In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit up-front to being a huge, huge fan of Google’s self-driving car project. So needless to say, I was quite happy to hear about Google reaching a milestone of 300,000 accident free miles. While there have been accidents, they have not occurred while the computer was driving. Why am I such a huge fan? One reason is because of the potentially huge benefits it could introduce. Google’s site provides a (rather understated) summary of such benefits:
According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.2 million lives are lost every year in road traffic accidents. We believe our technology has the potential to cut that number, perhaps by as much as half. We’re also confident that self-driving cars will transform car sharing, significantly reducing car usage, as well as help create the new “highway trains of tomorrow.” These highway trains should cut energy consumption while also increasing the number of people that can be transported on our major roads. In terms of time efficiency, the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that people spend on average 52 minutes each working day commuting. Imagine being able to spend that time more productively.
This technology not only has the potential to save lives, but also to radically transform the car industry (and hopefully car designs) as well as the broader transportation industry.
I suppose the second reason is that the ability to design a system that allows for automated driving is itself quite impressive.
Perhaps the only downside is that people may end up getting fatter.