Study: Self-Driving Cars Could Be As Revolutionary As Vaccines For Saving Lives

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Guy Bentley Research Associate, Reason Foundation
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Self-driving cars have the potential to usher in road safety revolution that could prevent 300,000 deaths per decade according to one of the world’s most respected consulting firms.

A McKinsey research paper based on interviews with 30 experts in the field drawn from across the world argues driverless cars will not only provide convenience but will also be one of the biggest public health triumphs of the century.

Car accidents in America not only have a devastating effect on those directly affected but also cost the wider economy a staggering $212 billion in 2012 alone. The study estimated that self-driving vehicles of the kind being pioneered by Google and Tesla could slash traffic fatalities by as much as 90 percent by the middle of the century.

According to McKinsey’s research, this dramatic change towards safer driving would save 1.5 million lives over the next 50 years. The Atlantic reports that the potential safety benefits of autonomous vehicles would be on a par with modern vaccines.

Furthermore, they could also provide a substantial increase in people’s quality of life, saving time and providing new opportunities for wealth creation.

“AVs could free as much as 50 minutes a day for users, who will be able to spend traveling time working, relaxing, or accessing entertainment. The time saved by commuters every day might add up globally to a mind-blowing one billion hours—equivalent to twice the time it took to build the Great Pyramid of Giza,” according to the paper.

Looking to the medium-term, the experts interviewed by McKinsey believe that industrial fleets will lead the charge toward autonomous driving. Trucks are likely to be in the first wave of wide-scale adoption with major implications for delivery times and truckers. (RELATED: American Trucking Industry Could Lose 8.7 Million Jobs In Automation Revolution)

“Long-term automated commercial fleets might include vehicles for parcel delivery as well as automated drones, which multiple players are already field-testing,” said McKinsey. Self driving cars present a massive opportunity for companies to optimize their industrial supply chains and in combination with smart technologies labor costs could fall significantly.

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