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Viewpoints: Are self driving cars safe?

Self-driving cars; safer today and even safer tomorrow

By Ashley Sanchez | Production Chief 

   Self-driving cars are not only safe, but the safest option out there for the future of transportation. As the evolution of automotive vehicles advances, so have safety features with the help of driver assistance technologies. 

   According to the National Safety Council, “[Advanced Driver Assistance System] technologies have the potential to prevent 20,841 deaths per year, or about 62% of total traffic deaths.” 

   Higher levels of autonomy can assist in lowering dangerous driver actions that tend to be the cause of most car accidents. Essentially, self-driving cars can dramatically reduce the destructive aftermath of drunk driving, texting while driving and speeding.    

   Based on research issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation, 2019 had a total of 33, 244 fatal crashes that resulted in the deaths of 36,096 people within one year alone. 

   According to the Kia Motor Corporation, “Autonomous vehicles can be trained to be safer than human-controlled cars. With sensors and cameras, they can enhance the safety of a driver as well as pedestrians by eliminating human error.”

   Self-driving cars are still in the beginning stages of their levels of automation, meaning that the data is limited, but as testing furthers, so does their improvement. While there is concern regarding a vehicle’s inability to use common sense when it comes to unexpected situations, self-driving cars differ in the way that they can be programmed to respond to all scenarios without the implication of human error. 

   According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, “Automated vehicles’ potential to save lives and reduce injuries is rooted in one critical and tragic fact: 94% of serious crashes are due to human error. Automated vehicles have the potential to remove human error from the crash equation…”

   When it comes to advanced vehicle technologies and human drivers in the event an accident occurs, a human can only react in a manner that can cause further injury and collusion. However, the advanced driver technologies are programmed to make decisions that can assess the situation faster and avoid further injury and collusion. 

   Aside from the safety aspects that self-driving cars have for humans, the positive environmental impact they have will also improve the safety for the planet. Autonomous cars use a significant amount of less energy as well as gas resulting in even less air pollution. 

   According to the Blickfeld Blog issued by the Blickfeld company which creates technology for autonomous vehicle enhancement, “The automated acceleration and braking by AVs, also known as eco-driving, can also reduce fuel consumption by 20% in aggressive drivers and 15% for normal drivers, as noted in a study by the University of Maryland…”

   What limits self-driving cars now serves to better their technology in future development through testing and extensive research. Yes, self-driving cars are safe, but even though they are not perfect, that does not mean they have to be. They just have to prevent more accidents than humans can—and they already have. 

Flaws in self-driving cars take safety into question

By Nana Horii | Staff Writer 

   Many car accidents are caused by human error and in fact, a study released by the National Highway Car companies, such as Tesla, have developed new technology that would solve this problem: self-driving cars. However, current self-driving cars are not as safe as companies make them out to be. 

   There are currently five levels to autonomous driving, level one being driving assistance, requiring the driver to be in control the entire time, and level five being full automation with no human driver required. Tesla, whose current self-driving cars are only offered at level three, markets their car as self-driving when that is far from the truth. 

  Victoria Scruggs, a Tesla owner and beta tester for the full self driving software, spoke of how her car would be very unpredictable at times, driving normally at some intersections and hesitating at others, sometimes going as far as shutting down mid-route. 

  The mislabeling of Tesla’s new technology as “Autopilot” and “Full Self-driving” has led to complacency in drivers and increased instances of distracted driving. The National Transportation Safety Board Chairman released a statement saying that there have been at least 3,166 lives lost in 2017 alone due to distracted driving in cars with driver assistance feature. This technology has exacerbated the problem which they sought to solve.

   Another danger of these “self-driving cars” are the batteries used in them. Many electric cars and cars with driver assistance technology have lithium batteries, which is highly flammable according to the National Law Review. Additionally, it is incredibly difficult to put out a fire caused by the combustion of a lithium battery. 

   Last year on April 17, a Tesla with self-driving capabilities veered off the road and crashed into a tree, causing a devastating  fire. It took a total of four hours for the fire to be put out.

   Mark Herman, a constable for Harris County Precinct TX told the KHOU 11, “Our office has never experienced a crash scene like this. Normally when the fire department arrives, they have a vehicle fire under control in minutes, but this went on for hours.” 

  There have also been several instances of cars with driver assistance technology combusting while being driven, even when there were no collisions with surrounding vehicles. 

   These advanced self-driving cars also have the potential to be hacked. According to network security expert Engin Kirda, if the car connects to the outside world through the cloud, or if it needs to connect to the internet to function properly, then it might be a target for hackers. She continued by stating that hackers can make the sensors recognize a stop sign as something else, which can lead to car accidents. 

   Technology has advanced to a point where we are close to completely self-driving cars. However there are still many flaws that must be fixed before we can rely on completely automated cars and until then, these cars marketed as self-driving are not safe.

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Viewpoints: Are self driving cars safe?