Could Self-Driving Cars Prevent Accidents?

ISTOCK IMAGE ID 19426551For decades, the plotlines in sci-fi novels and futuristic movies have mercilessly nurtured every tired driver’s dream: the idea that one day, cars might drive themselves. The convenience of such a technology would be incredible, but another benefit that may not initially come to mind is a safer driving experience for road travelers.

Studies, like this one by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over the years have clearly shown that in car crashes, drivers are likely responsible for the majority of events that lead up to a crash. One could argue that even if auto-piloted cars became available for commercial sale, the auto-industry would take its time in committing to the mass sale and production of such cars.

However, that day might be closer than you think. According to a new article by the Wall Street Journal, a new report released by consulting firm McKinsey & Co predicts that auto piloted cars will begin to be widely adopted by 2030, and will cut down on about 90% of all accidents. While the transition to a majority of self piloted cars could take time, the report estimates it could end up saving the United States $190 billion annually in healthcare costs. After consulting with numerous manufacturers in the auto industry, the report says it is confident many companies will begin commercially selling fully auto-piloted cars within the next decade, and a Tesla executive predicts the first fully self-piloted car will be ready within the next 5 years.

Of course, these predictions are subject to fickle consumers, skeptical automakers and unpredictable events surely to happen in the auto industry’s future, so whether or not auto piloted cars are actually able to effectively cut back on accidents will rely heavily on whether or not the industry meaningfully takes them on as a product.

TheWall Street Journal article itself is skeptical; it recalls the hydrogen fuel cell craze of the early 2000s and how the predictions for the “fuel revolution” eventually rang comically hollow. However, it’s hard to say whether or not self piloted cars will meet the same fate, as the implications and benefits of a car that drives are radically different than that of an expensive substitute fuel source.

Regardless of external business factors the pace and direction of the technology is pretty clear: these cars will be available to us very soon, whether we buy them or not.


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