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Driverless Cars And Consumer Confidence

By Butler Prather LLP on October 5, 2016

Depending on who you ask, autonomous driving is either a dream of science fiction or the next big thing in transportation. Predicting when, or even if, driverless cars will become commonplace is difficult. For those of us who understand serious car and truck accidents, any technology that promises to reduce crashes is welcome. The driving public, however, remains reluctant to make the switch.

Control And Risk Versus Dependence And Safety

Human error is the cause of most accidents. While auto defects are a substantial problem, bad decisions by drivers cause more than 93 percent of traffic deaths. Drunk driving, distracted driving, fatigued driving and aggression combine to cause the majority of deadly car accidents. Yet, despite the statistical case that humans are not terribly good at operating motor vehicles safely, many cannot imagine turning over control to a computer. 

A survey conducted by Kelley Blue Book found that more than half of American drivers would rather maintain control of their vehicles, even if autonomous vehicles were guaranteed to make the roads safer. As is so often the case, most drivers see accidents as the fault of “those” drivers. Autonomous vehicles should, in their minds, be for older drivers or people who have been drinking. The survey results call to mind studies showing that 90 percent of drivers believe they are better than average.

One Obstacle Among Many

Of course, consumer tendencies are only one of the many obstacles in the way of autonomous vehicles becoming the norm. Elected officials at the state and federal level will likely have to be convinced that self-driving cars are safe, despite the widespread evidence that human drivers are decidedly unsafe. The technology must be standardized in some way, as car companies have shown themselves to be untrustworthy when it comes to safety monitoring. There must still be a way for people injured in car accidents to get the compensation they deserve.

American drivers are overly confident in their driving ability. Autonomous vehicles are likely to be a safer option for virtually every driver in the very near future. Hopefully, drivers will recognize that relinquishing a little control could save thousands of lives every year.

Source: The Washington Post, “Driverless future? Not so fast say Americans,” by Faiz Siddiqui, 28 September 2016 

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