A new study has said that self-driving cars, which are expected to eliminate road accidents in the future, may prevent only one-third of all crashes.

The study was conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a US-based non-profit organisation funded by auto insurance companies.

According to a national survey of police-reported crashes, around nine out of ten crashes occur due to driver error.

IIHS analysis indicates that autonomous driving technology would have prevented only one-third of those crashes.

The study also emphasised prioritising safety over speed and convenience while designing self-driving cars to reduce accident risks.

IIHS vice-president for research and a co-author of the study Jessica Cicchino said: “It’s likely that fully self-driving cars will eventually identify hazards better than people, but we found that this alone would not prevent the bulk of crashes.”

Overall, IIHS researchers evaluated more than 5,000 police-reported crashes from the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey.

Around one-third of all crashes occurred due to sensing and perception errors or due to driver incapacitation, it found.

The study assumed that the use of autonomous vehicles may help in avoiding such accidents, as the presence of cameras and other sensors help the self-driving unit to perceive hazards better than a human driver.

The remaining two-thirds of accidents, which happened due to predicting, decision-making and performance errors, may continue to occur, unless the self-driving cars are programmed to avoid them.

IIHS research scientist and lead author of the study Alexandra Mueller said: “Our analysis shows that it will be crucial for designers to prioritise safety over rider preferences if autonomous vehicles are to live up to their promise to be safer than human drivers.”