So many things in life, the future of driving is automated. We’ve known this for some time. But as carmakers and tech companies tinker away crafting the future of autonomous transportation, we’re only beginning to foresee the benefits of self-driving cars. Here’s a big one: They may save your life.
In fact, autonomous vehicles could reduce traffic accidents by 90%, according to a new report from McKinsey.
In the process, our new robot cars will save us $190 billion in wrecked cars, broken bones, and other costs incurred by plowing into things with our current fleet of brain-driven cars.
On average, about 30,000 people in the United States die in traffic accidents every year. That number would of course be considerably higher without the 1968 federal law requiring automakers to include seat belts in cars, not to mention the state laws requiring drivers to actually wear them, which were first enacted in the 1980s.
Still, as beneficial as innovations like the seat belt and air bags may have been, neither is said to have cut fatalities by 90%. The idea here is that the array of sensors, cameras, and computing capabilities that will drive our future cars will be smart enough to avoid colliding with other vehicles and structures. Even if one of these computer cars fails from time to time, they’ll likely still have a much better track record than vehicles operated by our far less precise—and more easily distracted—human brains.
Of course, it will be some time before this reality arrives. Companies like Google, Nissan, Mercedes, and plenty of others are busy making autonomous vehicles a priority, but we won’t see the payoffs until a significant number of these things are on the road. According to McKinsey’s report, mass adoption of self-driving cars will begin 15 years from now. By 2040, 75% of cars could be self-driving, according to IEEE.
If McKinsey’s timeline seems ambitious, it’s worth noting that it is by no means guaranteed. Their study, which was compiled from interviews with automotive industry experts, might be colored by just a touch of industry optimism.