Autonomous Vehicle Safer Than Human Driven: Study

by CXOtoday News Desk    Apr 13, 2016


A technology research firm RAND Corporation in its latest report on ‘autonomous vehicle technology’ stated that autonomous vehicles will be safer than human driven vehicles. Errors like drunk driving, speeding, distraction, and fatigue are common errors which causes 94 per cent of car crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

For the past hundred years, innovation within the automotive sector has created safer, cleaner, and more affordable vehicles, but progress has been incremental. The industry now appears close to substantial change, engendered by autonomous, or “self-driving,” vehicle technologies. This technology offers the possibility of significant benefits to social welfare - saving lives; reducing crashes, congestion, fuel consumption, and pollution; increasing mobility for the disabled; and ultimately improving land use.

self driven car

According to the corporation, this report is intended as a guide for state and federal policymakers on the many issues that this technology raises. After surveying the advantages and disadvantages of the technology, RAND researchers determined that the benefits of the technology likely outweigh the disadvantages. Because it needs to be tested “hundreds of millions of miles and sometimes hundreds of billions of miles” to gain enough information to compare its safety to human-driven automobiles. Such thorough testing would require “tens and sometimes hundreds of years,” which would make it impractical to accomplish before clearing the vehicles for regular consumer use, the report said.

“The most autonomous miles any developer has logged are about 1.3 million, and that took several years,” study co-author and RAND senior statistician Susan Paddock said in a company statement. “Even if autonomous vehicle fleets are driven 10 million miles, one still would not be able to draw statistical conclusions about safety and reliability.”

The report also explores policy issues, communications, regulation and standards, and liability issues raised by the technology; and concludes with some tentative guidance for policymakers, guided largely by the principle that the technology should be allowed and perhaps encouraged when it is superior to an average human driver.

Key Findings

Researches like Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute found that self-driving vehicles have been nearly five times as likely to get into accidents as those driven by humans. They also saw somewhat elevated numbers of injuries per crash compared to normal traffic but no fatalities. According to many other researchers, it is stated that the automated vehicles are unable to perform when there is heavy traffic. They were stuck when stopped or moved slowly in traffic and most frequently were rear-ended.