Self-driving cars can present new accident threats

When people in New York drive down the highway, a fire truck or police vehicle ahead with emergency lights flashing is one of the most visible obstacles they may encounter. As autonomous driving technology develops, however, scientists and drivers are learning that self-driving cars “see” quite differently than human drivers. One accident involving a Tesla running on its “Autopilot” semi-autonomous system and a fire truck has drawn attention to this potential problem of the software. Many people are looking forward to self-driving cars as a means to reduce the likelihood of car crashes, so this issue has raised serious concerns.

No one was injured in the car accident, but the Tesla crashed into the fire truck, causing property damage, as it was stopped with a police car at the scene of another incident. Of course, Tesla has warned drivers against relying on its semi-autonomous technologies like Autopilot in place of driver attention and care to the road. It is not yet a fully self-driving car, so the input and attention of a human driver is critical. However, several incidents have been linked to drivers with powerful autonomous technology leaving their vehicles to drive themselves and taking their eyes and mind away from the road.

Scientists say that the crash is not unique. Multiple autonomous systems have faced difficulties identifying parked cars ahead, especially in a context where they might expect to encounter moving vehicles instead. However, other robotic driving developments, like automatic emergency braking, blind-spot indicators and lane-change warnings, have already cut the risk of crashes, especially rear-end collisions.

Most car crashes are still caused by negligent drivers and human error, rather than faulty software. People injured in a motor vehicle accident through no fault of their own might consult with a personal injury attorney about their options to pursue compensation.


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