The benefits of driverless cars are limitless. According to the United Nations, each year 1.25 million people die in auto accidents globally (40,200 in the U.S. alone), and as many as 50 million are injured. More than 90% of accidents are due to human error or distraction. Forty percent of fatalities are related to drunk driving. If you take a look at trucks, according to Lior Ron, co-founder of Otto, they make up 1% of vehicles on the road. However, astonishingly, they account for 25% of fatalities.
Although the increase in the number of accidents is staggering, a lot of progress has been made in vehicle safety (e.g., stability control systems, vehicle cameras, lane departure systems). Findings from an August 2017 report released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and Highway Loss Data Institute indicate that lane departure and blind spot detection systems are preventing crashes.
“Results of the new study indicate that lane departure warning lowers rates of single-vehicle, sideswipe and head-on crashes of all severities by 11 percent and lowers the rates of injury crashes of the same types by 21 percent. That means that if all passenger vehicles had been equipped with lane departure warning, nearly 85,000 police-reported crashes and more than 55,000 injuries would have been prevented in 2015,” the report details.
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Nonetheless, more public education must be provided, and better laws enacted and enforced, in order to prevent more accidents and save more lives. That said, the most obvious benefit of self-driving vehicles and the technology under the hood is the ability to keep people safe.
While safety is a distinct advantage, consider this: the average American wastes one workweek in traffic. That precious time could be better spent by being more productive, or even reaping the health benefits of a quick nap. When it comes to trucks, for a variety of reasons (like safety), regulations dictate how much time drivers can spend behind the wheel. However, a truck that is utilized more often can significantly increase productivity and reduce costs. Self-driving truck companies like Otto are on a mission to make this a reality.
People with disabilities, or those who have lost cognitive privileges or even their driver’s licenses, such as the elderly, could also benefit from driverless cars. In California, for example, the elderly population is increasing at a staggering rate. The California Department of Aging expects the state’s aging population to grow more than twice as fast as the total population. In fact, this age group will experience an overall increase of 112% between 1990 and 2020. Driverless cars could be a gateway to independence for these seniors.
In a new guide, we explore the industry’s interest in and movement toward autonomous and connected cars. You can download it here.