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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is convinced that self-driving or autonomous vehicles will eventually make the roads much safer. In their report, “Automated Driving Systems: A Vision for Safety,” they state that since most serious roadway crashes are caused by human error,

“automated vehicle technologies possess the potential to save thousands of lives….”

Americans aren’t so sure, however. According to a report by Allianz Global Assistance, less than half of Americans are interested in using self-driving cars, down from 53 percent last year. The lack of interest is driven mostly by safety concerns, which have also increased to 71 percent in 2018 from 65 percent in 2017.

News coverage of high-profile crashes and the resulting fatalities and injuries have dampened the enthusiasm for autonomous vehicles. Only 52 percent of survey respondents believe that the technology will develop to the point where they’ll feel safe trading their regular cars in for self-driving ones.

Self-Driving Car Crashes Adding Up

In a Pew Research Center survey conducted in May 2017, more than half of U.S. adults stated they were somewhat or very worried about the development of self-driving cars, while more than half (56 percent) said they would not want to ride in one.

Taking a quick look at the recent accidents that have occurred reveals why people are hesitant. According to an analysis by the tech news and reviews website Tech.co, Google’s Waymo, for example, which has been testing its self-driving vehicles in California, has so far been involved in 32 incidences reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). GM’s Cruise cars accounted for 52 of the self-driving accidents occurring in San Francisco. Zoox has five accident reports in California so far, and Apple has two.

The analysis didn’t include the Tesla fatal crash that occurred in March 2018 because the vehicle was in Autopilot mode at the time, which is not considered a “true” self-driving mode. The Uber fatal collision with a pedestrian that occurred in Arizona was also left out, as the case is still under investigation.

Rear-End Collisions Most Common with Autonomous Vehicles

As to why the self-driving vehicles are crashing, it seems that part of the problem is they may be “too” cautious. Most of the crashes occurred at low speeds between 1-10 miles per hour, and at junctions and intersections. The vehicles move through these areas very slowly, which can lead to rear-end collisions.

Wired reported in October 2018 that though there have been some disastrous crashes, most are more mundane. So far, California is the only state that requires companies to report details about their programs.

Since 2014, the California DMV has received 104 self-driving vehicle collision reports. Over half of the reports indicated rear-end collisions, while about 30 percent indicated sideswipe incidents. The cars may drive in a jerky fashion or stop for no reason for safety, but these behaviors are not expected by human drivers, often resulting in the self-driving car being hit from behind. Sideswipe incidences, as well, seem to occur because human drivers get frustrated at sitting behind a slow or stopped self-driving vehicle.

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