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Just how dangerous are autonomous cars?

Cars driving themselves can sound frighting. Until we see how many accidents people cause when they have the wheel

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Self-driving cars took a small hit this week, after a GM Chevy Bolt and a Tesla Model S were involved in accidents — both in California, and both using self-driving tech at the time. The Chevy Bolt hit happened in December, and the Tesla accident on Monday when the Model S drove into a fire truck on the streets of San Francisco.

Headlines flew, and fears rose. The idea of self-driving cars on the road is still frightening to people. But the number of people scared to let a computer drive them around appears to be dropping.

A recent survey from AAA found that 68 percent of U.S. drivers are worried about being in a self-driving car — but that's down from the 78 percent who said they were "feeling afraid to ride" in 2017.

Still not everyone is ready to chuck their steering wheel for riding shotgun in their own car — or even driving next to an autonomous car on the highway. Just 13 percent of those surveyed said they feel safer on the road with a self-driving car. Almost half actually said they would feel "less safe," according to the survey.

That's interesting given the increased number of fatalities over the past two years from car crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

There were 34,439 fatal crashes in 2016 — up from 30,056 in 2014, according to the NHTSA's annual report. These numbers are certainly one of the reasons why insurance companies are eventually expected to give favorable rates to self-driving cars.

Yes, we're years away from self-driving cars taking over the streets. While autonomous features are at work in many vehicles today — the technology is not ready to have cars that completely drives themselves in mass numbers. But eventually A.I. will be piloting our cars, not us. And while that may sound scary to some people —particularly when autonomous technology sends a sedan into the back end of a fire truck — it's likely going to be less scary than all of us, as we text, chat and fiddle with the air conditioner while changing lanes on the highway.

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