Study Says Autonomous Vehicles Could Sizably Reduce Losses from Vehicle Crashes

The U.S. could lead the world in vehicle safety and economic improvements through autonomous vehicle technologies, according to a new global study.

Conducted by Global Positioning Specialists, an Australia-based fleet management GPS tracking company, the study estimated the positive impact adopting autonomous systems would have on global economies. The study’s findings sees countries adopting autonomous driving technologies reducing traffic accident economic costs about ten-fold.

Ed. note: While there is a move underway by some intrepid activists to strike the term “accident” from use in public discussion, in favor of “crashes,” the study uses “accidents,” so without further commentary, this report repeats the study’s term.

For now, the U.S. is topping a list of 73 countries studied by a wide margin in economic losses from traffic accidents at $340 billion per year. India is second on the list with about $62.6 billion per year lost to traffic accidents.

Reducing traffic collisions and fatalities is the leading force behind the U.S. government supporting autonomous vehicles.

For the U.S., adopting autonomous vehicles could mean economic losses would drop from $340 billion per year down to about $34 billion per year. The study sees the U.S. taking the biggest hit to its gross domestic product (GDP), a key economic indicator, and the biggest improvement.

South Africa ranked number one in having the highest share of its GDP lost to traffic accidents at 7.8 percent; autonomous technologies would reduce that country’s economic loss by over $21 billion, according to the study.

“Governments will never spend on investing in things like this (autonomous driving technologies) unless there is concrete evidence, but here we have proved there are strong economic reasons to invest in driverless technology, as well as the obvious improvement to public safety,” said Lucile Michaut, head of Global Positioning Specialists.

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The U.S. government emphasized auto safety and technology innovations during its release of new federal guidelines last September. During the joint appearance in Washington, the Department of Transportation and National Economic Council released a 15-point safety standard for the design and development of autonomous vehicles.

“We envision in the future, you can take your hands off the wheel, and your commute becomes restful or productive instead of frustrating and exhausting,” said Jeffrey Zients, director of the NEC, adding that highly automated vehicles “will save time, money and lives.”

The Obama administration has encouraged companies such as Tesla, Google, Apple, Ford, and other automakers and suppliers, to provide innovative and safe technologies to the nascent self-driving technology arena. The new federal guidelines would like to see a uniform national standard adopted for fully automated vehicles, while a few states have adopted differing standards.

Governments in Europe and Asia are adapting their vehicle regulations to support development of safe, autonomous vehicle technologies.

China plans to play a leading role in adopting these new technologies. In October, the Chinese government and Society of Automotive Engineers of China issued a roadmap through 2030 that could have semi- or fully autonomous vehicles on sale in that country as early as 2021.

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