Self-driving cars are on their way. Already, a Morgan Stanley report is suggesting that the final product is a lot closer than imagined. The report also hints that the technology could save the U.S. economy a crucial $1.3 billion dollars each year. From now, it will take another 12-18 months for the arrival of cars that can automatically perform some of their functions. Even with the uneasy feeling one gets from the idea of an automated thinking machine – thoughts fueled possibly by the “Frankenstein Complex” in science-fiction stories (think Asimov and his I, Robot novel) – self-driving cars could change the world.
Research has been used to combat fears and the findings are interesting. Apparently, 90% of car accidents are on part of the driver. Further research from America suggests that if 10% of the cars in that country were autonomous, there might be 211,000 fewer accidents and 1,100 lives could be saved every year. If the rate of self-driving cars goes up by 90% each year, the amount of car accidents would decrease by 4.2 million and 21,700 people would survive these accidents.
An automated driving system would also mean cheaper car insurance, mainly because of the decreased risk of accidents. One survey from CarInsurance.com found that 9 out of 10 drivers would consider owning a self-driving car if it meant an 80% discount on their regular auto insurance premiums.
Whether on the streets in Shoreditch or another city, self-driving cars have a number of issues to deal with. Chief among these problems is liability in the event of an accident. If a crash occurs between two self-driving cars then who is to blame? The right to point fingers would fall onto both the insurance companies and firms that designed and sold the automated parts. The responsibility is then stripped away from the drivers, causing insurance prices to fall, and the costs moved to the companies that made the vehicles.
Other obstacles include global delivery, consumer adoption (given the gradual time needed for people with normal cars to ease into the new tech), legislation support, and ethics. To address the ethical standpoint, an advanced CPU inside a car can never replace the human mind 100%. Self-driving cars will need to understand many road rules and respect the other cars around them. As soon as the manufacturers figure their way around these stumbling blocks, the whole world will take a big step forward into a future envisioned by the sci-fi writers of the 20th century.