Autonomous Vehicles Are Coming, And That’s A Good Thing

REUTERS/Yuya Shino

Ben LaRocco Contributor
Font Size:

America is leading the way in a new era of mobility freedom. Autonomous vehicle (AV) technologies being born today will soon be on our streets. These technologies will give Americans greater mobility, increased safety, and — just as importantly — more savings.

Despite the promise of AVs, the public remains skeptical. A few weeks ago, AAA released a poll showing that 73 percent of U.S. drivers would be afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle, up 10 percent from a poll at the end of 2017. Even among tech-savvy millennials, anxiety skyrocketed from 49 percent to 64 percent.

These numbers are likely the result of intense (but deserved) media scrutiny after high-profile crashes involving autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles. While these accidents were tragedies, as a society, we barely pay attention to the tragedy playing out on our streets with over 100 Americans killed in motor vehicle accidents every day.

Last year, more than 37,000 Americans were killed on U.S. roads, and millions more were involved in non-fatal accidents. Human error is estimated to have caused more than 90 percent of those accidents.

Sadly, we just accept these deaths as the social cost of the freedom to travel. It does not have to be this way, and we must demand better. Autonomous vehicles have the potential to usher in a world where the “four Ds” — drunk, drugged, distracted and drowsy driving — never take another life or destroy another family.

The benefits of AVs do not only apply to civilian roads. The Department of Defense estimates more than half of battlefield casualties occur while delivering food, fuel and other logistics to the front lines. DOD’s automated vehicle plans could cut combat casualties in half.

Policymakers and industry leaders should speed adoption by proactively shaping the regulatory environment to maximize the benefits and minimize the negative externalities of AVs.

Skeptics say these vehicles must be kept off the road until the technology is perfect. This old argument — used to fight the electrification of homes, commercial aviation, and nearly every medical advance — is now dusted off to fight automated vehicles. The horse-and-buggy crowd will not go away quietly.

Progress will come with setbacks. Accidents do happen, but today is the most exciting time in the history of mobility.

Every day, new technologies are being refined that will bring massive changes to our way of life. These technologies promise to all-but-eliminate alcohol and drug-related deaths; do away with distracted and drowsy driving; and provide an entirely new curated mobility experience for seniors, the disabled, the young and the commuter.

Imagine a world free from parking garages, parking meters, red lights, and speed cameras.

America succeeds when it embraces new ideas, new technologies. We succeed when we balance risk and reward. We should not let short-term hysteria delay the long-term benefits. Together, we can move this technology forward with an educated public and reasonable regulations. Lives saved. Increased productivity. A better life for American families.

Ben LaRocco serves as the Executive Director of the Passengers of Automated Vehicles Association (PAVA). PAVA brings the passenger perspective to important questions about AV safety and reasonable government regulation with a mission to empower all people through increased mobility options. PAVA accepts funding from individuals, foundations and corporations including technology and transportation companies that align with its worldview.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.