I want a world of self driving cars. I want urban fleets of ride-share cars that drive themselves to pick up riders before returning to a central depot. I want drastically reduced car accidents and insurance rates. I want highways funded through something other than bad driving fines.
Picture this: You wake in the morning and get ready for work. You step into your self driving car and tell it to take you to Starbucks. On the way, you can talk on the phone or answer email. Once you have your coffee, you tell your car to take you to work. You can read your news feed or drink your coffee in peace.
Now you might scoff and say people don’t need to read or talk or text while driving, and in theory I agree. But in practice, need or none, drivers do try to multitask their way down the highway. They look at their phones in one hand while holding fast food in the other, without even noticing the pedestrians they are gunning down.
Pedestrian deaths in vehicular accidents number over 4,500 a year, with nearly 1,000 additional cyclist deaths. In many of these deaths, the slain pedestrian was obeying traffic laws, but the driver wasn’t. Race complicates the matter. Black pedestrians in a highway safety study had to wait 32% longer than white pedestrians to be safely permitted by drivers to cross. This may lead some black pedestrians to dart across gaps in traffic or take other risks to cross. A follow up study on gender is expected soon.
I think it’s time we admitted that most humans are bad drivers and that computers could probably do the job better than most of us are willing to try. We have subconscious biases effecting our driving behavior, and how we treat the people we share the road with. We are easily distracted and our minds wander. I know my driving skills are within the normal range, but also bad enough to potentially kill someone. That’s the average.
Now imagine this. It’s the end of your workday and the start of your weekend. You tell your car to take you to the bar. You meet a few friends there for drinks and not one of you has to abstain as designated driver. You leave a bit tipsy, on that borderline where far too many choose to drive, but it’s no problem. Your car will drive you home safely.
I know some people really love driving, and they can form hobbyist societies and their own enclosed tracks. Car accidents kill 10.7 out of every 100,000 people in the United States. It is a leading cause of death overall and a primary cause of death for children. Self-driving cars will be safer for riders and pedestrians, and they won’t be as plagued by bias as we are. Let’s push for them now.