The cause of self-driving cars puts people on edge for several reasons. First, it is a polarizing issue when it comes to safety, and not everyone agrees that a computer program can or should be a better driver than humans.
Second, there is the bigger worry that with driving related jobs, specifically trucking, being one of the biggest sectors of employment in the United States, the invention of self-driving cars will lead to widespread employment.
Both of these factors lead to considerable political pushback like we have seen in the last week after a Tesla driver died in a car accident. The driver was using Tesla’s autopilot feature and died in a highway crash in Florida.
This is reported to be the first crash that has resulted in a fatality due to a driver depending on self-driving technology. There have been no conclusions released yet as to why the crash concerned, but the car was able to give a few details that make the driver look mildly negligent.
The driver was going at 74 per miles per hour, which was a decent amount over the speed limit. More interestingly is the fact that he only had his hands on the wheel for a few minutes of the trip. For 37.5 minutes of the 41 minutes of his trip, his hands were off. This is not advised by Tesla, and several visual warnings were shown in order to avoid the collision.
Many will say that this is justification for not using self-driving cars, but when you ignore the emotional arguments and just look at the facts, self-driving cars are still the better choice.
Elon Musk has already commented that recent updates would have saved the driver’s life, but that isn’t even the point. For every driver that dies in a self-driving car, there will be hundreds or thousands that die in a regular car crash. It is the proportions that matter, and self-driving cars have already proven to be safer on a per mile basis than human drivers.
People need to remember that with 30,000 people dying on the roads each year, we have a major problem, and the best solution right now seems to be self-driving cars.