Think for a moment about the kinds of things that you’ve seen in science fiction movies and stories over the last few decades. Since the very beginning of the genre, there have been a lot of things that we’ve all wished could be real. From Star Trek’s Holodeck to the hoverboard from Back To The Future 2, any piece of sci-fi generally involves some kind of technology that we’d all love to be able to have in our day to day lives. Of course, what’s really amazing is that many of those pieces of technology are getting closer and closer to becoming a reality. From virtual reality to computers that we can talk to, there are plenty of pieces of future tech that are well and truly in the present.
Of course, there’s one thing that we’re all waiting for; that just about every single piece of sci-fi has dangled in front of us; and that many people are absolutely desperate for us to get finally. That thing is, of course, the self-driving car. The idea of being able to sit back and relax while your car does all of the work for you is something that just about everyone can appreciate. And the really great news? It’s not that far off. There are plenty of companies that have created their own self-driving cars, and many lawmakers are currently working on bills that will focus on the legality of this new technology. Of course, for a lot of people, this is all too good to be true. There are those who think that self-driving cars are never going to be safe enough for us to rely on. So which is it? Are self-driving cars the way of the future? Or are they death traps just waiting to happen?
They could end up being more economical
One of the major issues in terms of many people’s driving habits is just how uneconomically many people tend to be behind the wheel. Yet again, speeding (which as we’ll come to shortly, presents a lot of its own issues) tends to be a big cause of drivers burning fuel faster than necessary. That, combined with a whole host of other bad driving habits can serve to make cars that would otherwise be pretty economical burn through fuel at a much faster rate than they are supposed to. Of course, a self-driving car isn’t going to have that problem. A self-driving car isn’t going to pick up the same bad habits that a person might. It will be able to stick to speeds where the engine isn’t burning through fuel too fast as well as being able to avoid many of the uneconomical behaviors that even the best drivers tend to run into on a pretty regular basis.
As suspicious as people might be of self-driving cars, they are often able to be consistent in ways that most people simply aren’t capable of most of the time.
They cut out the issues of speeding/drink driving
Most people tend to try to be pretty careful when they’re behind the wheel. However, there are always going to be those who are less concerned with their own welfare and the welfare of everyone else on the road than they should be. Every day, almost 112,000 people are caught going over the speed limit, and that’s only the people who are caught in the first place. That’s not even to mention those who drive under the influence of alcohol or any other substances. A lot of people who would normally drive safely end up making the incredibly stupid decision to get behind the wheel while under the influence and put themselves, and others in potentially mortal danger. In 2015 more than 10,000 people died because alcohol-related car crashes and over a million Americans were caught driving while over the legal limit.
The truth is that self-driving cars have the potential to remove that issue entirely. Not only are many of them programmed to detect speed limits and stick to them carefully, but there’s also no way to impare their abilities through any substances. If you go out and have a couple of drinks too many, then you’re simply able to hop into the back seat and have your car take you home without worry.
They really are pretty darn safe
“Now that’s all well and good,” you might be thinking “but how safe can these cars really be?” After all, it’s hardly unreasonable for someone to feel a little bit uneasy getting behind into a car where they don’t have any real chance of being able to control what happens? What if something malfunctions and it drives you off the road? What if wires get crossed, and it decides to drive down the freeway at 120 miles per hour?
Sure, these kinds of questions are incredibly common, and it’s important that we’re cautious about a technological development this significant. However, the reality is that self-driving cars really are a lot safer, even now, than people might expect. Just look at Waymo. For those who aren’t aware, Waymo is Google’s own self-driving car program. Waymo has clocked in over two million miles on the roads of the United States and in all of that distance can you guess how many accidents it’s had?
That’s right. One accident in all that time. Say what you will about self-driving cars, but if you were to come across a driver who had driven more than 2 million miles and had only been in one accident, the chances are that you’d call that a pretty successful trip!
They learn fast
Of course, it’s still pretty understandable that a lot of people are going to feel a little uncomfortable when it comes to trusting self-driving cars. After all, new technology is often pretty scary. Not only that but if it’s new, then there’s always a chance that all of the kinks haven’t been ironed out yet. But here’s the thing: we already have drivers that are unproven, inexperienced, and potentially unsafe. We call them student drivers.
Most student drivers tend to drive with an instructor or parent supervising them in order to prevent anything bad from happening and to help them learn. The truth is that most self-driving cars like Waymo are much faster learners than your average teen. After all, they’re not going to get distracted, and they won’t have other things to focus on other than learning the rules of the road. A self-driving car will never need to be reminded of their lessons because they remember everything and are able to go over an unlimited number of road scenarios in order to find the safest option for any given situation. Sure, they might not be perfect yet, but they’re well on their way.
They don’t need to be perfect; they just need to be better than people
In fact, perfect is a word that gets thrown around a lot when people are discussing self-driving cars. But here’s the hard truth that most people don’t want to think about: self-driving cars don’t need to be perfect. In reality, they only need to be better than people, and that’s not hard to do at all. Ask any personal injury lawyer, and they’ll very likely tell you that most injuries that they deal with are automobile related. People are often pretty unreliable out on the road when you really get down to it. Let’s take another look at Waymo. There are occasions where Waymo’s cars have been in accidents more often than the one in two million miles case from before. However, the conditions that cause that are often because they’ve been hit by human drivers. The reality is that most of us aren’t nearly as good behind the wheel as we might think and even imperfect self-driving cars could well be an improvement over the kinds of drivers that we have out on the road right now.
They’re going to start saving us money
Sure, money isn’t necessarily the most important thing to a lot of people, but it does need to be addressed that self-driving cars are likely to save many countries a great deal of money. Think about the medical bills, not to mention the public repairs, that can result from accidents. By reducing the number of collisions and accidents that occur on the roads, self-driving cars could well end up saving governments millions on an annual basis!
Of course, all of this is mostly academic and theoretical since the only real test of their success will be when self-driving cars start to become more accessible to the vast majority of people. As it stands now, most self-driving cars are, at best, prototypes. However, the strides that are being made really are promising, and there’s a very good chance that they will start to become commercially available within most of our lifetimes. Of course, the choice of whether or not you want to put your trust in a self-driving car, not to mention whether or not you can actually afford one in the first place, rest entirely with each individual person. After all, the future is coming; it’s your choice whether you want to move with it or not.