by Ian Tartt
Just as the car overtook the horse and buggy, so too will the self-driving car eventually overtake cars that require human drivers. Once self-driving cars become widely accepted, the ramifications will be enormous and almost entirely positive. The benefits will appeal to anyone concerned about safety, efficiency, and freedom.
Google is perhaps the most experienced and successful in this venture due to its fleet of self-driving cars, although Tesla has several models available for civilian purchase and use. In addition to having driven themselves for over one million miles, Google’s cars have only been involved in a handful of incidents. Except for one incident in which a self-driving car struck a bus, the fault lay either with the driver of another car that hit the self-driving car or with a human operator who had temporarily taken over control of the Google car. No incidents have resulted in any fatalities, and only one resulted in any injuries, though Tesla’s record is not as pristine.
However, considering how many people are injured or killed by conventional cars compared to self-driving cars (even after acknowledging that self-driving cars are less common), the safety of the self-driving car has been proven time after time to exceed the safety of human drivers. In addition to preventing regular fender benders, self-driving cars also have the potential to greatly limit the harm done by new drivers and drivers who are under the influence, distracted, tired, or angry, in addition to reducing damage done by careless pedestrians or animals wandering onto the roads. This could help lower car insurance rates, which could make car ownership less expensive, or, if the self-driving cars cost more due to the additional technology, the lower insurance rates could bring the costs of owning a self-driving car down to those of a conventional car.