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Are self-driving vehicles a safe option for Montreal roads?

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Earlier this summer, a pilot project was launched in Montreal that offered area residents and visitors free rides in a self-driving bus. Although it only takes riders from Olympic Stadium to the Maisonneuve Market, the results have been positive. So far, some area residents have gone on record as saying that they enjoy the reduced element of possible human error behind the wheel (especially when compared to traditional public transportation). This is just one more move toward the goal of safer roads in Montreal. However, despite the local feedback, other self-driving vehicle test programs have not been as well-received due to the need for continued improvements. With the current mixed feelings on the topic, many wonder whether self-driving vehicles will be a truly safe option for Montreal roads.

How serious is the need for a safer alternative on the road?

With accidents occurring on Montreal roads daily, including the terrible Highway 440 incident that left four people dead and 15 injured on August 5th, concerned drivers are continuously looking for ways to prevent future deaths and injuries. One proposed way to achieve this goal is through the use of self-driving vehicles. In all of Québec, 359 individuals were killed in auto accidents in 2018, 1,435 were critically injured, and 33,716 were slightly injured (as reported by the SAAQ). While many of these numbers have decreased since 2017, there is still a big desire among many to continue reducing the number of road injuries and fatalities. This is especially true for accidents caused by human error, which the NHTSA says causes 94% of all accidents.

How does the safety of self-driving vehicles compare?

With so much room for improvement in driver safety, it makes sense to explore the current safety records of self-driving vehicles, especially as they relate to those driven by humans. However, when compared to the current self-driving test models, it is challenging to accurately compare figures. Since there hasn’t been much real-world use of these vehicles (especially at the scale of current vehicles), it is difficult to know the scope of improvements that could be made in Montreal. Unfortunately, news stories about the dangers of self-driving technology have often taken center stage in the media. When a woman was killed in 2018 during Uber self-driving testing, and an Uber accident lawyer settled with the family, many learned about the needs for improvement in the technology. Even with models designed for simple ridesharing, the vehicles can almost never be 100% safe.

What does the future of self-driving vehicles look like in Montreal?

As the test program of Montreal’s first self-driving bus continues on, and as talk of the release of self-driving vehicles continues to heat up, it is obvious that there will be a place for this technology in the future. Although there have been several serious incidents that gained media attention, eliminating just some of the human-related errors that lead to devastating crashes will almost certainly make local roads safer in the near future.

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