Human drivers admit to only 71% of crashes. Driverless cars admit to 100% of crashes.
This is the key takeaway from Mitch Truck’s analysis in Forbes:
Autonomous cars transform accidents into errors, which is why they stand to be the greatest safety innovation in automotive history — even if they don’t prevent a single crash. An extensive survey from the NHTSA itself found that drivers admitted failure to report their collisions at a rate of 29%. As such, flipping the switch on autonomous cars nationwide and witnessing a 0% improvement in reported crashes would actually indicate a 29% decrease in real crashes.
I doubt folks will accept a 0% increase in safety to take a robocar, but this statistic is an enormous boost for driverless cars: the rate of human-caused crashes could be 41% higher than what is currently reported (29 crashes are unreported for every 71 crashes that are reported). For driverless, that’s a nice buffer. Safety for our kids is most important, and young drivers are 3x more likely to die than drivers over 20:
Even within the subset of teenage drivers, 16-17 year-olds are twice as susceptible as 18-19 year-olds. In contrast, autonomous vehicles at large would immediately create a more equitable age distribution of crash victims — a small moral victory in its own right.
Safety, along with environmental benefits, are the biggest winners of driverless technology. Questions remain on how exactly we should best measure safety– fatalities/mile? Crashes/mile?– and what level society is able to accept when it comes to people dying in driverless vehicles.