Advantages of Autonomous Vehicles
First, there would be huge safety gains. Since most road accidents are due to driver error, assuming 2002 crash rates and miles traveled, if 90% of the 43,005 fatalities were reduced 38,704 lives would be saved. According to this 2002 press release by NHTSA they estimate each highway death costs society about $5.3m. If you multiply the two we could potentially be saving over $205 billion per year. Not only would nearly 40,000 lives be saved, imagine how many millions of injuries a year would be avoided.
Further, from an energy and efficiency standpoint we know that people are not the best drivers either. Having computers drive is going to save tremendous energy. But since vehicles will be networked and traffic flow synchronized, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.
Driverless cars won’t have to deal with congestion and stop-and-go traffic as we do today. Travel will become faster, more predictable, and passengers will have time to do other things while in transit.
The vehicles will also be much lighter. They won’t need to be designed for surviving impacts with today’s heavy vehicles driven by error prone humans, nor will they need to be equipped with safety devices to protect us from ourselves (e.g. crumple zones, airbags, or even seatbelts).
The cars of tomorrow will be far safer, much lighter, and there will be little to no congestion. If a clear national plan is created and implemented, the future can be very bright indeed.