Researchers question safety of self-driving vehicles

Ann Arbor, MI – A vehicle that drives itself might not guarantee a safer ride, according to a report from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Researchers analyzed the potential safety ramifications of autonomous vehicles that would rely upon radar, GPS, computer vision and other technologies. They released the report Jan. 16 in conjunction with the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, where automakers such as Mercedes-Benz unveiled self-driving concept cars

The report outlined three main conclusions:

  • Expecting self-driving vehicles to be involved in zero fatalities is unrealistic.
  • It is “not a foregone conclusion” that a self-driving vehicle would perform more safely than an experienced, middle-aged driver.
  • Safety might worsen, at least for conventional vehicles, during the transition period in which self-driving vehicles shared the road with motorist-driven vehicles.

More research was recommended regarding safety issues during the transition period.

“In many current situations, interacting drivers of conventional vehicles make eye contact and proceed according to the feedback received from other drivers,” the authors said in the report. “Such feedback would be absent in interactions with self-driving vehicles.”