Self-driving cars (SDC) may hit the highways around the globe as soon as 2025 according to an emerging technologies study on Autonomous Cars from IHS Automotive, a division of HIS research and analysis firm. The report forecasts total worldwide sales of self-driving cars will increase from nearly 230 thousand in 2025 to almost 12 million in 2035. This means that there should be nearly 54 million self-driving cars in use around the world by 2035. The study predicts that virtually all of the vehicles in use will be self-driving cars by about 2050 .
Is this good news or bad news for the average driver – will this new technology save lives and just how much will that cost?
Improved Safety – To be blunt, drivers cause most of the problems on the road. In fact, government research shows that driver error accounts for over 90 percent of all vehicle crashes. The IHS report anticipates that accident rates will plunge to near zero for SDCs. SDC’s are essentially the model motorist. All of those factors which are inherent in human drivers will be gone – computers have quicker reaction times and of course don’t drink and drive, use illegal substances, talk or text on their phone, run red lights or tail gate other cars on the road.
Reducing Accidents Saves Money – If only 10% of vehicles on the road were self-driving that could reduce traffic deaths by an estimated 1,000 per year which would produce nearly $38 billion in economic and other savings, according to a study by the Eno Center for Transportation. The more SDC’s the more savings – if 90% vehicles were self-driving about 21,700 lives per year could be saved, leading to economic and other benefits reaching upwards of $447 billion.
Less Traffic Saves Time and Means Cleaner Air – The Eno Center of Transportation also found that when a majority of the vehicles on the road are SDC’s they can begin “platooning” – driving closely together. This substantially decreases the gas-guzzling, time-wasting, stop-and-go pattern of traffic congestion as we know it. This would result in smoother traffic flows, less commute times and more highway capacity. As traffic congestion declines so does air pollution. The SDC’s are just more efficient drivers.
A Higher Sticker Price – The technology (sensors, software, engineering and power and computing requirements) behind the SDC would currently add up to over $100,000 per vehicle according to Eno Center’s study, which makes it totally impractical for most people. But, by 2025 the same technology will have dropped to between $7,000 and $10,000 per car and with time this premium will drop to an affordable $5,000 in 2030 and $3,000 in 2035.
Data Collection – A SDC that is being driven by a computer is bound to have lots of private information on it. In a poll by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Auto Alliance) 70% to 75% of the respondents were concerned that companies would use the software from a SDC to gather personal data which could then be shared with government agencies.
Computer Hackers – It’s bad enough if a hacker gets my credit card information, but what is to stop him from getting control over my SDC? In the same poll 81% of the respondents were concerned that hackers would somehow be able to control their self-driving vehicle.
In conclusion we have found that autonomous car technology is already in effect in driver assist systems such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and collision mitigating brake systems. So, it seems that it’s just a matter of time before we are not driving our cars anymore – our days of joyriding will be a thing of the past. In my opinion I see it as an overall good change.