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Self-driving vehicles are undeniably the way of the future. Some experts estimate that within 15 years, the majority of the cars on the road will be fully autonomous, requiring no human backup driver. While many people find the possibility of driverless vehicles scary, statistics tell us that removing humans from the driving equation will only result in far-safer roads for everyone. When 94% of of the 1.2 million driving deaths each year are caused by human error, it is a moral imperative to take driving out of the hands - literally - of people.
While regulation of drivers through licensing and vehicle registration is traditionally a state responsibility, the federal government intends to regulate the vehicle safety side of self-driving cars.
Given that the vast majority of crashes are caused by human error, the need for highly automated vehicles is clear. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 35,092 people died on U.S. roadways in 2015 alone, and 94% of crashes are related to a human choice or error.
However, the process of having millions of self-driving cars on the road could prove dangerous. According to a report by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, researchers believe road safety will become worse during the transition phase since conventional vehicles will be at risk with more self-driving cars using the roads.
The major barrier to getting self-driving cars on the road is making sure that they're safer than human drivers, but perception technology still has a long way to go. Today's news out of California takes the world a step closer to realizing that goal with tech startup DeepScale raising $3 million in funding to develop more accurate perception in autonomous vehicles.
My fervent wish for humanity is to rid the world of human drivers. So I guess you could say that my fervent wish for humanity is to be replaced with robots (Westworld was a heartfelt romantic comedy, right?). My hopes and dreams gleamed a little bit brighter today when I saw this video of Tesla Autopilot in action on a highway in The Netherlands.
There could be the possibility of road re-designs to rebalance the right-of-way and more space for people to walk and bicycle. The data from these self-driving cars must be open information and accessible to city planners and private entrepreneurs.
Consumers do not have access to the self-driving vehicles yet and will not for a few years thanks to the cancellation of an autonomous retrofit that was scheduled to be shipped at the end of 2016.
Many of us are too poor to have to own a Tesla Model S, or our rich friends are too electric car-averse, so we'll never know how cool the Teslas's autopilot feature is because we have to settle for borrowed McLarens. Until now! The folks at Slow News Day have a rich friend who does like electric cars, so they filmed themselves driving (and not driving) a Tesla Model S through Birmingham rush hour for our enjoyment.
Earlier today in Nevada, the world's first self-driving semi-truck crossed the Hoover Dam. Freightliner was given a license to test out its autonomously driving tractor trailer in the Silver State, which has legislation allowing self-driving vehicles, and today's was the first test of the (sort of) driverless truck on public roads.