Self-driving cars have been touted as the future of transportation, but they are not without their risks. As autonomous vehicles become more commonplace, it is important to understand what causes most fatal accidents involving self-driving cars.

Common Causes of Serious Autonomous Vehicle Crashes

  • Human Error
  • Sensor failures
  • Software bugs and glitches
  • Insufficient object detection
  • Human error in transitioning control
  • Cybersecurity vulnerabilities
  • Infrastructure and road condition challenges
  • Technical Issues 
  • Legal and regulatory complexities
  • Limited testing in real-world scenarios


Human Error

The majority of fatal accidents involving self-driving cars involve human error. In many cases, drivers fail to pay attention to the road and do not react quickly enough when an automated vehicle makes a mistake. Fully autonomous vehicles that do not require a human in the driver’s seat have not quite made their way to public roads yet. They are in testing currently, but the current advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) on the road still allow for human error and still must be monitored by a human.

Technical Issues & Faults

Technical issues can also lead to fatal accidents with self-driving cars. Autonomous vehicles rely on sophisticated sensors and software systems that require proper maintenance and calibration for them to function correctly. If these systems fail or are not properly updated, they can cause the car to make mistakes that could lead to a fatal accident.

Inadequate Testing & Safety Protocol

Inadequate testing and safety protocols also have the potential to cause serious, sometimes fatal accidents. Automakers must thoroughly test their vehicles before releasing them onto public roads to ensure that they are safe for use by consumers. Some manufacturers have released their vehicles without proper testing or safety protocols in place – often this results in a vehicle recall (e.g. Takata airbag recalls). Unfortunately, these vehicle recalls are often prompted by a failure of some kind, which can have tragic consequences for unsuspecting drivers and pedestrians alike.

Poor Road Conditions & Inclement Weather

Poor road conditions can also contribute to fatal accidents with self-driving cars. Autonomous vehicles rely on accurate mapping data to navigate safely through their environment. If this data is inaccurate or out of date, the car may make mistakes that could lead to a crash or other dangerous situations on the road.

Overall, understanding what causes most fatal accidents with self-driving cars is essential for ensuring public safety as autonomous vehicles become more common on our roads. Human error remains one of the biggest contributors to these types of crashes; however, technical issues and inadequate testing protocols can also play a role in these tragedies as well as poor road conditions that may confuse automated vehicles’ navigation systems.