In 2015, an estimated 32,166 fatal motor vehicle accidents occurred throughout the United States. And while autonomous vehicles might help keep motorists safe in certain situations, they aren’t crash-proof. In fact, one of Ford’s Argo AI cars was just involved in a collision that sent two people to the hospital. This begs the question: are self-driving cars going to provide the protection motorists need?
Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety spokesperson Alicia George told The Incline that last month, a box truck evidently ran a red light at the intersection of 16th and Progress streets — located approximately one mile from Argo AI’s garage. The driver’s decision resulted in a T-bone collision between the truck and a self-driving vehicle, which contained four occupants. Every year, around 3 million people are injured in car accidents across the nation. In this particular crash, two of the self-driving car’s occupants were injured and were subsequently transported to a hospital nearby.
While the driver of the truck has yet to be identified publicly, authorities say that this driver will be cited for running the red light. But according to George, the accident report had yet to be completed and it was uncertain as to whether additional charges would be filed.
In addition, Alan Hall, the communications manager for Ford, provided no information about whether the Argo AI car was in self-driving mode when the crash occurred or whether other Argo AI vehicles would continue to operate.
However, Hall did note in a statement, “We’re aware that an Argo AI test vehicle was involved in an accident. We’e gathering all the information. Our initial focus is on making sure that everyone involved is safe.”
Interestingly, this is the second accident in less than five months involving a self-driving car in the Pittsburgh area. Back in September, one of Uber’s autonomous vehicles was involved in a two-car crash. The car was not in self-driving mode at the time and was found not to be the cause of the accident, but Uber suspended its self-driving vehicles following the incident anyway.
Since receiving a $1 billion investment from Ford in 2017 that’s meant to span five years, Argo has tested its self-driving vehicles in Pittsburgh. Eventually, the goal is to assist Ford in putting a totally driverless car on the roads by 2021. This vehicle would contain neither foot pedals nor steering wheel.
But that possibility may be a long way off, especially because there are a lot of mechanical and legal kinks to be ironed out first. Autonomous vehicles have been known to cause crashes when humans aren’t actually operating them, and determining fault is tricky. Motorists are starting to sue the car companies themselves for accidents involving self-driving cars, which could be a huge liability for companies that claim to make the roads safer with their vehicles.
While Ford wasn’t at fault in this particular case, it’s possible that other situations could set a precedent that would impact the company in the future. Even though autonomous autos could make roads safer, it’s important to remember that technology isn’t always perfect, either. Maybe motorists should think twice before putting their lives in the hands of an AI-powered car — at least, for now.