Autonomous cars? Push to automate may increase with human-error crashes


Autonomous cars? Push to automate may increase with human-error crashes

Source: FleetAnswers One of the concerns with making the jump to autonomous vehicles is the potential for error from cars driven without people. If someone hacks the car's computer or the computer system fails, will the car crash? The idea that humans have greater control over the vehicles than the computers makes people hesitant to make the switch.

Yet statistics show a different story.

According to the International Organization for Road Accident Prevention, 90% of all accidents are caused by human error. The US Department of Transportation's National Motor Vehicle  Crash Causation Survey found that the number is up to 94% in the United States. These errors can be mistakes made on the part of the driver or completely neglecting to follow traffic regulations. Experts estimate that making the switch to a smart road infrastructure and driverless vehicles could save up to 30,000 lives in the United States. In other words, taking the human out of the equation is actually a much safer overall driving experience.

Which begs the following question - are driverless vehicles actually safer?

Removing the driver from the equation will eliminate the risk of accidents due to failure to follow traffic regulations, driving under the influence, distracted driving or poor driving choices, but will that make the roads safer? Are there new risks that researchers will find to take the place of human error? Computers, as most people will readily admit, are not perfect either.

While making the switch to autonomous vehicles will not eliminate all risk, the fact remains that there are many tasks that have to take place in a vehicle that a robot can simply do better than a human being. Computers and robots can respond faster to hazards on the road, drive more safely automatically and avoid many of the risks that aggressive drivers may take on. In tests, autonomous vehicles have proven to be significantly safer than human-driven vehicles. Google has tested its self-driving cars extensively, and with over 700,000 miles driven the cars have had no collisions.

Overall, a desire to reduce the number of fatalities in road incidents will likely drive the push toward autonomous vehicle acceptance in the near future. The thought of saving thousands of lives is one that is difficult to overlook. As the technology continues to improve, allowing for remote controlled vehicles and vehicle tracking in addition to the autonomous driving, and more statistics come to light pointing to the increased safety of these vehicles, customers are expected to start embracing the technology with greater gusto.

Safety is not the only benefit that autonomous vehicles can bring to the market. With self-driving cars, roads will be able to handle more traffic, because the vehicles will space themselves out naturally to prevent bottlenecks and similar traffic problems. Gapers delays will be completely eliminated. With the new technology comes improvements in fuel efficiency as well, as the driverless vehicles are programmed to run in the most fuel efficient way possible. It may even be possible to increase speed limits when the risk for human error is eliminated.

So what does this mean for today's fleet management professional?

It means that the future of the fleet industry may be significantly changed, with autonomous vehicles instead of driver vehicles on the road. While this change is still years away, it's important for fleet professionals to be aware of the potential, so they can start making plans for a future fleet that looks and runs a bit differently than their current one.