The Vehicles that will save lives and money

By Umaro Djau | USC Graduate Student, Fall 2016

If there is one thing that gets my attention, the idea of saving money is undoubtedly one of them. Lately, I have been entertained with the idea of reducing the cost of my car insurance. For many Americans, car insurance is probably their third highest bill after their mortgage and car payment. So, the prospect of saving on car insurance is most likely very exciting news to millions around the world.

You may have already heard about it, read about it or even seen experts talking about it on your local news channel, television or cable network. The federal government is certainly excited about it. Many U.S. high-ranking officials such as the White House economic adviser are keen to tell us that self-driving and autonomous cars will play a significant role in driving down the costs of auto insurance and completely change our lives — regardless of your age group.

But if saving money is not among your biggest worries, then consider something that everyone wishes never happens. Car accidents and their related deaths are tragic realities in all of our cities, towns and communities. Many of us have had the misfortune of being affected by them.

Firefighting paramedics remove an injured motorist after an accident Tuesday June 26, 2012 (AP Photo/Rick McClure)

Firefighting paramedics remove an injured motorist after an accident Tuesday June 26, 2012 (AP Photo/Rick McClure)

In the United States alone, more than 35,000 people die every year due to motor vehicle traffic accidents (NHTSA, 2015). According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2015 alone there was a 7.7 percent increase in deaths, up from the 32,675 reported fatalities in 2014.

 

Read More: Report: Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities in 2015 

In the light of these tragic national figures, there is a strong likelihood that — if not you — you probably know someone who lost a relative or a person who was very close to their heart in a motor vehicle accident.

With this painful reminder in mind, I invite you to learn about something that may dramatically reduce the risks of car accidents. The era of self-driving and driver-less cars is almost here. Well, it has been around for awhile if you were to ask a Tesla driver, Uber or a Google test driver. These and many other vehicle manufacturing companies have been testing and planning to deploy autonomous cars in many parts of the country and around the world. Watch video: A Ride in the Google Self Driving Car

self-driving-uber-vehicles are lined-up to take journalists on rides during a media-preview at the company's Advanced-Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, PA | Photo: Uber

self-driving-uber-vehicles are lined-up to take journalists on rides during a media-preview at the company’s Advanced-Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, PA | Photo: Uber

Now, they have gotten the backing of a major stakeholder, America’s federal government. In the mid-September, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued its Federal Automated Vehicle Policy, the first of its kind. These new guidelines will assist manufacturers, technological companies, states and all interested agencies in developing and regulating the safe use of these self-driving vehicles. However, as many officials and experts like to remind us, these are just regulatory guidelines — at least for now.

Even so, this certainly has been a huge news story, particularly in the United States. Just listen to NPR Business Desk Correspondent Sonari Glinton talking about the issue. Glinton lost his father in a car accident, and in his eyes, this is a big moment for millions.

The question that many are asking is how long it will take for computerized-autonomous cars to replace drivers. A lot of work at the federal and state levels and rules and regulations will be needed before your “futuristic” ride in your city or around the country.

“We’re envisioning a future when you can take your hands off the wheel and the wheel out of the car and where your commute becomes productive or restful rather than frustrating or exhausting.” — Jeff Zients, the director of the National Economic Council, from npr.org

jeff-zients-quote-in-jpg

Despite the skepticism and the fear among Americans, the prospect of avoiding 94 percent of human-related errors that cause car accidents while sparing the lives of more than 30,000 Americans is absolutely worthy of our attention, investment and dedication. In the process, we are expected to build a new economy, thanks to an estimated surplus of $160 billion per year or about 3.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, according to the White House (NPR, 2016).

Now, $160 billion per year worth of gas and time spent in traffic is a huge savings by all accounts, even for people like me who are not economists. I am not sure how much I will be able to save, but paying much less that I am paying now will only be a good thing, if not a new beginning for all of us around the world.

 

References:

Google Self-Driving Car Project (2014, May 27). A Ride in the Google Self Driving Car [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsaES–OTzM

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (2015, July 1, 2016). NHTSA data shows traffic deaths up 7.7 percent in 2015. Retrieved from http://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/nhtsa-2015-traffic-deaths-up-07012016

NPR (2016, February 24). Google Makes The Case For A Hands-Off Approach To Self-Driving Cars. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/02/24/467983440/google-makes-the-case-for-a-hands-off-approach-to-self-driving-cars

NPR (2016, September 19). Government Says Self-Driving Vehicles Will Save Money, Time, Lives. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/09/19/494648888/feds-to-set-rules-on-self-driving-vehicles

NPR (2016, February 23). Should Self-Driving Cars Have Drivers Ready To Take Over? Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/02/23/467836500/should-self-driving-cars-have-drivers-ready-to-take-over

NPR (2016, September 20). Transportation Officials To Issue Rules For Self-Driving Vehicles. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2016/09/20/494684730/transportation-officials-to-issue-rules-for-self-driving-vehicles

NPR (2016, September 14). What It’s Like To Ride In A (Nearly) Self-Driving Uber. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/09/14/493823483/self-driving-cars-take-to-the-streets-of-pittsburgh-courtesy-of-uber

Wired (2016, September 14). Inside Uber’s Self-Driving Car [Video]. Retrieved from

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Responses to The Vehicles that will save lives and money

  1. Jennifer Eting says:

    Hi Umaro,

    Thanks for such an interesting post. I am amazed and intrigued by the future of self-driving cars. The potential impact this technology could have in essentially saving thousands of lives each year is awe-inspiring. I look forward to seeing this technology become available someday. Maybe we won’t be teaching the next generation how to drive, but rather how to program their cars (or they’ll be teaching us).

    Jennifer

  2. Sarah Price says:

    Hi Umaro, I think this is fantastic news. I am fortunate not to have lost a loved one in a car accident, but I have friends who have. One of my friends from college was only married for a month or two, when his husband was killed on the highway. A car had sideswiped him, and he got out of his car to push it to the side, and another car hit him from behind and pinned him. This is exactly the kind of tragedy that could be prevented.

    The government putting forth regulatory guidelines does in fact seem to be a “message” from the government to auto manufacturers and to the public. You mentioned the skepticism and fear amongst Americans about driverless cars. Google, Uber, Tesla, and (if word on the street is to be believed) Apple will all have their work cut out for them in communicating to consumers in ways that alleviate their fears – and so does the government.

  3. Carolyn says:

    This is such an interesting concept and I agree with you on the safety reasons and money-saving reasons for going with automated cars. I trust a car that has the technology to “drive” more than I trust a random stranger to drive me around town. I did see on the news just the other night a Google car that was in an accident because another car smashed into the side of it; that driver ran a red light and ran into the automated car. Technology can only protect us so much from ourselves at the end of the day. Great post!

  4. Umaro says:

    Thanks Jennifer, Sarah and Carolyn!
    I am intrigued and marveled at the potential that this technology presents. I think the challenge will be during the transition period (those automated vs. manually-driven cars) and the confusion it will cause. I read that automated cars — at least at this point — are way slower because they go by the speed limit and respect every traffic rule.
    Now, we all know that people are always running late and wanting to arrive on time. I am concerned about overriding some of the features because someone out there decides to drive as they wish. Hopefully, once we reach the standardization phase, we will have the necessary comfort and ease.
    Sarah, I have a female co-worker whose husband died she was pregnant with their first child. They were in their way to a clinic to find out the sex of the baby when the accident occurred. Yes, this is a tragic story. And there are many others of this magnitude, unfortunately.
    Our hope is that some of the technological advances will tremendously lessen some of these tragic events due to car accidents.

    Thank you all for commenting.
    -Umaro