapacitation including alcohol or drugs, drivers who fell asleep or drivers with medical problems. Self-driving cars can prevent those cashes the study found.
The study determined robocars cars may be unable to prevent the rest of the crashes. Crashes including prediction errors such as vehicle position, planning errors such as driving too fast for road conditions and errors including evasive maneuvers would likely still happen. For example if a cyclist suddenly veered into the path of an autonomous vehicle it may not be able to avoid the collision. More crashes would be stopped if all robocars obey all traffic laws including speed limits. Artificial intelligence allows robocars to drive and react more like humans and the result is crashes will still happen.
More than 60 companies have applied to test robocars in California and none have yet started a fully robotic test program. Companies including Alphabet’s Waymo and General Motor’s Cruise had pledged to do it and those plans were delayed after the industry pulled back after an UBER automated test vehicle hit and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona in 2018
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