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Self driving vehicles and car accidents: Who is responsible?

Maryland drivers may be surprised to hear that evidence has surfaced pointing to the potential dangers of self-driving vehicles. The investigative study that produced the evidence was carried out by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. Allegedly, according to the study’s results, self driving cars are not as safe as vehicles driven by middle-aged drivers with normal levels of driving experience.

The safety benefits of self-driving cars pale in comparison to safety levels achieved by middle aged motorists, mainly because human drivers are better able to safely deal with problems like downed trees, road difficulties, jaywalkers and mechanical difficulties. Nevertheless, the researcher pointed out that the level of advancements achievable by self-driving technology is still unknown.

The research suggested that some smaller nations — like Holland and Sweden — have the potential for reaching zero fatality roadway accident numbers through self-driven automobiles, but bigger nations like the United States will find it difficult to achieve such statistical perfection. There is also the fact that a lot of fatal accidents are not the result of driver error — an issue that the self-driving cars are supposed to be the best at resolving. There are just too many random variables on a roadway that the human mind is more capable of navigating.

Aside from the safety concerns, self-driving cars also pose an interesting legal dilemma. For example, what if a self-driving car is at fault for an accident with another Maryland driver? Would the manufacturer of the automobile be at fault negligence, the person who owns the vehicle or both? If self-driving cars ever take to our roadways, the issue will have to be decided by the law, and it will probably lead to some complicated civil lawsuits.

Source:, “Self driving vehicles may not be so safe” Jan. 27, 2015