Hello and thanks for reading.
Even as a kid, I had an odd fascination for numbers. To be clear, I never saw myself going into Accounting as a field, but I was often able to find unusual patterns or anomalies in ways that many people could not. This perhaps explains why I have had good success in the past as an investor in the stock market … or maybe that is just dumb luck, who knows?
A number of polls have come out in the past few weeks with regards to self-driving cars that seem to be quite contradictory in nature (from the Brookings Institution):
“While 70% of people expect a widespread deployment of self-driving cars within 15 years, 59% said that they would be no safer than human cars while 69% said they were concerned / very concerned about sharing the roads with them”
So, to look at it another way, most people think they will be coming but believe that not only will they not improve safety, there is actually cause for concern to their presence on the road …. Hmm, that is interesting.
Why you may ask? A commonly cited figure is that 90-95% of all car crashes were caused by three factors that a self driving car might eliminate as they do not get distracted, they do not drive drunk and they can be programmed not to speed. If you eliminate those things, how would a self-driving car not be safer than driving with the “average” human?
There is a strong reason why I have put the word “average” in quotations. I think most of us truly need to examine how could of a driver the average person really is. Sure, if you took away all distractions, they may actually have decent skills, but let’s be realistic. Humans can be at less than their best behind the wheel for many reasons … here are a few:
Loud kids in the back that need yelling at, looking at your phone to find an address, you had a little too much to drink last night or did not sleep well, your boss just chewed you out in front of the team …. Need I go on?
The average driver driving at their average capability in today’s world is not a great driver and it is likely that a good self-driving car would prove to be as good (or likely much better) than they would be. Throw in that the road would now be surrounded by other vehicles who aren’t being driven by people who are equally as distracted and how is it that anyone would ever think that a world with self driving cars would not be safer?
Sure, I will be the first to admit that we are not there yet, but in 10-15 years, I am quite certain that we will be.
To finalize, one thing that seems to separate a good driver from a bad one is being able to anticipate what another driver will do. In the world of self driving cars, the theory is that not only will one vehicle be able to anticipate the move of another, they will actually communicate it to one another. Imagine how much better / safer merging onto a highway will be when there are no egos involved?
The Bottom Line
I am in total agreement that we continue testing before we do any large scale deployments. However, one only has to look at things rationally to know that this move will make the roads safer and quicker to get around than they are now.