Autonomous cars have emerged as one of the most transformative technologies in recent times, promising to revolutionize how we commute and reduce road accidents significantly. As these self-driving vehicles become more prevalent on our roads, it’s crucial to examine the current landscape of autonomous car accidents and statistics to understand the potential risks and benefits associated with this technology. 

This blog post will explore the current state of autonomous car accidents and statistics related to their safety. We will also examine the factors contributing to these accidents and discuss potential solutions for improving autonomous vehicle safety.

The Rise of Autonomous Cars

Autonomous cars, also known as self-driving cars, driverless cars, or robotic cars, are equipped with advanced technology, such as sensors and cameras, to navigate and operate without human intervention. These vehicles use a combination of radar, LiDAR, sonar, GPS, and other systems to perceive their surroundings. They also have sophisticated software and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that enable them to make real-time decisions.

The concept of autonomous cars has been around for decades, but it wasn’t until the 2010s that this field made significant progress. Major companies like Tesla, Honda, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Uber, and Google’s Waymo have invested heavily in developing self-driving vehicles. 

The SAE International has classified autonomous cars into six levels based on their level of automation. The SAE Levels of Driving Automation (SAE J3016) include:

  • SAE Level 0 (Momentary Driver Assistance): The driver is entirely responsible for the vehicle’s control, and there is no automation.
  • SAE Level 1 (Driver Assistance): The car can assist with steering or acceleration/deceleration but not simultaneously. It still requires a human driver to monitor the environment continuously.
  • SAE Level 2 (Additional Assistance): The car can assist with steering and acceleration/deceleration simultaneously, but the driver must remain engaged in driving tasks.
  • SAE Level 3 (Conditional Automation): The vehicle can manage most aspects of driving under certain conditions, but a human driver must be ready to take over if needed.
  • SAE Level 4 (High Automation): The vehicle can perform all aspects of driving in certain conditions without human intervention, but a driver may still need to take over in emergencies.
  • SAE Level 5 (Full Automation): The vehicle can perform all aspects of driving under all conditions without human intervention.

Automated cars in SAE levels 1 and 2 use advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to enhance driver safety and comfort. On the other hand, autonomous vehicles in SAE levels 3 to 5 use automated driving systems (ADS) that can operate without human input. 

Interestingly, most self-driving cars on the road today fall into SAE levels 1 and 2. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that no commercially available vehicles in the U.S. have achieved SAE level 3 or higher. Limited level 4 robo-taxis are currently in operation in certain cities, but no car currently on the market is capable of level 5 automation.

According to a report by Allied Market Research, the global autonomous car market will likely reach $556.67 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 39.47% from 2019 to 2026. The increasing demand for safer and more efficient modes of transportation drives this rapid growth. However, as with any new technology, there are concerns about the safety and reliability of autonomous cars. 

The Benefits of Autonomous Cars

Autonomous cars have the potential to bring several benefits. These vehicles can significantly impact our daily lives, from protection against human error to improved traffic flow. 

The ability of autonomous vehicles to communicate with each other and predict potential hazards makes them inherently safer than traditional vehicles. As the technology matures and gains wider acceptance, the positive impact on overall road safety will become increasingly evident.

Here are some of the critical benefits of autonomous cars.

Autonomous Cars Reduce Accidents

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has reported that 94% of road accidents are due to human error. Drivers can be distracted, tired, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, resulting in thousands of fatalities and injuries each year. Autonomous cars have the potential to reduce these accidents significantly as they can operate without human intervention, eliminating the possibility of human error.

Autonomous Cars Improve Traffic Flow and Efficiency

Self-driving cars improve traffic flow by reducing congestion on roads. These vehicles use real-time data to navigate and can communicate with each other, enabling them to coordinate better and avoid collisions. This quality results in a smoother traffic flow, reducing commute times and fuel consumption. Autonomous cars also reduce congestion by eliminating the need for drivers to search for parking spaces manually and preventing human error-related accidents and traffic jams.

Autonomous Cars Provide Greater Accessibility

Autonomous cars offer a newfound sense of independence, especially for people with disabilities or limited mobility. These vehicles can provide transportation services for people who cannot drive, helping them lead more active and fulfilling lives. They also offer a convenient mode of transportation for the elderly, reducing their dependence on others.

