Given that 90% of traffic fatalities result from human error, it seems possible that autonomous vehicles could cut down on this by a significant margin.
A number of universities, technology companies, and major automakers are working on the technology, including Google, Nissan, and Tesla Motors, to name a few. To be sure, the technology will be expensive, perhaps as much as $10,000 more than a standard vehicle, by 2025. That kind of expense might not motivate many buyers, perhaps 0.2% of the market, according to one IHS Automotive Study. The price differential will most likely drop over time, especially as more people adopt autonomous vehicles, which should be encouraging to new buyers.
It could be so encouraging that, according to IHS Automotive, nearly every vehicle on the road in 2050 will be an autonomous vehicle, from sedans to tractor-trailers. This might be good news for the average commuter, but I wonder how those who drive for a living will feel about being replaced by a ten-ton rolling computer.
I’m sure they’ll still have jobs, as laws may require even autonomous vehicles to have a driver, such as a recent law in Minnesota, but it won’t be nearly as interesting. Actually, I’m not even sure what the point would be to have a driver in an autonomous vehicle, especially a tractor-trailer. Imagine never practicing driving and then being called upon, perhaps in an emergency situation, to regain control or do some parking maneuvers?
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