Are driverless cars truly safe?

In a nutshell…

There has been a lot of coverage on this topic lately, so we decided to cut through all the noise and give you the bottom line on the subject, the obvious verdict, with photographic evidence.

Are driverless cars safe?  In a nutshell, BookMyGarage announces that they are obviously not entirely safe yet, but they most certainly will be one day what with the advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning.

But, as things now stand, even the granddaddy of Electric Vehicles, Tesla, can’t escape the odd prang.  We could show a graphic photo or two of wreckage here as there are plenty on the internet, but we kind of liked the simplicity of this one.

Self-driving incidents

Some very high-profile incidents have been associated with Teslas driving on autopilot. In June 2016 and January 2018, the vehicles’ sensors failed to see a truck and a fire engine. We can say for sure that this can certainly be described as large obstacles that they ought to have seen.  And, guess what, it just happened again last week.

Another big player in the market is Google. They’re an impressive company with a market capitalisation that is higher than the GDP of the Netherlands. However, it too apparently just can’t quite get the hang of driverless vehicles, yet.

But we have to admit to being very impressed with Google’s recent presentation about the progress of its driverless vehicle division, Waymo, is making. We are convinced that very soon we’ll be hailing driverless taxis, especially with Google’s deep knowledge and pockets.

Talking of which, Uber is now huge and their whole business model will kick into overdrive if they ever get their driverless cars to work properly.  But again, something doesn’t appear to be entirely right at the moment.

Is it just human error?

In December 2016, Uber’s self-driving car (a version of a Volvo XC90 SUV by the way) was caught running a red light four seconds after it’d changed. The company stated that it was down to human error, as they need a person to be behind the wheel.  Which begs the question, what was the guy below thinking?

Bhavesh Patel was recently filmed sitting alone in the passenger seat of his Tesla S 60, as it drove at 40mph on autopilot on the M1 near Hemel Hempstead.  He promptly received an 18-month driving ban.

So, are driverless cars safe?

However, despite all the press driverless car incidents garner, only four have resulted in fatalities.  The score is now: Tesla 3, Uber 1, Google 0.  Apple, with 55 self-driving cars, is also at zero, with no prangs yet reported.  This is also true of all the major car manufacturers, all of whom are in the game too.

The main reason Tesla has the most dings is that it, uniquely, gives drivers what is called Level 3 autonomy (see the Society of Automotive Engineers’ automation levels below), allowing them to find ways to trick the computer into thinking they’re paying attention.  Waymo has been focused on Level 4 and 5 autonomy from the outset, with people riding solely as passengers with no responsibility.

The question we would ask, however, is: but haven’t we lived with driverless cars for years?  Just take a look at Richard Newton’s car.  Not a dent in sight, although he was banned from driving for 12 months for pulling the stunt he pulled.  In this case, he was the one that got pranged, not the car!

If you ever have a mishap in your car, no matter what type of car it is, make sure to book it in for a service. You can do this through the use of our quick, easy and free online booking tool!

Libby Simmons

Libby has been working for BookMyGarage writing articles, creating newsletters and handling the social media platforms. She works closely with ex-mechanics and subject matter experts to provide weekly blogs: essential advice on how to care for your car, need-to-know news and developments in the motoring world and helpful tips on how to cut the costs of running and maintaining your car.