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Would the use of driverless vehicles reduce car accidents?

What once seemed like a dream in a sci-fi movie is coming closer to a reality. According to engineers at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, by the year 2040, cars will no longer require drivers. Makers of vehicles at a variety of price points appear to agree that this is the wave of the future. At least six of them, in addition to Google, have self-driven vehicles in trial stages.

Some believe that when this comes to fruition the number of car accidents occurring throughout the world, including the Pittsburgh area, will decrease. The contention could be supported by statistics. Some statistics indicate that approximately 90 percent of the motor vehicle accidents that occur on roads today are due to actions of the individuals behind the wheel. Under the theory being put forth by these people, the removal of the human element would erase accidents caused by this completely.

If true, this would definitely have an impact in the United States. This country saw a total of 32,885 fatal car accidents in 2010. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that this breaks down into 1.11 deaths for every 100 million miles driven throughout the nation.

While over 32,000 a year may seem like a lot of deaths, it is the lowest number seen in over 20 years and to best it, the self driven automobiles would have to post significantly better accident numbers. A fellow with Stanford Law School believes the Google vehicle will need to travel 300 million miles without incident before it can be considered to be a safer driving option.

The prevalence of driverless cars is likely years off. There is an excitement about the possibility however that will likely keep the vehicles in the news for years to come.

Source: BBC, "Will driverless cars mean computer crashes?" Alex Hudson, Oct. 1, 2012

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