Advances in technology has made driving more convenient and safer these days. And now with the advent of self-driving cars, vehicle owners can just sit back and relax inside their vehicle without having to stir the wheel. Or they can just let their cars drive on their own to where they want it to go. With more high-tech and intelligent cars on the road in the coming years, many are questioning if the rate of road accidents can also be reduced. Recent reports point to the affirmative.
A 2015 report noted that car accident deaths can be cut by 90 percent if human errors and emotions are taken out of the equation. This translates to nearly 300,000 saved lives and $190 billion in healthcare savings. On a global level, 10 million lives will be saved per decade. The report issued by consulting firm McKinsey & Company added that car crashes will eventually drop from its current second to ninth place in terms of lethal accident types.
Recent research done on autonomous vehicles showed that human error was the main cause of road mishaps involving driverless cars. In addition to lowering the number of deaths caused by car accidents, the use of driverless vehicles can also free up a user’s time by up to 50 minutes on a daily basis. This means one billion free hours can be enjoyed by users worldwide.
A new report issued by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IoME) also claimed that autonomous cars can prevent all traffic accidents by 95 percent. This finding was arrived at after the researchers took into account the National Highway Traffic Safety Association’s report stating that 95 percent of road accidents are due to driver error. Thus when drivers are removed from the equation, there’s a big chance that accidents involving vehicles can be greatly reduced.
On the other hand, a study by the Transportation Research Institute of the University of Michigan showed that because driverless cars always follow traffic laws, road accidents involving them are twice as high as those for regular cars. However, the vehicles were found not to be at fault as they were usually hit from behind during slow-speed collisions caused by inattentive or aggressive drivers.
Causes of Accidents
The high number of road accidents notably the rear-end crashes involving these autonomous cars may also be due to the fact that they behave differently and human drivers are still taken by surprise when they are behind these high-tech vehicles. For instance, these cars stop or slow down in situations when a human driver will not. And since they act abruptly such as when they sense a pedestrian, those behind them are often caught off-guard and in worse cases, cause personal injury to pedestrians and drivers.
Google, one of the pioneers in making these self-driving cars, is committed to make its vehicles more like humans. Latest reports say the company is working on making its cars more law-abiding and safe that they can naturally fit in the traffic flow and be better understood by people.
Concerned citizens are hoping that manufacturers of these autonomous cars will look into the current issues and find solutions to ensure that when these vehicles hit the streets in the near future, there would be lesser accidents and better interaction with human drivers. The Institute of Mechanical Engineers, for their part, is calling for new regulatory regimes, training for owners of self-driving cars and new signage and markings to better prepare people for these high-tech automobiles.
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