Autonomous Cars Help Protect the Environment

Since autonomous cars run on electricity, they have a lower carbon footprint compared to traditional vehicles. They also reduce traffic congestion, which results in reduced emissions and improved air quality. With the rise of electric and self-driving cars, we can expect a significant reduction in air pollution and its harmful effects on our health and environment.

The Safety of Autonomous Cars

The growing popularity of autonomous cars begs the question, “How safe are autonomous cars?” As with traditional cars, these vehicles must comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs).  

The U.S. DOT stated that “ADSs have the potential to significantly reduce highway fatalities by addressing the root cause of these tragic crashes.” By eliminating human error, autonomous cars can prevent accidents caused by reckless or distracted driving. However, the technology is still evolving and requires extensive testing and regulation to ensure its safety.

The challenge for automakers and regulators is determining how safe is “safe enough” when it comes to autonomous cars. While we may never achieve a zero percent crash rate, the aim should be to reduce accidents significantly compared to human-driven vehicles. The development of advanced sensors, software, and machine learning will continue to improve the safety features and reliability of autonomous vehicles. Ultimately, the goal is to build trust in this technology and encourage wider adoption by addressing safety concerns.

Notable Auto Manufacturers and Their Autonomous Vehicles

Several top automakers are investing heavily in the research and development of autonomous cars. Here are some notable companies working on self-driving technology.


Waymo, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., is considered one of the pioneers in autonomous vehicle technology. In 2018, they launched their first commercial self-driving taxi service in Phoenix, Arizona. Waymo’s fleet of vehicles has driven over 20 million miles on public roads in 2020.

In January 2023, Waymo achieved one million rider-only miles, demonstrating their progress in making autonomous cars a reality for the everyday consumer. Only two collisions were included in the NHTSA’s Crash Investigation Sampling System (CISS) database for the first million miles of driverless operation. There were no reported injuries, and 55% of the events were due to a human driver colliding with a stationary Waymo vehicle.


Tesla, an American electric vehicle and clean energy company, is known for its Autopilot feature that offers partial self-driving capabilities. In 2020, Tesla announced their new “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) package, which promises to achieve full autonomy in the future.

While there have been reports of accidents involving Tesla’s Autopilot feature, the company claims it has a lower crash rate than human drivers. Tesla’s FSD package is currently in beta testing, and the company continues to gather data and improve its capabilities.


Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors, is an American self-driving technology company. In September 2021, Cruise received a permit from the California DMV to offer driverless taxis without a safety driver behind the wheel. They debuted to the public in San Francisco in February 2022.

In September 2022, Cruise announced they would expand their self-driving taxi service to Phoenix, Arizona, and Austin, Texas. Unfortunately, the California DMV suspended Cruise’s permit in October 2023 following a pedestrian collision and numerous reports of safety issues.

Autonomous Car Accident Statistics 

In recent years, there have been several accidents involving self-driving cars. The following autonomous car accident statistics provide a glimpse into the safety of these vehicles:

  • In 2021, the National Law Review reported that the average self-driving car accident rate was 9.1 per million miles driven. In comparison, the accident rate for traditional vehicles is 4.1 accidents per million miles.
  • The NHTSA received 392 reports of crashes involving level 2 ADAS vehicles in June 2022. Tesla had the most accidents reported, with 273 incidents, followed by Honda with 90.
  • There were 130 recorded crashes involving ADS vehicles in June 2022. Waymo accounted for 62 crashes, Transdev Alternative Services reported 34 incidents, and Cruise LLC of General Motors reported 23.
  • From May to September 2022, self-driving cars were involved in 11 fatal crashes across the country. 10 of these fatalities were in Tesla vehicles, but the NHTSA did not state whether the crashes were driver-operated or in autopilot mode.
  • The San Francisco Chronicle published that Waymo reported 150 crashes involving their driverless cars to the NHTSA. These accidents occurred between July 2021 and August 2023.
  • The California DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) reported 674 autonomous vehicle collisions as of December 1, 2023.

