There are hundreds of thousands of motor vehicle accidents in the United States every year. The top four causes of car accidents are distracted driving, speeding, drunk driving, and reckless driving. And what do all of these activities have in common? Human error is behind all of them. In other words, it’s the driver’s fault.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could just get rid of the drivers?
No, it’s not impossible. In fact, there’s a chance it could happen by the time today’s babies get their driver’s licenses. Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you: the driverless car.
A science fiction pipe dream? No way. Attendees and journalists at this year’s Technology Entertainment Design Conference in Long Beach, California found that out when they got a first-hand look at seven of these driverless vehicles – each of which had already traveled a minimum of 140,000 miles on the Golden State’s roadways without being involved in a single accident!
And guess which company is behind these self-driving vehicles? Not some foreign car company. Not even an American carmaker. Nor a computer hardware conglomerate.
Yes, the automated search engine giant wants to automate your driving experience. In fact, Google officials (with the help of a high-powered lobbyist) are trying to convince lawmakers in Nevada to let the company road test their driverless vehicles on public roads in the state. Nevada legislators may take up the proposal as early as this summer.
Despite this huge development, there’s a still long road ahead until driverless cars become available for consumer use. Even the most optimistic predictions don’t see these vehicles being “driven” into consumers’ garages during this decade. In addition, there are still some safety and technology issues that need to be addressed. And even if the Google test request is approved, there would have to be significant changes made to existing traffic laws in Nevada and every other state before driverless cars could become a reality.
But if all of these things were to fall into place, how would driverless cars change our way of life? Here’s a look into a crystal ball to see what the ramifications would be.
Auto accidents would decrease sharply. Assuming the technology is as good as advertised, the number of auto accidents would plunge substantially – and the remaining accidents would mostly be caused by any traditional driver-operated vehicles that are still on the road.
Auto insurance rates would drop. Fewer accidents means smaller insurance payouts to policyholders. That should lead to lower auto insurance premiums for motorists who choose to purchase a driverless car.
Commuters would become more productive. If car owners aren’t worried about driving, they could use the time in their vehicles on the way to work to get things done. They could accomplish many things, from checking email and returning phone calls to putting on makeup, shaving, or eating breakfast.
People would get more sleep. Like bus, subway, or train commuters, driverless car owners could actually catch some Zs while making their way to work. Plus, they wouldn’t have to worry about missing their stop or getting their wallet snatched.
Drinking and driving laws would probably NOT change. Two reasons for this: 1) these driverless cars are equipped with a manual override system for certain circumstances, so the car owner would need to be sober if such a situation arose. 2) No politician in America ever got votes by suggesting a softening of drunk driver laws.
It’s hard to believe, but for people who have just started a family (or are planning to start one soon) it’s possible that the first car you buy for your child when he or she turns 16 could be a driverless model. Talk about peace of mind!