With all the scientific discoveries, technological breakthroughs, and revolutionary ideas over the years, people have still not figured out a way to eradicate car accidents. That time could finally be approaching, however, if proponents of self-driving cars have their way.
There are roughly 6 million car accidents every year in the United States. In fact, there is a rear end collision every eight seconds, and auto accidents are one of the most common causes of death, disability, and catastrophic injury in the United States. That, in spite of major advancements in auto safety. Many of these crashes are virtually unavoidable, but distracted driving causes plenty of roadway collisions that often result in death. In 2015, distracted driving claimed 3,477 lives.
Despite the fact that it’s illegal to text and drive in nearly every state in the country, people still find ways to be distracted while they’re behind the wheel. Whether they’re looking at their devices, paying attention to something else in the car, or just letting their eyes wander away from the road, it’s too easy to become distracted.
According to Forbes, distracted driving will end once cars start driving themselves.
Recode provided Forbes with a timeline prediction of the self-driving car, stating that if the country exclusively manufacturers self-driving vehicles by the year 2030, it would still take an additional 15 years for traditional vehicles to disappear.
Elon Musk of Tesla believes that we’re actually much closer to autonomous driving, saying that we’re two years away from Level 5 autonomous driving.
“We should be able to go all the way from a parking lot in California to a parking lot in New York, no controls touched at any point during the entire journey,” Musk said at a 2017 TED conference.
The Verge adds that a few self-driving cars have already reached up 4 million miles on public roads. That’s 3 million more miles than all of Uber’s trips.
Alphabet’s Waymo is one of the biggest proponents of autonomous vehicles and just reviewed that its cars have passed the 4 million mile mark, achieving its last million miles in six months, whereas the first million took a year and a half in 2015.
Of course, while futurists like Elon Musk are adamant about the lifesaving potential of autonomous vehicle technology, self-driving cars likely would not eliminate auto accident deaths altogether. After all, research indicates that up to 77% of cars on the roads right now are in need of some maintenance or repairs. Vehicle neglect can be just as deadly as distracted driving, and self-driving cars wouldn’t be self-repairing, at least not yet.