This past Monday at a meeting of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, it was announced that Virginia is the latest state to give the nod for self-driving cars along the state’s highways. The cars should actually be on the highways (I started to write “hit the road”, but realized how inappropriate that would come across) within a year of the announcement, after being tested at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s test tracks in Montgomery and Halifax counties.
This makes Virginia the 5th state to allow these vehicles to be tested on public roads, joining Michigan, Nevada, California and Florida, along with Washington, D.C. So, what is the rationale for these areas allowing driverless cars on their public roads? I believe it is purely and simply safety. Google has reported twelve driverless cars accidents in the past five years and at least one other self-driving car manufacturer has reported at least one. I believe they have all been in California, which makes sense, since that’s where the vast majority of driverless car testing has occurred.
So, how many of the accidents have been caused by the autonomous cars? Zero. In every case, a human operating a vehicle was at fault. And all were so-called fender benders. No one has ever been injured in a self-driving car accident. Considering that we’re still in ‘early days’ of testing these cars on public roads, I think that bodes extremely well for the future of the industry.
One thing you should know about me is that you’d be hard pressed to find a person who loves driving more than I. I’ve been driving for 50 plus years (at least 18 of them for a living) and that same passion that I felt the very first time that I got behind a wheel is still there to this day. I’ve never figured out why I love driving so, but I still do. So, you would think that I’d be that last person to want to have that great pleasure taken from me and handed over to a machine. But, when I weigh what I believe the great advantage of a computer controlled vehicle is, I can only say, “Bring it on.”
As humans, what we do best is make mistakes. Errors in Judgment, in split-second decision making, in timing, in evaluating distance and especially, what the other guy might do, all add to often precarious road and highway situations. Can a computer controlled, driverless car do a better job of making these decisions that we can? I believe so. Of course, I DON’T want to see them on our roads en masse, until very some very exhaustive testing has been done with proven safety statistics. But, when that has been accomplished, if my giving control of the vehicle will save life and/or limb for anyone, I’m happy to do it.
I believe that ultimately, self-driving cars will make our roads safer and cause all of us to arrive safely more often, wherever our destination is. Just one man’s opinion.
Of course, I do own a motorcycle too, so I won’t be giving up all my fun.
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