Multiple Crashes Steer Drivers Away From Self-Driving Cars

For more than a century, cars have given drivers access to go anywhere they choose. And for decades there have been improvements in style, design and safety. These changes have helped give car buyers more options when looking for their next vehicle. But what happens when technology mixes into the once-standard features? Things like push to start, cooled cup holders and automated light sensors start to rise, eventually leading to a new standard that brought autonomous cars to the surface.

When self-driving cars first hit the market, many supported them in hopes of fewer accidents and deaths on the road. But after a series of accidents in the past year, interest in them has declined. AAA released a poll, conducted in April, that found 73 percent of American drivers would be “too afraid” to ride in a self-driving vehicle. That’s compared to 63 percent from its poll in late 2017.

“Any incident involving an autonomous vehicle is likely to shake consumer trust, which is a critical component to the widespread acceptance of autonomous vehicles,” Greg Brannon, director of automotive engineering and industry relations for AAA, said in a statement.

Last month, more consumers were uneasy about autonomous vehicles following two fatal accidents. The first, in Tempe, Ariz., was the first time a self-driving car had killed someone who was not in the car. The second was in Mountain View, Calif., where a Tesla Model X was in semi-autonomous mode and crashed into a highway, leaving the driver dead.

“Self-driving technology holds the promise to make our roadways safer, but the industry will need to execute testing in the safest manner possible,” Bannon said.

Safety tests were done prior to any of them becoming available for purchase, but accidents still happened. This is due to them being programmed to drive from moment to moment, whereas a person driving can plan ahead for uncertain situations. Autonomous vehicles aren’t able to react in the same way a person would when driving.

“There are accidents every day, but there’s a magnifying glass on autonomous vehicles, because there’s a perception that they’re going to be flawless — and they’re not going to be flawless,” Michelle Krebs, executive analyst with AutoTrader, said.

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