Photo Credit: Getty Images
For some, the idea of self-driving cars is a scary one. But what is scarier? The facts.
Almost 37,500 Americans died in car accidents last year alone, according to Wired. This number could have been a lot smaller if there were self-driving cars on the road. But, because the most people are against the idea of these vehicles, driver-related deaths may continue to grow.
The argument for self-driving cars is still a simple one: If humans cause 37,462 car deaths a year, and driverless cars cause 37,461, then we should pursue the change.
And the newest research from the RAND Corporation’s Science, Technology, and Policy program backed that argument up. They found that waiting for the perfect self-driving cars before allowing them on public roads will most likely lead to more deaths in the long run.
Researchers found that allowing these vehicles on the road as soon as they’re deemed “pretty good” could save a lot of lives over time, noting that a “mostly good robot car still sucks less than a drunk or distracted person-car.”
The researchers also found that after 15 years, thousands of lives would be saved. After 30 years the number would grow to hundreds of thousands.
“Our main objective here is to help inform the debate with an objective analysis. We think this particular topic really needed an objective look at fatalities because there is so much hand-wringing about how safe these cars need to be,” senior policy researcher David Groves told Gizmodo. “We can’t find a scenario where waiting for the perfection of autonomous vehicles is the smart thing to do for saving lives.”
“Even though we can’t predict the future, we found it’s really hard to imagine a future where waiting for perfection doesn’t lead to really big opportunity costs in terms of fatalities,” Groves continued.
In California, there are 43 companies testing self-driving cars that must submit public “disengagement reports,” that note every time a human driver has to intervene while behind the wheel of a self-driving car. Last year, 11 companies submitted these reports.
Nissan’s robocars, for example, needed human intervention once every 247 miles, compared to once every 14 miles in 2015.
Following the death from the first ever semi-autonomous car accident, the debate on the risks of self-driving cars has increased. In May 2016, Joshua Brown’s Tesla Model S collided with a truck while in Autopilot mode, sparking backlash from consumers who believe self-driving cars could do more harm than good.