Analysis: Driverless Car Adoption Will Make Society Safer, More Eco-Friendly

Cars that drive themselves are coming! If you are older than say, 40, there was a time when such a thing would have been considered only as a far-fetched science fiction tale, but as we approach the “new Roaring Twenties”, driverless cars are already a technological reality. Society hasn’t quite caught up to this technology, yet, but sure as our great grandfathers adopted the automobile after some hesitation, the power of autonomous transportation will be so compelling that we will adapt quite quickly. Many experts believe as soon as the coming decade!

Let’s take a look at some of the negative realities of our current transportation infrastructure that could be eliminated with driverless cars:

  • Over 30,000 people die every year on our nation’s roadways, and another quarter-million are injured. The primary causes of these crashes are drunk drivers, the statistics of which are appalling; in Texas alone, over 1000 people die at the hands of drunk drivers each year.
  • 86 percent of the American workforce uses a personal automobile to commute to work; the average commuting time is 25 minutes one way.
  • That equates to over 200 hours per year where individuals are doing nothing more than sitting in their cars waiting to get to and from work.
  • It is estimated that maintenance and new construction on our nation’s roadways will cost $375 million dollars over the next five years. Many believe that never-ending road construction is one of the major ways our government wastes our tax dollars every year.
  • Transportation is thought to generate one-third of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, with each gallon of gas used contributing as many as 25 pounds of global warming emissions.

Each of these negatives could be greatly diminished or negated entirely by a nationwide fleet of driverless automobiles navigating American highways and commuter routes.  To wit:

  • Experts estimate that pilotless autos could reduce auto accidents by as much as 90 percent by all but eliminating the human error factor in auto accidents.
  • 90 percent fewer accidents extrapolates to 27,000 fewer deaths from auto crashes.
  • The amount of time that could be spent doing more productive things than driving could be as much as 5 billion hours according to the Texas Transportation Institute.   
  • Because driverless vehicles, utilizing their electronic reflexes, can travel more closely (even driving in “tandem caravans”) the need for ever-expanding lanes and road shoulders could be halted, and instead smart roads could be developed, saving a significant chunk of those enormous road construction expenses.
  • Google also estimates that 2 billion gallons of gas could be saved annually, not only leading to an economic windfall for consumers but also taking a considerable dent out of our rising greenhouse gas emissions. Trucking alone contributes to 7 percent of the world’s greenhouse emissions, which is one of the chief benefits of Tesla’s newly announced self-driving truck.

Furthermore, major players in the autonomous vehicle game envision a future when everyone doesn’t need to personally own the vehicles they use to commute.  Instead of purchasing and maintaining a vehicle that sits dormant for 22 hours a day, you might just dial up a shared vehicle when you need it.