Self-driving cars, once considered a far-off impossibility, are becoming an existing commodity with the potential to change the face of driving for the modern population. One of the major benefits touted by Google, the major developer and proponent of these automobiles, is their ability to drastically reduce the number of automobile accidents. In the U.S. alone, traffic collisions are responsible for around 33,000 fatalities per year according to Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn cofounder. Current estimates by researchers state that driverless cars could potentially lessen these deaths by as much as 90% by midcentury; here are four reasons why.
Computers See Things Humans Can’t
As humans are fallible creatures, with a number of factors influencing their ability to competently navigate a vehicle, it is not surprising that most automobile accidents (an estimated 90%) are due to human error. Even if a person is driving with complete control of his or her faculties, a computer can simply observe things that he or she cannot. The system uses tools such as infrared sensors, cameras, meticulous 3D roadmaps, lasers and more to take stock of the surroundings. Because of this, it can manage tasks such as accelerating and braking faster, observing objects behind barriers, precisely determining distance at speed, and more.
Drinking and Driving Will Be a Thing of the Past
Research shows that alcohol is a factor in more than a third of traffic-related fatalities. Self-driving cars take the driver out of the equation, so the chance of this is eliminated. These cars are also unaffected by sleep-deprivation, the distraction of texting while driving, road rage actions and similar interferences.
The Statistics Are Clear
Google’s self-driving vehicles have been on the road and logged more than 1 million miles since 2009. Over that time, they have been involved in only 16 accidents (as of August 2015), none of which were found to be the fault of the self-driving car. Recent years have seen the introduction of network-based applications such as Waze, which employs smartphone GPS resources to generate information on road conditions, traffic accidents, and similar up-to-date statistics. However, Waze is still dependent on human reporting. Vehicles that are autonomous, in comparison, will be adept at taking in and reacting to information without the human involvement.
What Needs to Happen
In order for the self-driving car revolution to happen as smoothly and quickly as possible, the government will have to work to create spaces that are friendly to these vehicles. Initially it might be necessary to create spaces that will be solely devoted to autonomous automobiles, as some issues have come up when they come into contact with human-navigated cars. When these changes are in place, the roads will eventually become much safer and the act of driving and riding will be a completely different experience for all involved.