Will Self-Driving Cars Prevent More Accidents on the Road, or Cause Them?

The concept of self-driving cars has become a fairly popular one, with more car manufacturers creating them and even ride-sharing programs utilizing them. But while they may not be appearing regularly in household driveways just yet, a report by the Conservation Law Foundation says that is about to change. That report states that there will be more autonomous cars on the road by the year 2020 and that by 2023, they will be just as common on Massachusetts roads, if not even more so, than vehicles operated by humans.

So, the question is then, will self-driving cars make the state’s roads safer, or more dangerous?

One of the findings in the report was that the increase of self-driving cars will make the roads more congested than they already are. With more people using them, traffic congestion in Boston alone could increase by as much as 17 percent. While carpooling is a great way to cut down on that congestion, the report also states that is not likely to help, as congestion will increase even if the majority of the population started carpooling.

While that is bad news for the roads in Massachusetts, and the drivers and passengers stuck in traffic, there is some hope outlined in the report. It also states the amount of auto accidents is expected to fall drastically. The reason for this is because the cause of most accidents is human error. When that is taken out of the equation with self-driving cars, the number of accidents and injuries could be reduced.

However, whether or not that would actually happen remains to be seen.

“Even with more self-driving cars on the roads, increased congestion almost always means more accidents,” says John Sheehan of the Law Office of John J. Sheehan. “Even if self-driving cars are not the ones likely to get into accidents, there will still be human drivers out there. Those drivers will still experience frustration with the amount of congestion on the roads, and may be likely to make poor driving decisions such as cutting people off. Those behaviors can actually lead to an increase in traffic accidents.”

In addition to more congestion and possibly fewer accidents, there were other findings within the report as well. Those were a likely increase in pollution, rising state revenue from toll fees, and higher road maintenance costs.

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