Quite simply, drivers are the cause of nearly every problem on the road.
In fact, government research has shown that driver error is likely the chief reason in over 90 percent of all vehicle crashes. And that’s not even factoring in traffic and other highway and city road issues.
This has a lot to do with why there has been a growing push to develop self-driving vehicles for mass production.
And a computer operated self-driving vehicle is essentially the model motorist. These kinds of driverless vehicles would eliminate the outside factors that plague their human counterparts. Computers have much quicker reaction times and also do not drink and drive, use illegal substances, get distracted, run red lights or tail too closely to other vehicles on the road.
Still, there is a lot of public apprehension in entrusting a computer to get individuals and freight to a destination safely. Consumers would need to be educated on the concept in order to understand why this is a necessary step toward enhancing driver and passenger safety as well as reassured that the technology is without vulnerabilities.
Meanwhile, tech and car companies alike are continually investing in the development of proprietary driverless car technology, which was widely displayed at this year's Consumer ElectronicShow (CES). Just recently the consumer transport company, Uber, reacted to Google's self-driving car project by teaming up with Carnegie Mellon University to develop its own driverless car and mapping technology. This could potentially put the ride share company in direct competition with its largest investor, Google..
While the technology is still years away from being fully operational, there are plenty of positive and negative factors to consider in a world with self-driving vehicles:
Inherently, humans make mistakes. Whether it’s a choice or an oversight, this will always be true. According to one government study, computer operated self-driving vehicles will eliminate incidents involving alcohol, distraction, drugs, fatigue, speeding, aggressive driving, over-compensation, inexperience, slow reaction times, inattention and various other human driver shortcomings.
“Accidents happen” doesn’t need to be accepted as a fact. With computer operated vehicles, the benefits are such that if only 10 percent of vehicles were self-driving, they could reduce traffic deaths by approximately 1,000 per year and produce nearly $38 billion in economic and other savings, according to a study by the Eno Center for Transportation.
And if 90 percent of cars, trucks and vans were self-driving, in the region of 21,700 lives per year could be saved, and economic and other benefits could reach upwards of $447 billion.
The Eno Center of Transportation also noted that when a majority of self-driving cars are on the road, they can begin "platooning" – driving closely together but keeping a secure distance between one another without the gas-guzzling, time-wasting, stop-and-go characteristics of traffic congestion as we know it now. This would allow for smoother traffic flows, reduce lengthy commute times and even increase highway capacity.
According to Eno Center’s study, each self-driving vehicle would require added sensors, software, engineering and power and computing requirements that presently tally over $100,000 per vehicle, which is an astronomical number that would be unaffordable for most people.
In an age where devices can be controlled from anywhere in the world, people have reservations when it comes to vehicles that are maneuvered by a computer. In a recent poll conducted for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Auto Alliance), 81 percent of the respondents said they were concerned that hackers would be able to gain control of a self-driving vehicle.
Lastly, most people like to keep private. So a car or truck that is being operated by a computer is bound to have a lot of information on it. And in the same Auto Alliance survey, 75 percent of the respondents said they were concerned that companies would use the software from a self-driving car to gather personal data, and 70 percent were apprehensive because they believed this data would then be shared with government agencies.
What do you think? Would you like to see our current vehicles be replaced with a fleet of autonomous cars?
Dennis P. Jaconi heads Teletrac's content marketing and editorial team. He also contributes insight into the ever-changing world of m2m technology to our blog. He loves to speak directly with customers to learn how comapnies are leveraging GPS software for improved business efficiency and a reduction of carbon emissions from their vehicles. To read these stories visit his Teletrac customer story archive.