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Driver errors and the logic of self-driving cars

On the streets and highways around Los Angeles, the traffic congestion can lead to a variety of driver reactions, ranging from anxiety to boredom to anger. Some of these attitudes may be behind the factors that research indicates are the main cause of motor vehicle crashes. Regardless of the trigger, though, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that drivers made mistakes that led to 94 percent of the thousands of traffic accidents reviewed during the study.

Estimates show about 41 percent of the crashes caused by human error have recognition errors as a primary factor. Distractions inside and outside the vehicle, failure to adequately survey the situation around the vehicle and driver inattention are included in this category. Decision errors make up 33 percent of the accidents, including speeding, poor judgment, anticipating other drivers’ actions incorrectly and performing illegal maneuvers. Overcompensating, losing control of the vehicle and other performance mistakes lead to roughly 11 percent of the incidents, while 7 percent involved non-performance errors—primarily falling asleep behind the wheel. Another 8 percent are classified as “other.”

Roadway conditions and vehicle malfunctions only make up 4 percent of the total when it comes to crashes. This may be part of the reason automated vehicle developers and manufacturers feel so confident that taking drivers out of the equation will make the roads safer. According to Forbes magazine, the use of cameras, radar, image detection and other technology may allow appropriate vehicle responses where drivers fail.

Until federal and state government regulations have determined safety standards for self-driving cars, drivers may still take advantage of systems that help reduce crashes due to human error. Much of the technology focuses on identifying and responding to traffic situations, as well as reducing the visual and manual interaction with distractions such as cellphones within the vehicle.

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