Top 3 Reasons You’ll Want A Self-Driving Car In The Future
by Matt Peak
Self-driving cars are coming. While that may be a scary proposition to some – see: “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” – it’s a welcomed future by others.
The truth is, when it comes to the arrival of self-driving cars, there’s relatively little to be scared about and much to be excited for. At this time, it’s worth considering just what those elements of excitement are, given the rapid progress being made on these vehicles.
Google has been road testing autonomous vehicles for years, Uber has invested billions of dollars and is now ferrying people around Pittsburgh in (piloted) autonomous cars, and all of the major automakers are racing to be the first to market, with Tesla, Volkswagen, Baidu, and Delphi among the leaders.
So why will you, the consumer, want a self-driving car? Here’s a short list:
The first thing to consider when evaluating whether a car should drive itself or not is how good the current paradigm is. That current paradigm is entirely oriented around human piloting. But the fact is, humans make lousy drivers. We become drowsy and even fall asleep. We become bored and start multitasking by making phone calls or texting (or worse!). We become angry and take our “road rage” out on other drivers.
The fact is, over 2 million people are injured in automotive accidents each year, and approximately 35,000 people die, with about 94 percent of those due to human factors. If car fatalities were instead airplane crashes, it would be the equivalent of approximately 250 Boeing 737-700’s falling out of the sky each year. Clearly, this is an unacceptable situation.
Fortunately, self-driving cars won’t become tired, bored, or angry. They will have perfect vision, be able see all around the car simultaneously during the night or day, and will be able to even talk to and coordinate among each other. Because of this, some estimate that autonomous vehicles could one day reduce auto accidents in the U.S. by about 90 percent.
According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the average American spends more than 17,600 minutes, or seven, 40-hour workweeks, each year behind the wheel. The majority of Americans spend nearly 50 minutes driving daily.
Now, remember what you’re doing behind the wheel: you’re staring straight forward, with your two hands on a circular object and your foot on a plank, for minutes if not hours at a time. If you were at home, would you be doing the same thing? Of course not! Instead, you’d be watching TV, reading a book, sleeping, having a lively interactive conversation, playing a board game, cooking, or even exercising, among many other things.
The autonomous vehicles of the future have the potential to allow you to bring the activities that you love doing at home to your daily commute. That’s a restoration of nearly two months of fun, productive time to the average American’s life every year for the rest of their commuting days!
#3: Lower Gas Bills and More Green Space
Given that autonomous cars will be able to talk to one another, they’ll be able to coordinate their actions and movements in a way that humans simply can’t.
This level of communication and coordination will enable a more seamless flow of traffic. Cars will no longer need to stop and waste fuel idling at intersections, for they can all speed up and slow down as an entirely integrated unit to allow for the safe crisscrossing of traffic. They’ll be able to follow closer to one another and thus reap the benefits of so-called “platooning”, whereby wind resistance – and thus fuel use – is minimized as cars proceed in trains.
With this greater coordination of traffic comes a reduction in roadway area required to achieve a given amount of vehicle flow. For instance, as autonomous vehicles drive more closely to one another, two lanes could move as many of these vehicles as three lanes could human piloted vehicles. Lanes and even entire roadways could be “reclaimed” for public use, converting pavement to parks, without any negative impacts on mobility.
The arrival of self-driving cars is right around the corner. It’s going to be exciting to see how people begin using them to improve their lives and their communities.