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The Future of Injury Proof Cars

driverless carIn 2011, there were 32,367 vehicle related deaths in the United States and 2.3 million American adults were injured in motor vehicle accidents. The Center for Disease Control estimates that the total economic cost of crash-related deaths was over $70 billion.

It is no new revelation that American highways are dangerous and there have been attempts to improve their safety for decades, which have seen auto accidents and casualties from those accidents decrease proportionally to the total population.

Nonetheless, cars could be significantly safer and there are notable developments in automotive technology that could hold the key to practically eliminating roadway accidents, namely driver-less cars. Google is the most recent company to throw its weight behind the automated car but the idea has been considered since the 1920’s and it is only now being realized.

Development of the Automated Car

Very rough and theoretical ideas for driver-less cars have been proposed for decades, and early ideas included embedding magnets in roads and using two-way radios to direct cars.

There are reports of rudimentary radio controlled cars in the 1920’s as well as an exhibit in the 1939 World’s Fair that contained a version of a driver-less car and predicted that they would be widespread in a matter of years. Throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, the idea of automated vehicles captured the attention of RCA’s technology labs and numerous prototypes were developed and entire sections of public freeway were outfitted with their experimental system.

Of course, all these developments, while influential, proved to be expensive and showed that a total conversion of the existing road system in the United States would be a monumental undertaking.

Only after the creation and refinement of the microchip did automated car technology reach a point where widespread use could be feasible, and Mercedes-Benz was the first manufacturer to invest resources into this more realistic solution. Inspired by Mercedes’ forays, European research organisation Eureka poured over $1 billion into the Prometheus project which developed computer-aided driver-less cars and provided the foundation for contemporary research and development.driver less car

Driver-less Cars Today

Following Eureka’s extensive research, the idea of the driver-less car began to be accepted as an imminent revolution in the car industry and the United States government began altering traffic laws throughout the 1990’s to legalise future automated vehicles.

Numerous universities, namely Carnegie Mellon and Stanford, began to work with the Department of Defense, namely DARPA, to develop more advanced software and systems for robotic vehicles and by 2005, multiple organisations had developed very capable and reliable cars.

Google has produced several automated cars and are famously touring them across the United States, but despite their efforts, the cars are only road legal in three states; Nevada, Florida, and California. Google’s push for driver-less cars has sent shock-waves throughout car manufacturers and many now openly admit that they are the future.

While completely autonomous cars may not be widespread quite yet, the technologies created for them such as sensors that detect imminent collisions and apply the breaks or automated parallel parking have been implemented in many new models. These additionally technologies by themselves have the potential to reduce vehicle-related damages by millions of dollars annually.

Safety First

There is a controversy brewing within the wider automotive industry concerning automotive cars, specificallypratice a self-driving car within the insurance industry. Driverless cars present a future where traffic is efficient, drivers are always completely focused on the road, and all drivers have superhuman reflexes, making insurance premiums drop drastically.

The formula insurance companies use to determine rates are heavily affected by the amount of damage other drivers in the area are incurring and how many accidents usually occur in the zip code where the car or truck is garaged. When these numbers start to plummet, the premiums should, and while insurance companies with inevitably paying out less, their overall revenue and profit margins will drastically decrease.

This is obvious a drawback for insurers, yet it comes at a huge drop in injuries and deaths and make it likely to be a contentious battle when it comes time for legislatures to reassess legalizing driverless cars and redefining insurances law. Nonetheless, accident replacement vehicle services such as this one from Klosters with be virtually eliminated as there will likely be far less collisions than there are currently.

Drawbacks

The drawbacks of never having to stress out about driving may not seem evident immediately, but one huge caveat is the driving culture that is ingrained in United States culture. The postwar automotive boom saw the rise of the 1950’s car culture of road trips, cruising, and Cadillacs, as well as the meteoric rise of automotive racing.

Popular opinion surveys about automated vehicles have shown that many people would be reluctant to let a computer do the driving and prefer being in control of a vehicle. The same studies have shown that many people have an grossly inflated personal opinion of their driving abilities and predict that some people will flat-out refuse to hand over control in the name of the public good.

There are still legitimate worries about hardware or software malfunction that could lead to accidents, very similar to the issues involving the computer-based breaking system in Toyota vehicles that led to massive recalls.

Conclusion

There are some hang-ups to the implementation of driverless cars, but the overwhelming response from automotive manufacturers and the evident safety benefits make the technology an inevitable change.

The gradual steps towards automated vehicles are gradual steps towards an almost completely safe national highway and road system and essentially eliminating car related injuries and deaths. It’s safe to say that it is a good thing for everyone.

Andre Smith
This article was written by Andre Smith, a marketing consultant, regular blogger and a car enthusiast. You can find more of his articles via Twitter.

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