Are self-driving cars trustworthy?

As autonomous vehicle technology continues to evolve, new research shows that fewer consumers may trust the technology than before.

West Virginia residents have yet to see a fleet of self-driving cars rolling down their local streets but that does not mean it could not happen one day. Researchers at technology companies and car manufacturers alike seem to be in a virtual race to get their autonomous vehicles out on the nation's roads.

But, are these vehicles really apt to make the roads safer? Will they really reduce fatalities or serious injuries? And, just how do people feel about riding in or sharing the road with autonomous vehicles?

Research proving safety is limited

There is no shortage of statistics that shows how many people are injured or killed in automobile accidents in the U.S. Additionally the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can easily point to data highlighting human error as a factor in 94 percent of all crashes. However, Fortune points out that it is important to remember that such information is based upon mass quantities of data.

When it comes to autonomous vehicles, there is simply no way that an equal amount of data can be available yet. This is one of the things that limits the ability to fully prove or disprove the safety of autonomous vehicles. A RAND Corporation study last year indicated that it might be all but impossible to have autonomous vehicles drive enough miles to collect sufficient data for accurate comparisons.

Absence of regulation is another concern

Scientific American explains that there are currently no laws or other federal governance over the emerging self-driving vehicle technologies or industry. That allows each company to determine its own method by which to measure safety, leaving the ability to make comparisons limited at best.

Despite the lack of current data on autonomous vehicles themselves, many are pushing to let these vehicles on the road based predominately on the data showing how many people are killed or injured in standard vehicle accidents today. This is encouraged even while acknowledging that autonomous vehicle technology has far to go and these vehicles may be likened to teenage drivers in that way.

Consumer support is dwindling

A new J.D. Power study reports that most Americans trust autonomous vehicle technology less today than they did a year ago. The only exception was for consumers born between 1977 and 1994. In 2016, 18 percent of them said they did not trust these vehicles but this year that number dropped to 17 percent.

Among other groups, distrust of self-driving cars ranged from 22 percent of those born between 1995 and 2004 to 34 percent of those born between 1965 and 1976 to 44 percent of baby boomers.

West Virginians deserve to be safe

The bottom line for people in West Virginia to remember is that they always have the right to be safe. They also always have the right to compensation if they are involved in an accident. That is true whether that accident is caused by another negligent driver or an autonomous vehicle malfunction. Talking to an attorney after any crash is always recommended so that people get the appropriate help to protect their rights.