According to a new study that was reported in the Wall Street Journal, we are only a decade or two away from owning a driverless car. By owning a driverless car, it could help us save billions of dollars and spending far less time dealing with auto accidents. The study found that widespread use of self-driving cars could eliminate 90% of all car accidents in the U.S. and decrease the costs related to accident damage and health issues by around $190 billion each year. Safety is a chief selling point, since self-driving cars – thanks to an array of sensors – promise to have much greater road awareness and quicker reaction time than people. Plus, they won’t text, drink or doze off.
The new report from consulting firm McKinsey & Co. predicts that auto-piloted vehicles will likely begin in about 15 years, but initial introduction of the cars could happen as soon as early next decade. McKinsey’s report – which was complied using interviews with auto industry representatives predicts that insurance companies will shift their focus from driver risks to technical failures. The landscape of vehicle ownership will also likely see significant changes by the time self-driving cars are on the roadways. According to the report, a massive shift in the automotive business model will result in consumers favoring a pay-for-use model rather than traditional ownership. In recent years, tech companies and automakers have stepped up efforts to produce driver-less cars. Remember, it was back in December that Google had said its first complete self-driving car was ready for road tests. Before that, it was Audi in September who received a permit to test its self-driving vehicle on California roads. WSJ reports that in January, the company’s Audi A7 sedan completed the longest driver-less journey, traveling from near San Francisco to Las Vegas. While we continue to wait for autonomous cars, automakers aren’t holding back on their new bells and whistles for vehicles. Installations of some safety gear is on the rise, with more new vehicles coming equipped with adaptive cruise control, land departure prevention technology and blind-spot alert capabilities. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates there is a 14% decline in claims in cars with automatic braking, the WSJ reports.
I am not completely sold that driverless vehicles will be safer than human driven vehicles. Do they obey all traffic laws? What if their computers freeze? Can they smoothly hand control back to human drivers? Federal transportation officials have said they don’t plan to write driverless car safety standards any time soon, and they don’t want states writing their own. SAE International, an association of engineers, has been developing a set of safety guidelines – but those are for vehicle testing and don’t get into specific performance levels that would be needed for commercially available cars.