Should We Be This Frightened of Self-Driving Cars?

Accident With Self-Driving CarOver the last year or two, there have been a number of news stories about towns or cities running pilot programs with self-driving cars. These autonomous vehicles (AV) may be in testing mode, or a city may agree to be part of a program where the cars act like robo-taxis, picking up and dropping off passengers in a certain area.

Charlotte is testing one of these systems now. Cruise LLC is a driverless rideshare company that spent a few days operating around the city in August. Per WCNC, there were issues on the first day: “One person witnessed a close call at a merge point on Independence Boulevard…. [Another] saw one of the vehicles parked in the middle of a street not moving.” Even the new station’s chief meteorologist witnessed a near crash “at the intersection of Johnston Road and Pineville-Matthews Road.”

None of this information makes the vehicles sound especially safe – but as it turns out, people don’t feel safe around them anyway. CBS News released an article earlier this year about a new AAA study that shows drivers are becoming more frightened of self-driving cars. The AAA study was conducted in January and showed that 68 percent of respondents admitted to being scared of self-driving vehicles. This same type of study was conducted in January of 2022, but only 55 percent of respondents stated that they were frightened by self-driving vehicles. In the course of one year, that’s a 13 percent increase in the number of people who express fears over self-driving technology.

The CBS report posits that people confuse electric vehicles (EVs) for autonomous vehicles (AVs), but that that doesn’t seem like a fair analysis to us. The news is filled with stories about crashes and near-misses from vehicles with any level of autonomous control.

What exactly is a self-driving car?

A self-driving car is a type of vehicle that can drive its operator and passengers wherever they need to go. Self-driving cars use cameras, sensors, and other devices to help them reach their destination safely.

  • Tesla. While Tesla has become very popular over the years, it has also caused many accidents across the country. Kelley Blue Book recently reported that there have been over 700 car accidents involving Tesla autopilot and self-driving vehicles in the United States since 2019.
  • Waymo. These cars have not made their way to Charlotte yet, but they are hoping to expand to other parts of the United States in the future. Waymo is used in these large cities as a taxi service in which people are driven and dropped off at their destination. However, there is no driver in the driver seat because the car drives itself. From 2018 to 2020 alone, Waymo vehicles were involved in 18 accidents.
  • Cruise. Cruise may be new to Charlotte but it’s not new to other cities. On the very same day it started testing in Charlotte, one of its driverless cars in San Francisco ran into wet concrete and got stuck. The very next day, a Cruise car and a fire truck collided. Back in March, one of the self-driving taxis hit a bus; that crash ended u0p leading to a recall of 300 vehicles in April because of defective parts.

Is it any wonder why people are scared of self-driving cars?

What are the risks of self-driving and autonomous technology?

Every car comes with risks; it’s the price you pay for being able to travel anywhere between eight and 25 times the speed of the average pedestrian. But there are real risks with self-driving cars, and with AV technology in general.

  • Overreliance on technology: Every day that we get used to new technology, we begin to expect that that technology to handle every type of situation and obstacle that arises.. While today’s tech is reducing car accidents, overreliance on that tech may leave us more helpless in the event that it fails, or in situations when the car “misunderstands” the data it’s pulling in. AVs may not stop for animals, people jaywalking across the street, children who run out into the road chasing their balls, or severe and sudden weather emergencies.
  • Hacking issues: Some people are concerned about the possibility of hacking self-driving cars. This is an understandable concern as self-driving cars are a bit like computers, meaning that their software could potentially be hacked. In 2015, two individuals hacked a Tesla even though the Tesla system is believed to have a software system that is strong against hackers. After this happened, there has been increasing fears that a hacker will completely take over a vehicle while people are inside, which could cause a life-threatening situation for many on the roads.
  • Malfunctions, shortages, and electrical problems: At any given moment, a self-driving vehicle can experience a malfunction, shortage, or electrical problem. As a matter of fact, in November 2022, a Tesla in San Francisco experienced a phantom braking issue that led to a multi-vehicle crash.
  • Increased numbers of preventable car accidents: In 2020, an individual in Raleigh was driving his Tesla on auto-pilot mode while watching a movie. His vehicle collided with a Nash County sheriff deputy vehicle. Had the “driver” been paying attention, this crash would’ve been avoided completely. The large concern then, is that self-driving vehicles may actually increase the number of accidents each year.

What happens if I’m injured in a collision with an autonomous vehicle in Charlotte?

For now, it depends on the type of AV. If you suffer injuries in a collision with another driver whose car has some level of automation – automatic emergency braking, for example – then the driver who hit you is likely liable for your injuries. (There may be additional claims against the manufacturer if applicable, but it would depend on the circumstances.) If you are hit by one of the Cruise cars being tested in Charlotte, however, the case may be more challenging.

If you or a loved one has been in a collision with a self-driving or autopilot vehicle, the Charlotte car accident attorneys at Price, Petho & Associates are here to help. Our team has been assisting car accident victims since 1979. While this type of technology may be new, we have what it takes to handle your self-driving car accident claim, protect your rights, and recover compensation for your losses. To find out if you have a viable car accident claim, please call our office or complete our contact form as soon as possible. We are available 24/7 and can schedule your free case review at our offices in Rockingham, Charlotte, or Rutherfordton.