Autonomous Cars Cannot Completely Eliminate Crashes

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. assumption / əˈsʌmp ʃən / (n) – an idea that is believed to be true but does not have actual evidence

    A lot of assumptions about the Earth turned out to be incorrect.

  2. evasive / ɪˈveɪ sɪv / (adj) – done to avoid danger or an accident

    The driver did an evasive maneuver to avoid a crash.

  3. incapacitation / ˌɪn kəˈpæs ɪˌteɪ  ʃən / (n) – the state of not being able to function properly

    According to the investigation, the driver’s incapacitation caused the accident.

  4. hazard / ˈhæz ərd / (n) – a danger

    People should be aware of the hazards of drunk driving.

  5. suffice / səˈfaɪs / (v) – to be enough

    You don’t need to send more money. The amount you gave last week will suffice.


Read the text below.

A new study suggests that Autonomous Vehicle technology may not have the capacity to prevent all accidents caused by human error.

The research conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) analyzed more than 5,000 police-reported crashes in the United States. Results revealed that autonomous vehicles can only prevent about one-third of crashes.

According to data, human error accounts for around 94% of crashes in the country. This includes incorrect assumptions about the actions of other drivers, inappropriate speed in certain road conditions, and wrong evasive movements. The researchers also found that human incapacitation, such as driving under the influence and falling asleep while driving, can also lead to crashes.

IIHS vice president for research and study co-author Jessica Cicchino explained that while it is possible that fully autonomous vehicles are better than humans at detecting hazards, they will not suffice when it comes to preventing the majority of crashes. Despite advancements in the development of sensors, cameras, and navigation tools, autonomous vehicle technology is not able to predict or eliminate the mistakes of drivers.

The researchers added that crashes can only be significantly reduced if autonomous vehicles are programmed to prevent errors related to drivers’ performance and decision-making.

According to Cicchino, more crashes can also be prevented if autonomous vehicles have the capacity to follow all traffic rules and speed limits. However, she warned that if these vehicles are programmed to drive and react like humans, who tend to disobey traffic laws and speed limits, then fewer crashes will be prevented.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Given the results of the study, do you think autonomous vehicles are better than regular cars? Why or why not?
• Do you agree that programming autonomous vehicles to follow traffic rules and speed limits will make them safer? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• Do you think autonomous technology will ever be completely safe? Why or why not?
• Aside from safety, what issues might come up with the use of autonomous technology (e.g. security/privacy, job losses)? Explain.