A 90 percent reduction in auto accident deaths would save almost 300,000 people each decade and save some $190 billion each year in medical expenses.

Although the United States, more specifically Henry Ford, came to dominate the automobile industry in the early 1900s, it was the Germans in the late 1800s who designed the first blueprint for the modern-day automobile.

A century ago, the latest models held few people and accelerated to just 53 mph. Today, our world is building self-driving vehicles; Ford even predicts that by 2021, it will be producing a car with no steering wheel or pedals. Believe it or not, this technology may be the answer to decreasing the number of auto accidents in Colorado and across the nation.

90 Percent Fewer Fatalities Possible

According to the National Safety Council, 2015 was the deadliest year on U.S. roads since 2008. Statistics show that more than 38,000 people were killed in car accidents and another 4.4 million were injured. Colorado didn’t fare any better. According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, traffic fatalities in the state rose 10 percent in 2015 compared with 2014. In 2015, there were 545 traffic fatalities, with many more injured.

The reason there is such a focus on self-driving cars, or autonomous vehicles, these days is that there is the belief the technology will greatly reduce traffic fatalities; some reports say, by a lot. The consulting firm McKinsey & Company released a study in 2015 that explains that by taking human emotions and error out of the driving equation, car accident deaths could be reduced by 90 percent.

As the study explains, “By midcentury, the penetration of AVs (autonomous vehicles) and other ADAs (advanced driver-assistance systems) could ultimately cause vehicle crashes in the U.S. to fall from second to ninth place regarding their lethality ranking among accident types.” The report also states that a 90 percent reduction in traffic deaths would save almost 300,000 people each decade and save some $190 billion each year in medical expenses associated with accidents.

Safety Sensors

There have been a couple of high-profile autonomous car accidents, but those experimenting with driverless cars believe they will become the safest vehicles on the road despite the absence of a steering wheel, pedals, or even a driver. The reason has to do, in part, with sensors and computers that allow the sensors the ability to identify just about anything around them. Autonomous cars contain many sensors that gather a significant amount of data via computers, so cars can communicate with one another to avoid an accident. The sensors include cameras, radar, and lasers so people, objects, and other hazards are seen long before the human eye could see it.

Self-Driving Components Introduced

Though full autonomous cars are still a few years away for everyday use, there are cars now on the road that have some features of autonomy. For instance, the Civic LX can come with an advanced-driver assistance system, which keeps the car in its designated lane and also has automatic braking. According to General Motors, the maker of the Civic, the car can travel 25 miles without the driver putting a hand on the steering wheel or a foot on the accelerator as long as there is another vehicle in front of the car and the lanes are well marked and visible. While it’s not totally autonomous all the time, it’s a start, and it’s lightyears ahead of what was available to consumers some 100 years ago.

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