Chris Urmson goes deep into the state of self-driving cars:
About 33,000 people die on America’s roads every year. That’s why so much of the enthusiasm for self-driving cars has focused on their potential to reduce accident rates. As we continue to work toward our vision of fully self-driving vehicles that can take anyone from point A to point B at the push of a button, we’re thinking a lot about how to measure our progress and our impact on road safety.
Self-driving cars are going to be the next mainstream technological revelation. There are definitely things in science and medicine that will likely provide more societal value, but think of the way that the internet changed the world, self-driving cars will too.
Reduced accidents is just the tip of the iceberg. Anyone who has driven a car, particularly in rush hour traffic, knows the experience of a light turning green but not actually moving until the light has already turned red because it takes so long for the traffic in front of you to start moving. A large part of this is because of the “human” factor. It takes people time to react and start accelerating, especially at a safe rate. Self-driving cars would not have this problem. They would be able to anticipate the car in front of them moving and react accordingly. It’s not just that though.
Traffic should be significantly reduced, if not eliminated. So much of traffic is caused my human error, or poor reaction time or a lot of other things that computers can calculate a million times faster than a human brains. Speaking of human brains, people can suddenly use travel time for more useful things. Heck it’s possible that commutes could just become part of people’s work days and give people ever more time at home.
Then of course there is the aspect of using self-driving vehicles as delivery mechanisms. You could order a pizza, someone could load it on a car, it could drive to your house, you could take it out of the car yourself.
The same way computers evolved into the internet which evolved into powerful devices we carry with us at all times. Self-driving cars might change that even more.