Coming Soon to a Car Near You?

Written By Andy Cogbill

In the news, you may periodically hear about testing on self-driving cars or trucks, but how soon can you expect to start seeing self-driving cars on the road near you? While it will depend on how testing on automated safety features goes, there are strong arguments that it will be as soon as possible. According to Department of Transportation statistics, 94% of serious crashes are due to human error[1], and if that number can be reduced, then there would be a corresponding reduction in deaths and serious injuries due to motor vehicle crashes[2].

The Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration predicts some time after 2025 for fully self-driving vehicles. In the meantime, driver assistance safety features like Rearview Cameras, Automatic Emergency Braking, and Blind Spot Alerts are becoming more available in a greater price range of vehicles. More manufacturers are starting to test partially automated safety features like Adaptive Cruise Control, Self-Parking, and sensors that allow the car to help the driver maintain their lane in vehicles on the market and not just in the lab.            

For example, Mazda has said that nearly all of their 2018 model vehicles will have forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking as standard safety equipment. Once one manufacturer starts to provide safety systems as features rather than options, other manufacturers often find themselves under a lot of pressure to do the same or risk being left behind by car buyers.

Newer technologies take greater advantage of more powerful computers and sensors able to be installed on vehicles. Rather than making vehicles stronger and more able to survive a crash, the goal with these technologies is to make a vehicle more able to assist a driver in avoiding a crash in the first place. Car manufacturers still have a way to go to reach truly self-driving cars, and 2025 may be an optimistic guess as to when they will hit the market. That being said, I believe we can expect to see more emphasis on automated safety features as standard equipment on new cars and steady progress towards fully self-driving cars in the not-too-distant future.

[1] See https://www.nhtsa.gov/technology-innovation/automated-vehicles-safety

[2] That same website cites a statistic that 37,461 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2016, so approximately 35,213 of those deaths were due to human error. If new standard safety features could reduce human error crashes by even 10%, that would save over 3,500 lives each year.

 

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