How ‘perfect’ should self-driving cars be to be out on the roads?

There are many things that make the idea of self-driving cars an attractive one. Among these are that autonomous systems wouldn’t be prone to the unsafe driving habits human drivers sometimes exhibit. These include:

  • Drowsy driving
  • Distracted driving
  • Drunk driving
  • Drugged driving
  • Angry driving

However, self-driving cars are not without their own potential safety problems. Things that could raise safety issues when it comes to such vehicles include:

  • Software mishaps
  • Hardware mishaps
  • Hacking risks

Given this, and the limitations of current technology, it will likely be a long time until we have a “perfect” self-driving car safety-wise. However, does a self-driving car need to be perfect to make for much safer roads? A recent study indicates that even self-driving cars that are only a little safer than human drivers could pave the way for large drops in auto fatalities.

The study, done by the RAND Corporation, used computer models to look at how letting self-driving cars on the roads when they reach the point of being 10 percent safer than human drivers compared when it comes to fatality reduction to waiting until such vehicles were 75 percent or 90 percent safer than human drivers. The modeling pointed to the approach of having self-driving cars put onto the roads once they hit the 10 percent mark saving more lives in both the short-term and the long-term.

This study raises interesting questions regarding how “perfected” self-driving cars should be before they are allowed to have a major presence out on the roads. What level do you think self-driving vehicles should hit before being widely released? How do you think the introduction of self-driving vehicles to the roads should go?

As this underscores, self-driving technology is raising all kinds of unique questions as it gets closer and closer to being a regular part of transportation here in the United States. How these questions are answered by automakers, lawmakers and society as a whole could have impacts on a wide range of things, from how safe the roads are to what kinds of legal issues are present for individuals who are hurt in crashes involving autonomous vehicles. So, there are many issues it will be worth watching closely as the march towards self-driving cars continues.


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