The reality of the future: Over 25 million robots prowl the streets of the USA, while killing at least one person every day.  While the owners of the robots are roughly the rich 10 percent of the country, the victims are the underprivileged and poor. The idea that autonomous cars add up to 10 percent of the US vehicle fleet and cause about 90 percent lesser deadly accidents might be extremely optimistic.

When one of Uber Technologies Inc.’s self-driving cars hit and killed a woman in Arizona, the company decided to prorogue the road tests. Several aviation safety and automobile experts have been arguing for years about the need for the industry to fully realise the inherent risks associated with automated driving.However, one also needs to understand that autonomous cars will become safe eventually.  However, on that path to full safety, a few fatalities might be inevitable. It is crucial to note that transportation safety progresses the same way science advances (according to Max Planck)—One funeral at a time.

It is important to be realistic about expectations. Just like how robotic surgery cannot possibly outperform human surgeons in terms of safety standards, autonomous-vehicle technology’s safety benefits might be a little better than what could be gained in terms of better enforcement of speed limits or seat-belts. Also, it is crucial to be honest about what is actually known. The comparatively light toll from self-driving vehicles to date should be looked at in the context of how little they have been used. Considering the fact that the fatality rate on US roads is 1.18 per 100 million vehicle miles travelled, Uber had just finished two miles. Hence, the data is not enough to make any sort of robust and decisive accusations about safety yet.

It is also crucial to not rationalise fear. People usually tend to estimate risks in accordance with their perceived control. Similar to how people are more afraid to fly in an aeroplane than drive a car on a road. The industry needs to condition itself to fears of the public, and it should not try to reason out with theoretical safety manuals. Moreover, it is very crucial for the auto industry to share all sorts of information with regards to the causes of accidents and how to prevent them. Hiding important data to gain competitive edge should be discouraged.

Lastly, it is very important for autonomous car companies to be right than to be first. It is important for them to be cautious and well in line with the safety rules and regulations proposed at the federal level in the US. A shoot-for-the-stars approach might work for building a new camera filter, but it should not be adopted when directly dealing with human lives.

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Adam Paul is the Vice President of Content Development for Trends Desk. He holds more than 10 years of understanding in supervising content for technology professionals, and authored 3 books and hundreds of articles in chemical arena. He was executive editor at one of the leading news portals and authored a popular column identifying trends in chemical industry.


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