Do today’s self-driving cars mark a revolutionary new form of transportation, or are they a dangerous risk to those on our roads? Whether you drive yourself or take public transport, you likely have an opinion about the smart cars that stand to populate our streets. Recently, the National Safety Council reported that more than 40,000 people lost their lives in connection with traffic accidents in 2017. Researchers believe that self-driving vehicles may be the answer to driver distraction, and proponents of semi-autonomous vehicles believe that AI-directed cars will make driving safer, easier, and less of a hassle for day-to-day drivers. Others, however, caution against the risks of quite literally handing the keys over to robotic drivers. But what are the risks, really? In this piece, I’ll take a closer look at the pros and cons of allowing self-driving cars out in full force on California’s streets.
- Since 90 percent of vehicle collisions are the result of driver error, the relative consistency and reliability of computerized drivers may reduce the risks human distraction, unpredictability, and poor vehicle knowledge may pose on the road.
- Computer-operated vehicles are void of distraction.
- The navigation technology autonomous and semi-autonomous cars utilize is powered by a series of algorithms that continually monitor the space around a self-driving vehicle and perform evasive measures when needed.
- The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that each human life is worth approximately $9.2 million dollars in terms of healthcare and insurance costs. By reducing vehicle collisions, the savings would be in the billions of dollars each year.
- Self-driving vehicles would enhance the freedom and mobility of disabled individuals who rely heavily on public transportation.
- Vehicles capable of safely traveling down roadways with little to no human intervention would dramatically reduce the number of collisions related to alcohol or substance abuse.
- Cars and trucks equipped with self-driving would reduce the number of traffic accidents and infractions, which would enable law enforcement officers to focus on more serious crimes.
- The technology needed to create self-driving vehicles easily exceeds $100,000, which makes the vehicles too expensive for the majority of everyday drivers.
- The computerized technology would be susceptible to hackers.
- Precipitation could wreak havoc with external sensory systems, which decrease the safety technology of the vehicles.
- The technology is not up to speed. Self-driving vehicles have been implicated in two fatal traffic accidents in 2017 and 2018. The first incident involved a semi turned in front of a Tesla Model S, which killed the driver of the car. The second accident occurred in California when the vehicle failed to detect a pedestrian in the roadway, which resulted in a fatality.
Self-driving cars haven’t quite hit the mainstream yet, but they likely will in the next few years. Ultimately, the choice to buy in or keep away from the movement falls to you; assess the risks and decide accordingly!