Researchers believe that self-driving cars could save as many as 300,000 American lives in a decade. Can autonomous cars really reduce the number of fatal auto accidents across Colorado and the rest of the nation?

Most Americans Say No While Some Automakers Say Yes

Recently, Money magazine posted a story highlighting a recent report that General Motors (GM) is going to release a full-autonomous electric vehicle sometime in 2019. According to a GM spokesperson, the automobile, called the Cruise AV, will be “the first production-ready vehicle built from the start to operate safely on its own, with no driver, steering wheel, pedals, or manual controls.” The question that inevitably comes to mind is: do you trust fully functioning self-driving cars? According to a recent survey, if you say no, you are in the majority, and there are many reasons why people are skeptical of all this new technology.

Only 10 Percent of Surveyed Feel Safer in a Fully Autonomous Car

The American Automobile Association (AAA) noted that following a survey of drivers, only 10 percent of those questioned said they would feel safer in a fully-autonomous car as compared to one driven by a human. The same survey found that three-quarters of those surveyed said they would be afraid to be a passenger in a self-driving vehicle. This survey follows one from 2016 that showed that a majority of Americans like the idea of autonomous features, but they were not ready to embrace a fully-functioning self-driving vehicle. The reason, according to AAA Director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations Greg Brannon, is:

“U.S. drivers may experience the driver assistance technologies in their cars today and feel they don’t work consistently enough to replace a human driver – and they’re correct. While these technologies will continue to improve over time, it’s important that consumers understand that today’s systems require your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.”

Despite these results, GM is moving ahead and has asked federal authorities to permit them to release up to 2500 Cruise AV cars next year. GM says if they are given permission, this will be a major step forward in moving from human drivers to having vehicles manned and operated by computers.

Can Self-Driving Cars Prevent All Accidents?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) noted that more than 17,500 people died in car crashes in the first half of 2017. Last year, Colorado saw a total of 620 deaths on state roads, 15 more lives lost in 2017 than in 2016. NHTSA stated that 90 percent of all auto accidents are due to human error; this figure included driving under the influence, aggressive driving, and distracted driving. So, could autonomous vehicles be the answer to decreasing fatal accidents?

Automakers hope so and continue to build on that philosophy even after a fatal crash of a fully-automated Tesla occurred in 2016. According to NHTSA, the crash happened after an 18-wheeler made a turn in front of the Tesla and the autonomous car failed to brake, thus killing the passenger. Despite this fatality, a recent article noted that researchers believe that self-driving cars could save as many as 300,000 American lives in a decade. As the article’s author noted, “All this suggests that, despite the growing pains ahead, the promise of driverless cars remains enormous—and within reach.”

In Colorado, lawmakers believe the same thing as the state recently passed its first law to regulate driverless cars so those developing the vehicles can test them safely. With this passage, Colorado becomes the 17th state to pass such legislation. Lawmakers hope this will further entice known automakers and independent innovators working on autonomous vehicles to consider Colorado as a test location.

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