In the U.S. alone, we get into roughly 5.5 million crashes a year, at an estimated cost of $450 billion. The last year that fewer than 30,000 people died on American roads was 1945.
Compared to the rest of the world, however, America is the little old lady doing 20 miles per hour in the slow lane of death. Only about 12 people per 100,000 residents die each year in car accidents. In India, that number is 20. Thailand, Libya, the Dominican Republic and Eritrea are the “winners” — if you can call it that — of this grisly game with around 40 deaths per 100,000 people each year.
In total, human error behind the wheel (or the handlebars) accounts for 1.24 million deaths per year, or one every 25 seconds. In the time it took you to read this far in this article, another heartbeat stopped, another bundle of hopes and dreams and potential was brought to an impromptu end.
The good news is that the technology already exists to alleviate this problem. We can stop the slaughter in an incredibly civilized way that will let us get wherever we want to go with a virtual chauffeur. We won’t lose our freedom; we’ll gain new freedoms, such as the freedom to not have to worry about parking. Who cares about finding a spot when the car can do just that? We can be out in our vehicle in the evening, and every occupant of the car can drink to their heart’s content.
All we need do to enter this future autopia is accept that our time behind the wheel is drawing to a close, and encourage and accelerate the driverless technology that Tesla, Google and many other car companies are bringing to roads.
Paradigm shifts like this are difficult, and we shouldn’t kid ourselves that a mental leap is going to be easy. We’re going to have a really hard time letting go of the prideful part of ourselves that thinks we’re better than machines at driving. It’s just no longer true.
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