In the past few years self-driving cars have been appearing in the news more often with major advances in technology happening all the time. Companies such as Tesla are leading the way with current models already being equipped with some kind of auto-pilot self-driving features. Much of the hype and discussion around self-driving cars in the past few years has been centred around the idea that self-driving cars will be involved in fewer crashes with fewer injuries and death when compared to human-driven cars. The problem is that up until now most comparisons between human drivers and self-driving cars have been uneven at best.

Self-driving cars are nothing new in fact the research behind this technology has been ongoing for decades. Driverless cars are already a reality and will become more common on our roads in the near future. The major auto manufacturers are already offering new vehicles which come equipped with augmented cruise control, where the cars automatically hold their position in a lane and maintains the proper distance to the vehicle ahead, provide emergency braking, are able to self-park, and even back up with a trailer.

The ultimate goal will be to take out the driver from the equation altogether, so future vehicles may wind up without having any steering wheels, gears or pedals. You would simply need to program your destination into a keypad and the car will take you there via the best route possible, avoiding other vehicles and hazards along the way like traffic jams and road accidents. This will not only save you time and mental effort, it should also save you money.

Currently the vast majority of car accidents are caused by human error. According to the Conference Board of Canada, autonomous vehicles may play a significant role in reducing current number of annual road fatalities by 1,600 from the current amount of 2,000 a year. Further to this, Conference Board of Canada estimate that the total economic benefit may be over $65 billion per year. Those savings may come from such factors as: fewer collisions and lower fuel costs, among some others.

We must remember that at this point, driverless technology is far from being perfect. Vehicles which are fully autonomous still require a driver present to take over if something goes wrong. They have also been involved in accidents as seen on the news and online. Recently, a Tesla electric car running on enhanced driver assistance, which was not meant to be used as a fully automatic control system, rear ended a fire truck that was parked at the side of the road during an emergency stop. Last year another driver was killed when his car using the self-driving feature rear-ended a truck. In both these cases, the driver’s inattention was partly to blame.

Therefore, if you’re driving a car with self-driving features there is no substitute for being alert and always paying attention. Until these features can be perfected we must always be focused on the road ahead.

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