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Just how safe are autonomous cars?

For several years now, the promise of fully-autonomous self-driving cars has been heralded as the solution to the nation's high number of motor vehicle accident-related injuries and fatalities. For some people, the thought of punching in an address and sitting idly inside a car that maneuvers on its own may seem idyllic. For others, the thought of not having control over a vehicle that is barreling down the highway is a terrifying thought. Regardless of one's opinion about self-driving cars, safety is always a concern.

Recently, researchers from the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute released findings of a study conducted about the safety of self-driving cars. For the study, traffic accident data from autonomous Google, Delphi and Volkswagen vehicles were examined in an attempt to determine just how safe, or unsafe, self-driving cars really are.

While proponents of autonomous vehicles routinely claim they are safer than human-operated vehicles, researchers found that "self-driving cars are in accidents at five times the rate of human-controlled cars." Thankfully, the vast majority of accidents involving self-driving cars occurred when a vehicle was traveling "5 MPH or slower." Additionally, at least according to Google, in most cases the driver of a human-controlled vehicle was actually to blame.

Rear-end accidents were common as were those caused by the fact that autonomous cars don't break traffic laws which is something that, unfortunately, most human drivers do. Therefore, when encountering an autonomous car that was driving the actual speed limit or came to a complete stop at a stop sign, human drivers were often caught off guard which resulted in minor fender benders.

Source: Time, "Self-Driving Cars Are More Accident-Prone, Study Finds," Victor Luckerson, Nov. 3, 2015

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