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Self-Driving Vehicle Safety in Nebraska

With technology advancing as rapidly as it has in the last 20 or so years, self-driving cars seem like an inevitability, rather than a possibility. Companies like Tesla, Waymo, Volvo, and even Ford and Honda have all tested and incorporated self-driving technology in their vehicles in recent years.

For many people, however, one major concern remains: is automated technology safe? Will autonomous cars prevent more motor vehicle crashes than human drivers can? 

Are Self-Driving Cars Safe?

Currently, the short answer to this question is no. Fully automated vehicles are not approved for public roads yet, because we do not yet have the technology to make them safe for everyday use.

However, that is not to say that it is not possible to have safe driverless cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) anticipates that we could have fully automated safety features in our vehicles as early as 2025.

In order to be approved for public roads, an automated vehicle must comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Many companies in the automotive industry are currently tested vehicles with higher levels of automation, to ensure they are safe before they enter the market for public use.

The driver assistance technologies that are available in vehicles today can be safe if the human driver is ready to take control of the car when necessary. 

For example, poor weather conditions can make it difficult for lane keeping assistance features to work correctly–in this instance, the person in the driver’s seat should not rely on the car to keep itself on the roadway. Even when such a feature is working properly, the driver should keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times, because they are still responsible for driving the vehicle.

Rear view mirror on the passenger side of the car.

Are Fully Autonomous Vehicles Available Today?

While many cars have features of automated vehicles, like blind spot assistance and emergency braking, there are no fully driverless vehicles on the road today. Our current technologies are known as “partially automated safety features.” All vehicles approved for public use require at least some intervention on the part of the human driver.

There are six levels of automation in motor vehicles.

Momentary driver assistance

Cars with these safety features can alert you to hazards or temporarily provide emergency interventions. Forward collision warnings and automatic emergency braking fall into this category.

Driver assistance

Cars with this level of automatic technology require the driver to maintain control of speed and steering. They may include adaptive cruise control or lane keep assistance, but the driver must pay attention and control the vehicle at all times.

Additional assistance

Driver assistance technologies in this category can work simultaneously, meaning that the car can control speed and steering (to some degree) at the same time. However, the human driver is still responsible for driving the vehicle.

Conditional automation

Cars at this level can drive themselves in certain situations, but the human driver must be attentive and ready to take control of the vehicle at any time. This level of automation is not available for consumer purchase in the United States as of June 2023 (nor is any level beyond this one).

High automation

These cars drive themselves in certain situations and locations. When the autopilot is engaged, the humans inside do not need to drive the vehicle. 

Full automation

In a fully automated vehicle, the automated driving system controls the car in all situations and locations. Human occupants are simply passengers who have no control over the vehicle when autopilot is engaged. 

What Are the Benefits of Automated Vehicles?

Of course, when they work correctly, advanced driver assistance systems can open up a world of opportunities for humans. There are a number of potential benefits to improving automated driving technology.

Potential for reduced accidents

In some cases, artificial intelligence may be able to detect and react to risks faster than a human can. When the technology is more advanced, fully automated vehicles may actually reduce the number of car crashes on our roadways.

With fewer accidents comes the potential for fewer fatalities, and safer roads overall.

Greater independence

Those who are currently unable to drive, such as elderly or disabled people, may find themselves more mobile as automakers develop self-driving technology. When a vehicle is able to safely drive itself with no human intervention, more people will have the opportunity to move about.

Remove the risk of human error

It is estimated that up to 98% of motor vehicle accidents are caused by human error. Vehicle malfunctions and environmental factors are statistically less of a problem than distracted driving, road rage, and impaired driving.

Driverless vehicles remove these problems from the roadways.

Convenience and efficiency

Americans spend billions of hours in traffic jams every single year. A fully automated vehicle may not completely remove the issue of traffic, but it would allow its occupants to focus on other things, such as family time, work, or certain hobbies.

What Are the Safety Risks of Self-Driving Cars?

Although humans cause many of the issues on our roads today, there are certain elements of humanity that machines can’t quite mimic yet. Additionally, our reliance on artificial intelligence poses new risks that we haven’t encountered before.

Real-world driving conditions

In ideal conditions, fully automated vehicles perform well. In the real world, though, circumstances are rarely perfect. Currently, driverless test vehicles do not always respond reliably in adverse driving conditions. 

Heavy rain or snow can interfere with an automated car’s radar system. Construction zones may require driving below the usual speed limit or outside of established lanes. A machine’s inability to look another driver in the eyes can prevent it from accurately predicting their next move.

Technology is always improving, but in these situations, a human driver may currently perform better than a self-driving car.

Cybersecurity risks

Putting advanced computers in our vehicles increases the risk of hacking. The US Department of Transportation and the NHTSA recognize that automated vehicles rely on a number of computer systems to function properly. If a hacker were to remotely take control of a vehicles driver assistance systems, it could mean disaster for the vehicles occupants and those around them. 

According to the NHTSA, automakers will be required to safeguard their vehicles’ computer systems to prevent them from being interfered with.

False sense of security

Machines can malfunction. With partially automated driving features, like adaptive cruise control, occupants of vehicles may feel that they don’t need to be as alert as they would in other cars. This is simply not true.

No matter what kind of car you are driving, our current technology is not such that a driver can take their attention off the road. Do not assume your car’s automated driving systems will always keep you safe–be ready to take control of speed or steering at any time.

What Should I Do if I Am Involved in an Accident with an Automated Vehicle in Nebraska?

Just like with any car accident, a crash involving an automated vehicle can result in serious injuries, fatalities, property damage, and emotional anguish. Whether your accident occurred as a result of human error or mechanical defect, you deserve to recover physically, emotionally, and financially

An attorney with The Nebraska Advocates can help. Our experienced personal injury lawyers can assist you in accessing necessary medical care, getting your car fixed, and obtaining the compensation you deserve for your damages.

We will be by your side from day one, ready to answer your questions, build a strong case, and negotiate a fair settlement. Contact us today for a free consultation.

You deserve an attorney who puts your best interests first. You deserve an Advocate.