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What self-driving cars can and cannot do for safety

Since most motor vehicle accidents are the result of human error, it seems to follow that New Jersey drivers would be significantly safer in autonomous vehicles. However, a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has found that the ability of autonomous cars to better identify hazards does not mean that most accidents can be prevented.

Researchers identified several different causes of crashes. Incapacitation errors, which could include driving drunk, having a reaction to medication or falling asleep at the wheel, could be prevented by self-driving cars. Perception errors, which include not recognizing a hazard in time or becoming distracted, could also be reduced. Prediction errors, such as failing to correctly gauge a driver’s speed or intentions, and errors in planning and decision-making, such as driving too aggressively, would not necessarily be solved by autonomous vehicles. Errors in performance and execution, such as making mistakes in controlling the car, might also not be eliminated by self-driving cars.

According to researchers, as long as sensors and systems never malfunctioned, self-driving cars could potentially prevent the 34% of motor vehicle accidents that are due to incapacitation or perception, but vehicles will need to be specially programmed to avoid the other error types. This could put them in conflict with the driver’s preference for speed and other efficiencies over safety.

Self-driving cars face these and a number of other obstacles before they can become widely available, and in the meantime, serious accidents continue to happen. When an individual suffers a personal injury as a result of another party’s negligence, the injured individual might be owed compensation by that party. This can be important to covering medical and other expenses, but unfortunately, collecting it is not always straightforward. Injured individuals may want to contact an attorney to help negotiate with the insurance company or file a lawsuit if necessary.

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