“Drunk man kills bus full of children”, followed by “Human operation failures leading to death this year = 33,808”, and would perhaps conclude with cinematic, beautiful imagery, displaying; “Google Autonomous Vehicle death rate= 0”. The final moments before commercial cut would fade to slogan; “Feel Safe, Ride Safe, Live Safe, with your friendly digital chauffeur”.
This new technology does not claim perfection, just more efficiency than humans error rates and failures. Though there is the risk that a self driving car may short circuit or loose connection, our brains are as prone to failure as any computer, perhaps even more so. Companies looking to profit from driverless cars know this, and in the future we will most likely see advertising and promotions that display the faulty nature of human operators.
In 2009, 9.5 million vehicles were involved in the killing of 33,808 persons and put a quarter of a million more in the hospital. The American Automobile Association found that this costs the country around $450 billion a year. Google claims it can reduce that amount by $400 billion. This is a strong claim, but consider all the other car and insurance companies that are lobbying government agencies for new legislation. It’s in all of their interest to make driverless cars happen. Are we ready to hand the keys over? Or, said another way, are we ready to accept our shortcomings as operators of huge metal machines traveling at high speeds that put other humans at risk?
Personally, I will be the first to hand over my keys. I know the dangers of texting and driving. But when the clever, witty response override my logic and I take my eyes off the road to reply, I put not just myself but other people at risk. Knowing I am prone to this and a plethora of other shortcomings, then extrapolating that to others on the road, it becomes an egoic delusion that we as humans are the most equipped to be operating these machines. I welcome the day where I push a button on my phone and a driverless car arrives to take me safely and efficiently to a destination of my choosing.