Are Autonomous Vehicles Dangerous to Riders?

The automotive industry is banking on autonomous vehicles in the future. These self-driving cars are supposed to solve traffic problems, reduce traffic damage and improve safety on the road. So far, the numbers are pretty impressive, but for motorcyclists, recent incidents raise safety concerns about how these vehicles interact with riders and their bikes.

Could Autonomous Vehicles Actually Put Motorcyclists in Danger?

Back in 2016, we brought you the story of a woman riding her motorcycle down a Norwegian highway when her bike was struck from behind. The woman survived the crash, but the detail that concerned safety experts was the fact that she was hit by a Tesla Model S that was in autopilot mode. This raised concerns about whether autonomous vehicles were being designed with the safety of motorcyclists in mind. That question is being revived here in the United States.

A motorcyclist in San Francisco collided with a GM autonomous vehicle while stuck in heavy traffic on Oak Street. Once the police arrived, three versions of what happened emerged. The rider claimed he was riding behind the GM vehicle when it changed lanes. He rode forward, and the self-driving vehicle suddenly reentered the lane, striking him. GM claims that after an aborted lane change, the autonomous vehicle was re-centering itself when a lane-splitting motorcyclist entered the lane and collided with the vehicle. The police report also claimed that the rider was lane-splitting, but that the backup driver inside the autonomous vehicle had tried to take over steering but was unable to intervene in time.

This incident has led to a lawsuit, the rider claiming that he suffered neck and shoulder injuries that will take a long time to heal. That means each of these stories will be fully examined in court, but the crash itself is leaving other questions that need to be noted not only by autonomous vehicle makers, but by motorcyclists too.

Did the autonomous vehicle detect the motorcyclist that it collided with? If so, why did the vehicle continue in the direction of the rider until they collided? If not, why didn’t the vehicle detect the rider? Will other autonomous vehicles properly detect motorcyclists, and are they programmed to account for the safety of these vulnerable road users?

Autonomous vehicles have a lot of promise when it comes to safety, but if motorcycles aren’t a part of that plan of safety, could it become more dangerous to ride in the future? The motorcycling attorneys at Metier Law Firm will continue to watch the growing self-driving industry and keep you informed of the latest developments.


Tom Metier

Tom Metier

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