2016 has been an exciting year so far for technologies that, until recently, have been confined to the world of science fiction dreams. Whether it’s 3D printing revolutionizing the Healthcare industry or the widespread commercial availability of VR technology, we’re continuing to witness amazing innovations that even just a few years ago seemed like distant possibilities at best.
Another technological advancement causing widespread wonder is self-driving cars. We may not have arrived at a Jetsons-like future of flying automated vehicles just yet, but the self-driving car is getting closer and closer to becoming a widespread, viable method of transportation. And, while many are skeptical about the future of driverless and self-driving cars on the road, there’s actually a good deal of data and research to support the idea that self-driving cars may actually be better for our future.
With that in mind, here are five reasons to embrace self-driving cars:
1. Our roads will be safer
It’s tough at first to wrap our minds around the fact that a car operated by computers could somehow be safer, but think of it this way: how many car accidents have been caused by some sort of human error, be it speeding, driving recklessly, inattentiveness, or worse, impaired driving? Turns out that an overwhelming majority of accidents have been caused by humans. In fact, a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that 94% of accidents were caused by the drivers themselves.
Self-driving cars, on the other hand, are purely analytical, relying on cameras, radar, and other sensors to navigate. There’s no emotion involved, and certainly no distractions like cell phones or impairing factors like alcohol to affect driving performance. The computers in a smart car simply react quicker than our minds can and aren’t susceptible to the many potential mistakes we can make on the road. As a result, a future full of self-driving cars will be a safer one.
2. We’ll be more productive
More and more businesses are operating remotely these days, or are at least allowing people to work from home more often, and for good reasons, not the least of which is increased productivity. On average, Americans spend 26 minutes commuting to work each day. That’s almost an hour each day, and it largely goes wasted. In 2014, Americans spent an astonishing cumulative total of 29.6 billion hours commuting. Imagine what we could do with all that time back.
While many already commute on buses or trains, a whole lot of people still travel to work in their own cars. A self-driving car would allow them to get some work done, knock a few emails out, or even get a little extra sleep if they have to wake up early to get to work. Many people find themselves tempted to look at their phones while driving anyway, so why not at least do it safely in a self-driving car?
3. We can save money
Cars can be very expensive investments, even if you’re not in the luxury sports car tax bracket. Indeed, AAA reports that the average annual amount spent on a car in America is close to $9,000. Some of these things you can’t avoid, like licensing and registration fees, but other costs can be eliminated or at least reduced with the help of self-driving cars.
Because self-driving cars are safer, they’ll cut down on any accident-induced costs, which means insurance premiums won’t skyrocket either. Additionally, self-driving cars don’t sustain the same kind of wear and tear as human-piloted vehicles. They don’t floor the gas pedal or slam the brakes unless an emergency is detected, making for better upkeep, slower depreciation, and even better fuel efficiency. These little things can quickly add up, meaning that self-driving cars, while more expensive up front, can easily put money back in your pocket in the long-term.
4. We’ll move more efficiently
We’ve already talked about the benefits self-driving cars will have on the fuel economy of your vehicle, but the improved efficiency of travel thanks to self-driving cars stretches far beyond that benefit. For one, since self-driving cars are connected to the internet, their navigation will use GPS programs like Google Maps to automatically generate the quickest possible route. The deliberative architecture in self-driving cars’ software means the car is also intelligent enough to detect delays and accidents before you arrive at them, so it can reroute the vehicle’s path without running into any impediments.
Speaking of delays, if we really reach a future where the road is occupied only by self-driving vehicles, even stops at traffic lights and intersections will become a thing of the past. With sensors and scheduling nodes at traffic intersections, along with the ability of cars to communicate back and forth, it’s possible that in the future we could see a perfectly efficient roadway featuring only autonomous intersections, in which the car would never have to stop until it reached its destination.
5. The environment will thank us
Self-driving cars could be of huge benefit to the environment. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, transportation, in general, was responsible for over half of the carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide air pollution as well as a quarter of the hydrocarbons emitted into our atmosphere. While many self-driving cars might still emit these same materials, their improved efficiency would be a huge step forward toward a cleaner future.
Part of the reason cars cause so much air pollution is traffic gridlock in highly congested areas. The efficiency of self-driving cars, in addition to the possibility of a future without any gridlock or traffic stops, will cut down on these emissions. If future manufacturers of self-driving cars follow Google’s precedent and make electric vehicles, the positive impact on the environment could be even greater. It’s worth the benefits to the environment alone to embrace the future of self-driving cars.
As self-driving cars continue to get closer and closer to being on our roads, what other benefits are you excited about? Leave a comment below!