Google’s driverless cars are “shockingly” safe, says a Bellevue, Washington insurance company, with only two crashes on record - and both with a human at the wheel. Driver error, intoxication, and other human factors contribute to about 93 percent of all car crashes.
Still, the day we’ll have robotic cars drive us to work or school, or maybe home from a party after having a bit too much fun, could be a way off yet. Aptus Insurance compiled a forward-looking infographic to demonstrate the potential effects of the Google driverless car program hitting the mainstream. Among their findings:
- The average car is immobile for 96 percent of its lifetime; driverless cars will double the efficiency of working parents by allowing them to send the car for the kids.
- Driverless cars would wipe out drag racing.
- Owners could save thousands of dollars in parking each year, as the car could drive itself home.
- Over 200,000 taxi drivers and chauffeurs could be put out of work.
- Driverless cars could take 112 million intoxicated drivers off the road, potentially saving thousands of lives each year.
Stanford University robotics professor and Google Driverless Cars program leader Sebastian Thrun gave a presentation at TED 2011 last March in Long Beach. He shared that, at the time, his motivation in becoming involved with the program: losing a friend in a car accident at the age of 18.
He told the audience at TED, “Did you know that driving accidents are the No. 1 cause of death for young people? And do you realize that almost all of those are due to human error and not machine error and can therefore be prevented by machines?”
Thrun believes some day a future generation will look back and think it ridiculous that humans once drove cars.
“Do you realize that we could change the capacity of highways by a factor of two or three if we didn't rely on human precision on staying in the lane but on robotic precision, and thereby drive a little bit closer together on a little bit narrower lanes and do away with all traffic jams on highways?” he asked.
Back in October, Sergey Brin spoke backstage at Web 2.0 with Tim O’Reilly, who asked why Google has gone outside the realm of search to create the driverless car program. Brin simply responded, “At a high level, we’re doing it because we can and I think it’ll really affect the world dramatically.” Among the benefits of mainstream adoption, he said, are:
- Increased mobility for disabled drivers.
- Reduced accidents.
- Increased car sharing in urban areas.
- Reduced need for parking.
Learn more about Google’s driverless car program in their announcement of the program, What We’re Driving At, from 2010 on the Official Google Blog.
As for Aptus Insurance, they’re having fun imagining the possibilities. A spokesperson for the company tells us they were inspired to create the infographic after a Google+ post by software engineer Koushik Dutta sparked over 250 comments, 1100 shares, and 1100 +1’s.
In his post, Dutta wrote of mainstream driverless car adoption, “...there are unintended consequences. Parked cars will be a relic from the past. What happens to car insurance prices if a driver is no longer part of the equation? And if cars are receiving 20 times more actual use, that would imply that there would be 20 times less cars sold (of course, this isn't exactly the case, as the cars would need to be replaced more often due to nonstop usage, but the point stands). This is the kind of disruptive change that can reshape the automotive industry. The recent GM/Chrysler bailout may have been for naught.”
Infographic courtesy of AptusInsurance.com.