How many self-driving car accidents per year varies as the technology is still in its early stages. These statistics show that autonomous cars may have a lower accident rate than human-driven vehicles, but there is room for improvement. As the industry continues to make advancements in safety features and regulations, we can expect further advances in safety features and fewer accidents involving self-driving cars.

Still, it’s crucial to remember that accidents can happen with any vehicle and technology. The development of autonomous cars is a continuous process, and the goal is to create a safer road environment for everyone. 

Causes of Autonomous Car Accidents

Despite safety measures and regulations, self-driving cars are unfortunately not without risks. The following are some common causes of autonomous car accidents.

Technology Errors

As with any machinery, design or technical failures are possible. Autonomous cars rely heavily on technology, and any glitches or errors can lead to accidents. Some examples of technology errors include:

  • Faulty Sensors: Autonomous vehicles use various sensors, such as cameras, radar, and LiDAR, to perceive their surroundings. If any of these sensors malfunction or fail to detect an obstacle, it could result in a collision or other accidents. For example, a sensor failure can cause the car to miss a stop sign or traffic light, miscalculate distances, or fail to detect people, objects, or another vehicle.
  • Software Malfunction: Self-driving cars use complex algorithms and software to operate, which are complex and constantly evolving. A glitch or bug in the code can cause the vehicle to make an incorrect decision, leading to an accident.
  • Inaccurate Mapping Data: Autonomous cars use mapping data to navigate roads and make decisions. If the mapping data is erroneous or not up-to-date, it could cause the vehicle to make a wrong turn or miss important information, resulting in an accident. 

Human Error

While one of the main goals of autonomous cars is to eliminate human error in driving, there are still some cases where a person’s actions can lead to accidents involving self-driving vehicles. Some examples include:

  • Interference With the Vehicle’s Controls: Passengers or other individuals may interfere with the vehicle’s controls, disrupting its intended operation. Overriding the vehicle’s controls without proper knowledge or authorization can lead to accidents.
  • Misuse of Features: Autonomous cars come equipped with features such as cruise control and autopilot, which require proper usage and understanding from the driver. If these features are misused, it could lead to accidents.
  • Driving Under the Influence: While self-driving cars are designed to eliminate the risk of driving under the influence, individuals may still attempt to operate these vehicles while intoxicated, leading to accidents.
  • Falling Asleep at the Wheel: Despite the advanced technology in autonomous cars, drivers may still become drowsy or fall asleep behind the wheel, causing accidents.
  • Overconfidence in Technology: Some drivers may become overconfident and complacent when using autonomous cars, leading to a lack of attention and slower reaction times in emergencies. This overconfidence can also lead to a false sense of security, causing drivers to take unnecessary risks.

Moreover, a self-driving car’s safety driver or operator is not always to blame for human errors. Some accidents involving self-driving vehicles occur due to the negligence or recklessness of other drivers on the road. Whether it’s distracted driving, jaywalking, failure to follow traffic rules, or poor interaction with self-driving cars, human error is still a common cause of accidents involving autonomous vehicles.

Cybersecurity Threats

Autonomous cars are connected to the internet and rely on software to operate. This connectivity can make them vulnerable to hacking and cyberattacks. If a hacker gains control of the vehicle’s systems, they could interfere with the vehicle’s sensors and cause an accident. They can also steal sensitive information from the car’s computer. Cybersecurity threats are a significant concern for self-driving cars that manufacturers and regulators must address to ensure the safety of these vehicles.

Weather-Related Challenges

Weather conditions can pose challenges for autonomous vehicles, leading to accidents. Heavy rain, snow, or fog can impact the vehicle’s sensors and make it difficult for the car to perceive its surroundings accurately. Additionally, adverse weather conditions can affect a self-driving car’s traction and braking systems, making it more susceptible to accidents.

Road Infrastructure Issues

Self-driving cars use road markings and signals to navigate. Any deficiencies or changes in the infrastructure can pose challenges for these vehicles. For example, faded or missing lane markings, inconsistent traffic signals, and road construction can confuse the vehicle’s sensors and lead to accidents. Tunnels, bridges, and overpasses can also cause navigation challenges for self-driving cars.

