According to a WHO Report on Road Traffic Injuries, approximately 1.25 million lives are nipped every year owing to ghastly road accidents. It also states that between 20 and 50 million more people suffer in the aftermath of these incidents which could be a non-fatal injury or a disability because of their injury. About 94% of these accidents have occurred owing to the driver’s fault. And that is the reason why so many companies like are investing in the research and development of Autonomous vehicles.
Many of us would remember the cute driverless car that Google had unveiled in 2014 which had a maximum speed of 25mph. Fast forward to 2017and we find several automakers have already brandished their autonomous car technology and many of them aim to roll out production vehicles with driverless capabilities by 2020. Automakers such as Ford, General Motors, Baidu, Google, Tesla, Lyft etc. plan to have some form of the autonomous vehicle (car) ready for commercial use within the next five years. Goldman Sachs predicts that by 2030 driverless cars are estimated to contribute to 60% of US auto sales.
- Improvement in Road Safety: Every year more than 30,000 people in the US die of traffic-related deaths. Several automakers are getting into the driverless zone to tackle this problem head-on. Self-driving cars that interact smoothly with backend infrastructure will get real-time information pertaining to traffic, weather and accident warnings as well. This will greatly reduce the human error and thus prevent accidents from happening to a major extent.
- Enhanced Roadways and Safer cities: When autonomous cars were tested on various roads and under varying weather conditions, it was observed that several cars failed to register the road surfaces and road signage under extreme weather conditions. Therefore, it is predicted that when several autonomous vehicles will ply the roads, it will bring forth a new set of road standards that will ensure that the road signage is best suited for the new vehicles. It is also believed that with the implementation of better infrastructure and traffic rules and regulations that will be the norm when autonomous cars will finally hit the reads, the cities will also get a facelift. The width of the roads, spaces allotted to parking lots and street parking can be recalculated to design structures and roads optimally.
- Improvement in Fuel Efficiency: To provide better traffic flow, the driverless cars are designed to optimize efficiency in acceleration and braking. This, in turn, will also help improve fuel efficiency as well as reduce carbon emissions. According to a McKinsey report, widespread use of driverless cars will help in environmental causes by reducing 300 million tons of harmful CO2 emissions produced by the cars per annum.
- Responsive Speed Limits: The present speed limits are set in accordance with human driving standards. However, it is envisaged that with self-driving cars, the speed limits will be responsive and will adapt to the ongoing traffic situation better. Since the cars interact with each other and with a constant update of road and traffic information, they can organize themselves into a streamlined flow of vehicles on the road. In such a scenario, higher speed limits seem more achievable.
- More Leisure Time for Everyone: It is common knowledge that navigating through endless traffic wastes a lot of time subsequently also decreases the productivity of the individual. But Autonomous cars would enable drivers to use that time to let’s say take the call, answer an email, catch up with friends etc. Also, several safety advocates believe that completely autonomous vehicles will do away with mistakes caused due to human error. According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, partially autonomous cars in densely populated urban areas can be fatal for pedestrians and bystanders when there even a fraction of an error in judgment. Therefore, the absence of steering wheels will be even more beneficial. McKinsey estimates that driverless cars could save as much as one billion hours’ time every day. That is a lot of precious time saved which can be fruitfully used elsewhere.
We are living in an era where dreams are increasingly becoming a reality. A few years ago, people would have considered the idea of driverless ridiculous, but now they appear to be a certainty very soon. There’s a race among carmakers and technology companies who are striving to make autonomous cars a reality by developing road-ready vehicles that can drive themselves on our street. According to McKinsey, significant advances in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Sensors and Data Analytics will not only accelerate the driving technology but will also transform how we drive (are driven), the cities where we stay and the entire notion of car ownership as well. **
**widespread adoption, technological hurdles, and legal frameworks must be framed accordingly for driverless autonomous to finally ply of roads.