Are Autonomous Cars Safe?

by josh_cifelli5817 on October 28, 2016 - 11:50pm

Are self-driving cars the future of driving and safe? Hopefully because that would save me so much time! Although a lot of people are very worried about the risks for very good reasons. Some risks include weather, unpredictable humans, face to face interactions (like at a four way stop), urban areas/bridges, and unclear road markings (according to Danielle Muoio from business insider). These are very important issues although some of them are already fixed or are almost fixed. As far as weather goes, that is hard to fix but just because you have to drive it sometimes when it gets bad out does not make it any less better, these are just prototypes and they are doing very well. If the car has a problem like with weather or if it does not know where it is it will pull over and stop until you take control so it is not like it is going to be going into fields because it lost sight of the road. For the face to face interactions google simply makes the car inch forward into the lane to assert who gets the right of way, if the other car starts to go then it will stop. Urban areas are being solved by the use of sensors, where the cars used to be more GPS dependent, they are really only using it as back up checking and navigation now so it will not be much of a problem in urban environments. For bridges you could have the driver take control for now or I’m sure they will come up with a way to sense things. Unclear road markings is a simple fix, more redoing the lines. We don’t because it’s a waste of time because people can just see the sides of the road, since a lot of main roads already have pretty visible markings it should not be too much of a problem. It should not be long before these cars are going to be getting on the road, out of 2 billion miles Google’s autonomous car crashed once in February because of the autonomous control, which is already better than most humans. It crashed because it sensed a bus in the left line while it was going into that lane, it assumed the bus was going to slow down but the bus did not and they hit each other. It is hard to say if that accident could have been avoided if there was a human in the front seat but the sensors don’t drink or eat or text or get dressed while driving so how many accidents did it prevent for all those other miles? In this YouTube video ( uploaded by “Google Self-Driving Car Project” you can see how the car senses things and to what extent it senses things. The car can tell the difference of pedestrians and bikers and different car types like trucks or cars, it is programmed to give trucks extra room when passing from a different lane which is pretty exact. Now I’ll talk about the hardest subject and the reason car companies hesitate to put these cars on the road, unpredictable humans. The problem is what happens if a kid jumps out in front of the car, the car might have to choose between swerving and hitting other things or hitting the kid instead. Everyone’s opinion and reaction are different on this matter and although the car might react faster and cause a better survival rate, it is hard to program basically who is going to die in a no win scenario. Also, because the car is now making the decision, it is now the car companies fault for hitting the kid instead of the driver which could cause HUGE lawsuits even if the amount of deaths go down drastically. This is why companies are hesitant to be the first to sell an autonomous car, they want someone else to “test the playing field” first. I’m hoping this issue gets solved like personally chosen parameters for how the car will act (obviously chosen from the car company, not making up the parameters) that way the car owner is still responsible, even if it is just an accident we all know there are people who will be “sue happy” after an accident, especially if they saw their kid die which can be understandable even if it is wrong.



You've brought up some important points that we need to consider before allowing these vehicles on the road. UNECE is in converesation about international regulations.
Here's some research from Stanford, as well:

Hello Josh, your topic sounded extremely appealing to me in large part because I am an Elon Musk fan. If you are not familiar with who I am referring to, he is the mind behind Tesla Motors who also implement autonomous driving capabilities in their vehicles. Although the ethics are up for debate, I think that this is a very big step in the automotive industry. For Tesla in particular, they have emerged as a leader in the industry with their electric vehicles. This, combined with their introduction of autonomous driving solidifies their place at the top in terms of efficiency.

Although, there are some ethical concerns that I do agree need to be considered. One of which deals with their capabilities of making decisions during certain events. I found an interesting Ted Ed. video of a hypothetical scenario illustrating some of the ethical dilemmas associated with driving cars that may interest you. Interesting piece, very informative!


I found your post very interesting as this is something that I've read about before and is very interesting to me. I do think that this part of the automotive industry is progressing very well and a lot of research is going into fixing or improving the issues that you raised here. I agree with you that the hardest issue to solve is with unexpected humans appearing in the way of the car. I recently watched a video about this subject that asked if this scenario presents itself, should the car swerve to try to avoid injuring the pedestrians but possibly injure the passenger, or should it continue forward injuring the pedestrians but keeping it's passengers safe. I think that this is a very interesting question and is definitely something to look into further.

Overall I think this was a great post

Hi josh_cifelli5817,

Your title really drew me in because of my strong interest in cars and how autonomous cars are becoming the future for cars. Although I personally have not done much research on this new feature in future cars. I found your article interesting because I personally didn’t even consider weather being an issue of a self driving car but I can now understand how its poses a threat to other drivers on the road if it can’t identify the road itself. It’s interesting to me how technology for cars has come so far but personally it appears that it will not be safe to everyone. I think technology has come far but I do not believe that it will ever come far enough for it to be completely safe for self driving cars without the driver paying attention to the road. This is because there are so many outside factors that can happen and so many factors that the self-driving car would need to consider. Also additionally adding to the issue of weather… what if the weather or something breaks a sensor on a car? So much programming would need to be put into the car and if one thing broke or went wrong someone’s life could be at risk. If people have to stay awake behind autopilot driving now don’t you think it would just be easiest for the person behind the wheel to just drive it and control the vehicle on their own? I too agree that I would save so much time if a self driving car existed because I could just do work in the vehicle during my travels. Lastly, I also thought about how humans react on roads with their emotions sometimes and wouldn’t necessarily know that they are being aggressive to a driver who has their auto-pilot driving on. I think for autonomous driving to possibly even be safe maybe everyone would need an autonomous vehicle and maybe all the vehicles could communicate with each other so if a kid jumped out on the road maybe all the cars would respond together to avoid an accident with the child and with other vehicles. Do you personally really think there is going to be a way for autonomous cars to self-drive without the passenger paying attention to the road at all with the constantly changing factors on the roads outside of the vehicles control?
Thanks for this great post! I really enjoyed the read and it has now got me thinking
about how designers can make autonomous cars safe!