Determining Liability in Autonomous Car Accidents

One of the biggest questions surrounding self-driving cars is who is responsible in the event of an accident. Is it the manufacturer, software developer, or human operator? The answer is not always straightforward and depends on several factors.

Product Liability

In cases where technology or equipment failure causes accidents involving autonomous vehicles, product liability laws may come into play. These laws hold manufacturers liable for any damages or injuries caused by a faulty product. In the case of self-driving cars, this could include issues with sensors, software, or other components.

Operator Responsibility

In some cases, the human operator may be responsible for an accident involving an autonomous car. For example, the driver could be liable if they misused features or interfered with the vehicle’s controls during the accident. Additionally, if the driver failed to intervene when the vehicle’s warning signals alerted them, they may be at fault.

Government Regulations

As self-driving cars become more prevalent on our roads, governments are working to establish guidelines and regulations for their use. In cases where accidents occur due to a lack of proper regulations or oversight, the government may share some responsibility. Governments need to work closely with manufacturers and developers to ensure the safety of self-driving cars. 

Steps for Improving Autonomous Car Safety

Despite the potential challenges and risks associated with self-driving cars, there are steps we can take to improve their safety. These include:

  • Constant Testing and Evaluation: Autonomous cars should undergo rigorous testing and evaluation in various scenarios to identify potential hazards, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.
  • Proper Maintenance: Regular maintenance of self-driving vehicles is essential to ensure the appropriate functioning of all components, including sensors, cameras, software, and other systems. 
  • Continuous Software Updates: As technology advances and new potential risks arise, providing constant software updates for self-driving cars is crucial. These updates can address any vulnerabilities or issues that may occur.
  • Education and Training: Proper education and training for operators, users, and other road users can help prevent accidents involving autonomous vehicles. This knowledge includes understanding how self-driving cars work, safety protocols, and how to interact with them on the road.
  • Collaboration and Communication: To ensure the safety of self-driving cars, there needs to be open communication and collaboration between manufacturers, regulators, and other stakeholders. This cooperation can help identify potential risks and develop solutions to address them proactively.


Autonomous cars have the potential to revolutionize transportation and make our roads safer. However, automakers, regulators, and stakeholders must still address significant challenges and risks to ensure the safety of these vehicles. Autonomous car accident statistics show that while human error is still a common cause of accidents, we must continue to work on improving the technology and regulations surrounding self-driving cars.  

Despite their potential benefits, autonomous cars are still in their early stages of development and may cause harm to individuals and property without proper precautions. Victims of autonomous car accidents can seek legal action against the responsible parties to receive compensation for damages and injuries.

If you were involved in a car accident and need advice or representation, view our car accident lawyers page here.


Who is responsible for autonomous car crashes?

The responsibility for autonomous car crashes can vary depending on the circumstances. It could be the manufacturer, software developer, human operator, or a combination of these parties. Product liability laws may also come into play in cases where technology or equipment failure caused the accident.

How safe are autonomous cars?

Many autonomous cars, including Waymo and Cruise, are already on the road. However, self-driving car accidents still occur, and there are ongoing challenges to address to ensure their safety. The technology and regulations surrounding autonomous cars are continually evolving to improve their security.  

How many Waymo cars have crashed?

Between July 2021 and August 2023, Waymo’s self-driving cars were involved in 150 accidents. However, most of these were caused by human-operated vehicles, not the autonomous cars themselves.

What is the main cause of self-driving car accidents?

While there are various potential causes of self-driving car accidents, human error is still the most common. These errors may include improper use of features, failure to intervene when alerted by the vehicle’s warning signals, or interference with the car’s controls during an accident. Other factors like road conditions and equipment failure can also contribute to autonomous vehicle accidents. 

What is the accident rate of autonomous driving?

The accident rate for autonomous driving is currently lower than that of human-operated vehicles. However, as the technology continues to evolve and more self-driving cars hit the road, there is still a need for continuous monitoring and improvements to maintain this low accident rate. Moreover, government regulations and collaboration between stakeholders also play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of autonomous vehicles on our roads.