By taking human emotions and errors out of the equation, driverless cars could reduce deaths on the road by 90 percent, a new report has found.
That’s almost 300,000 lives saved each decade in the US alone and a saving of US$190 billion each year in healthcare costs associated with accidents.
"By midcentury, the penetration of AVs (autonomous vehicles) and other ADAs (advanced driver-assistance system) could ultimately cause vehicle crashes in the US to fall from second to ninth place in terms of their lethality ranking among accident types," the report, from US consulting firm, McKinsey & Company found.
Earlier this year it was reported that four of the 48 driverless cars (one in 12) on the road in California had been in accidents over the past six months.
That figure may seem high but the technology itself wasn’t at fault – it was the humans involved that were the cause.
Of the three Google-operated driverless cars that were involved in accidents during that period, human error was at fault in 100 percent of them.
"Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident," director of Google's self-driving car project, Chris Urmson, wrote in a blog post at the time.
The fourth was a Delphi Automotive driverless car, and was reportedly not in self-driving mode at the time of the accident.
The Atlantic, reports that practical moves to increase road safety in the past have made an incredible impact, with seatbelt laws and airbags reducing the annual death toll from 60,000 in 1970 to a record low of 32,719 in 2013.
With the recent report predicting that driverless car technology could reduce fatalities by 90 percent by the mid-century, that means 29,447 lives could be saved every year, based on the 2013 statistic.
"In the United States alone, that's nearly 300,000 fatalities prevented over the course of a decade, and 1.5 million lives saved in a half-century. For context: Anti-smoking efforts saved 8 million lives in the United States over a 50-year period."
If you expand this to global figures, driverless cars are set to save 10 million lives per decade, says La France.
Saving lives isn’t the only thing driverless cars could do once they hit the mainstream.
The report estimates that they'll free up as much as 50 minutes per day for users, which adds up to a global figure of 1 billion free hours every single day.
The issue of parking will also become a non-issue, with the report estimating that driverless cars will reduce the need for parking space in the US by more than 5.7 billion square metres.
"For example, self-parking AVs do not require open-door space for dropping off passengers when parked, allowing them to occupy parking spaces that are 15 percent tighter," it says.