Automated driving. L5. The pinnacle of the upcoming revolution in transportation. The car that needs no steering wheel and that will gift you an extra 90 minutes of sleep every day. It is a dream today, but one that is so close we can almost touch it.
A little over a year ago, one of the most prominent proponents and developers of this technology, Elon Musk, mentioned that his target for self driving was, at most, one accident per 1,000 lifetimes. Which is truly amazing. Really. Imagine, you have to live 7,900 years to have an accident with your car. Really low odds, right?
Let’s see. Germany, for example, has 2.6 million car accidents per year. Give or take. And we take Germany because they are well known for their road safety. Out of those, around 3,200 people died. High, low, who knows? It is what it is. It is 0.12% of the accidents result in deaths
I really chose Germany because their population is 82 million. Given that life expectancy is almost 80, and that medical advances will probably enhance that slightly, choosing a country with that number of millions, gives me a funny equivalence: Every year in Germany, represents 1 million lifetimes (you know, 82 million people living one entire year, in time, is about one million people living 82 years. So it holds up…).
Numbertime. Elon Musk says the target is one crash per 1,000 lifetimes, therefore, in 1 million lifetimes we would get 1,000 crashes in a country like Germany. Compared with the 2.6 million currently happening, it’s quite a reduction.
Apply the current average of 0.12% of deaths resulting from car crashes and that is nigh 2 deaths per year in the entire country. Now that is some fatality reductions right there.
Clearly, automation is the way to go, and self-driving cars are a future some of us will welcome, some disdain and some hate. It is unarguable that it will bring an immense enhancement in safety even in the hacker-target-assassination scenario where this guy’s car is “rigged” to get into an accident, but that’s unavoidable.
Thus, every death resulting from self-driving shall be considered either negligence from the manufacturer or malice from the maintenance team, ensuing in a wave of lawsuits against any car-maker with enough guts to remove the human responsibility from this equation.
However, all new metro rail designs have removed the driver from their consoles… Who knows? In any case, 2 deaths per year for 80 million inhabitants is less than heart attack, cancer, AIDS, swimming accidents, alcohol poisoning, falling off ladders or stupidity.
The world is poised to reach 8 billion people very soon. That is about 100 Germany’s. Thus, in the entire planets, fatalities from cars would reach between 200 and 300 people per year. That is actually less than airline casualties. Imagine that, car travel being safer than planes. And as Jeremy Clarkson never fails to remind, the car is the fastest mode of point to point transportation so… there.
Unfortunately, when we are talking about a couple of hundred people, we are implying about one or two one-percenters. That’s quite rich or famous people. And that’s a huge risk. These guys have families, resources and, most of all, lawyers. James Dean or Paul Walker’s deaths, both in a Porsche, by the way, can readily be attributed to human error. Either theirs or someone else’s. And in one case, the guilty party is gone, or the guilty party is prosecuted. A death on an automated car is, on the other hand, the fault of the manufacturer, or the maintenance company. Thus, the liability insurance is going to be quite… high.
Which begs the question, will the automated car require insurance? If so, and given the reduced rates of accidents, will they drop in price? That would most certainly be a financial incentive not to put your useless hands on the wheel, no? Something like:
-Hey Kevin, look, we all know you are the best driver in the planet. We all do. But if you accept taking the steering wheel out and installing a sofa instead of the Recaro seat, your insurance drops to 42$ per year
-Well… ok, but I am a good driver
-Yes you are, love, you are.
To be honest, in my case and, as much as I love driving, they got me at 90 minutes of extra sleep. Ta.