Driverless Vehicles Often Involved in Hit-and-Run Accidents With Human Drivers: Report

Human drivers are often confused over what to do when they have an accident with a driverless vehicle, resulting in a number of hit-and-run incidents

As U.S. streets see a growing number of completely driverless vehicles, a new investigative report highlights the growing problems with hit-and-run car accidents involving the self-driving technology in the San Francisco area.

According to an NBC News report released last month, nearly 600 driverless accidents have occurred in San Francisco, with many involving popular services like Waymo and Cruise, which operate in the area.

Although driverless car companies typically report any collisions automatically that result in property damage, injuries, or death, the report highlights that human drivers often aren’t clear on what they need to do at the scene of an accident involving a driverless vehicle, especially when they are responsible for the crash.

Hit-and-Run Accidents With Driverless Cars Are Common

Data from the California Department of Motor Vehicles shows that in 2022, there were 36 incidents where a human driver failed to report a collision with a driverless vehicle.

In one such driverless accident, an autonomous vehicle operated by Cruise hit a car doing donuts in the middle of an intersection. Another hit-and-run event involved a human driver who fled the scene after they repeatedly rear-ended a Cruise branded driverless car at a stoplight.

These hit-and-run accidents are most common in tech friendly areas like San Francisco, where General Motors is operates a daily driverless taxi service through its subsidiary company Cruise. However, as self-driving technology advances and driverless cars are seen more frequently in communities throughout the U.S., the data may signal an unexpected issue that needs to be addressed.

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Legal experts advise human drivers involved in an accident with a driverless vehicle to stay at the scene and contact local authorities to document the crash. However, the advanced technology of driverless cars often causes people to react differently than if they were involved in a “regular” car accident with another human driver.

Some human drivers incorrectly assume they are not responsible for any property damage or injuries sustained in a driverless car accident, even if they caused the collision. Others are not sure how to contact the manufacturers of driverless cars to report the accident and exchange information. Many driverless car companies like Cruise don’t have contact information displayed on their vehicles.

Self-Driving Cars Linked to Deadly Accidents As Technology is Tested

Fortunately, most of the driverless car hit-and-run incidents detailed in the NBC News investigation did not result in injuries. However, there have been a number of high-profile self-driving car accidents that have resulted in severe, and sometimes fatal injuries since the technology emerged.

In February, a Tesla self-driving recall was issued for certain vehicles equipped with the technology, after faulty software caused several fatal crashes.

An earlier Tesla recall in November 2021 was issued after a computerized braking system update caused some models to stop unexpectedly in traffic.

In response to the growing safety threats posed by the evolving technology self-driving cars, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched several self-driving car accident investigations in recent years, and now requires manufacturers to report car accidents when the cutting-edge technology goes wrong.


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