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Self-driving cars not likely to prevent most accidents

Driver error is behind 9 out of 10 accidents, so it’s not surprising that Louisiana drivers would be eager to see self-driving cars remove all possibility of error. However, this is highly unlikely according to a study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. While self-driving cars will probably detect hazards better than human drivers do, this will not be enough.

For its study, the IIHS looked at more than 5,000 crashes from the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey. Researchers determined the errors that factored into the crashes and divided those into five categories: sensing and perceiving errors, predicting errors, planning errors, performance errors and errors resulting from incapacitation. Only the first and the last, researchers concluded, could be prevented by self-driving cars.

This comes to 34% of crashes as sensing and perceiving errors were behind 24% of the analyzed crashes and incapacitation behind 10%. Self-driving cars, then, could reasonably prevent crashes caused by distracted driving, drug and alcohol impairment and falling asleep at the wheel. Of course, this assumes that the sensors and systems never fail.

The IIHS says that some crashes arise from vehicle failure and simply cannot be avoided by autonomous vehicle tech. Automakers could make self-driving cars that prevent the other three errors if they prioritize safety over speed and convenience.

As for those who are injured by a driver who clearly put speed and convenience above their safety, they could pursue a personal injury case, but they may want a lawyer to evaluate their case. Under Louisiana’s pure comparative negligence rule, plaintiffs are always eligible for damages; it’s just that their degree of fault will lower whatever amount they receive. With a lawyer by their side, victims might strive for the maximum settlement possible from the defendant’s auto insurance company.