Self-driving vehicles are a bastion of hope for many. The thought of stepping into an autonomous vehicle and being whisked away at high speed to one’s destination without fear of injury or death is often portrayed as a scenario of the near-future. A new report, however – called Road Safety with Self-Driving Vehicles (PDF) – released this month by researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute concludes that safety will remain an issue as long as conventional and self-driven vehicles share the road.
Project Manager Brandon Schoettle said that self-driving cars have some major barriers to overcome before they can be considered safer than vehicles driven by experienced, middle-aged drivers.
“That zero fatality level, based on certain things we’ve seen, isn’t likely to occur because there are other things than driver error that go into fatal accidents,” Schoettle said. “It’s possible that in smaller countries, maybe the Netherlands or Sweden, it may be possible for them to get very close to, if not maybe hit, zero [fatalities] occasionally. In a country as big as the United States, there are just random events that happen [that keep that figure above zero].”