There are many ways in which society could benefit if self-driving automobiles ever become a reality. Some of them are dependent on usage. The vast majority of the cars in the United States go unused most of the time. While estimates vary, a car generally spends 95 percent of its life parked (and therefore unused). Some people think that driverless cars will change people’s opinions about mass private ownership of cars. While increased efficiency is certainly possible, it seems naïve to expect that people will suddenly be willing to forgo owning a car just because it will be driving itself.
Real gains come from a reduction in car accidents and increased efficiency of people freed from the responsibility of driving. If you are able to get work done while your car gets you wherever you are going, you will be more productive and the economy will improve. A recent study by McKinsey & Company suggests that billions of dollars in annual revenue could be generated by autonomous vehicles. It also reports that traffic accidents could be reduced by 90 percent.
It is certainly true that driver error is a frequent cause of serious car crashes. Careless drivers, tired drivers, intoxicated drivers and distracted drivers would all cease to be a problem if cars drove themselves. Undoubtedly, other problems will arise in connection with driverless vehicles. Significant cultural and technological barriers will have to be overcome before most people will turn their keys over to a computer. If the technology is there, however, the potential benefits in safety and convenience are enormous.
Source: PCmag.com, “Self-Driving Cars Will Keep You Safe, Help You Shop,” by Stephanie Mlot, 6 March 2015