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Self-Driving Vehicles Will Prevent Auto Accidents... Or Will They?

Posted by Sandra Worthington | May 26, 2024

Many proponents of self-driving cars argue these vehicles will prevent auto accidents by eliminating human error as a collision cause reports Forbes Advisor. A study was performed using an online survey.

This online survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by Forbes Advisor and conducted by market research company OnePoll, in accordance with the Market Research Society's code of conduct. Data was collected from Jan 9 to Jan 11, 2024.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported that self-driving vehicles are more than twice as likely as traditional human operated ones  to experience auto accidents. According to 2015 NHTSA data:

  • There are 9.1 crashes in driverless vehicles per million vehicle miles driven
  • There are 4.2 crashes in conventional vehicles per million miles driven

2022 NHTSA Study on Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), found that more than two-thirds (69.64%) of all ADAS collisions are Teslas.

Two hundred seventy three ADAS crashes were reported by Tesla in 2022.

The next highest reporter of crashes was Honda which had  less than one-third (90) the number of crashes

Although the number of accidents is still relatively low, the high accident rates have rightly contributed to consumer concerns.  Recent recalls of Tesla vehicles have only served to increase fears.

Tesla—often considered a leader in autonomous driving with nearly two million cars across the U.S.—recently recalled nearly all of its autonomous vehicles.  Wow, this is not encouraging!

Tesla's recall comes after an NHTSA probe revealed nearly 1,000 accidents occurred when autopilot was engaged. It has prompted significant consumer concerns, with 62% of survey respondents indicating they are not confident in Tesla's technology following the recall.

Consumer concern extends beyond Tesla, with most people expressing reservations about the safety of all autonomous vehicles.  The bottom line is that people generally do not trust this technology, and for good reason. 

While we all hope that at some point in the not- too-distant future, autonomous vehicles will be safe to cart around our grandparents and ensure their independence, we are clearly not there yet (unless you don't like your grandparents).

Just 12% of consumers are very trusting of this technology, while close to half of all Americans (46%) are either very or somewhat untrusting.

Safety is the number one consumer fear when it comes to vehicles that drive themselves, with 36% of Americans indicating they do not trust the technology to keep motorists and pedestrians safe on the road.

Technology malfunctions come in a close second, with just over a quarter of consumers indicating they are most worried that autopilot technology will malfunction on the roads.

Reliability, cost, hacking, vehicle lifespan and privacy are also among the worries Americans share, although these issues are not nearly as pressing as fears about how autonomous vehicles will impact road safety.The majority of consumers have negative feelings about how autonomous vehicles will change America's roadways.

Skepticism and concern are the two leading emotions Americans feel surrounding self-driving cars, with nearly half (45%) of all consumers expressing one of these emotions. By contrast, just 16% of consumers are excited and just 8% have an overall positive outlook about these vehicles.

So what is the future of self-driving cars?

In light of negative consumer sentiment, it's not a surprise experts predict Americans will be slow to adopt this evolving technology.

Here's what Americans are excited about when it comes to potential future applications for self-driving technology:

  • 20% cited enhanced mobility for the elderly and people with disabilities
  • 13% believe the vehicles will bring about increased efficiency in transportation logistics
  • 10% hope for a reduction in traffic congestion
  • 18% cited the ability to multitask while driving
  • 8% anticipate a reduced cost of labor for ride-sharing or taxi services
  • 30% don't believe there are any exciting potential applications
  • 1% believe there are other potential exciting future changes in store


Projections of the slow-growth of self-driving vehicles are buttressed by consumer sentiment. In fact, survey data shows self-driving cars are likely to remain a niche product with 51% of consumers indicating they are very or somewhat unlikely to own or use a self-driving vehicle in the coming five years.  By contrast, just 14% believe they are very likely to own a vehicle with self-driving capabilities.


Aside from the safety issues, self-driving technology is not free.  Tesla recently offered a 30 day period of free use of their self-driving (supervised) technology to Tesla customers, followed by a requirement that customers who accept would then be billed monthly, and it is not cheap.  Basic self driving technology will be an enhancement option and costs at least $99 per month.  A warning comes with the technology enhancement including that you must READ THE OWNER'S MANUAL.  The Owner's manual is within the Tesla App.  There is no paper book like the olden days. And frankly, even when there was a paper book, who really read it except AFTER a problem occurred with a vehicle?  Out of the shoot, this recommendation will probably be ignored by all except the engineers and scientists among us.  This will be reminiscent of the saying that it will be like building the plane while flying it.  And yes, the technology will improve so your car will "evolve" as data comes in regarding what are basically failures turned to lessons learned by Tesla.  For example, if your car hits a pedestrian in a gray suit on an overcast day, the technology will have learned that lesson and presumably figure out some way to distinguish the overcast sky with the pedestrian's suit.  Or will it?  We won't really know what is happening behind the scenes or how many mistakes are made before the expense of an update by the manufacturer is deemed worthwhile.

The high sticker price will inevitably slow the adoption of these vehicles, especially with only 13% of consumers describing themselves as very willing to pay a premium for self-driving vehicles and 16% somewhat willing compared with 52% who are either very or somewhat unwilling to pay the premium charges for autonomous driving capabilities.

And if you fail to supervise your self-driving car and are in an accident, imagine the difficulty of proving who was at fault?  The manufacturer recommendation that self-driving must be supervised shifts the responsibility to the human in the driver's seat, but there will be times that the actual technology fails or does not do what it should, causing a crash.  Auto accident cases will become a blend of a standard motor vehicle accident case and a products liability case.

In conclusion: Forbes research shows consumers have concerns over the safety and reliability of self-driving cars. These concerns, coupled with an unwillingness to pay higher prices, are a major reason why growth in the self-driving vehicle market is likely to be slow in the upcoming five years. A widespread shift in public perception will be critical if these vehicles are to become a dominant force in the U.S. auto market in the near future.

About the Author

Sandra Worthington

I am all about YOU. You have been in an accident, and you need a lawyer who understands you and your injuries. Many of my clients are active folks of all ages who are or were involved in walking, running, biking, skateboarding, surfing, yoga, weight-lifting, racquet sports, and countless other a...


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