This year over a million people will die
from crashes involving motor vehicles.
And if nothing is done about it, that number will continue to rise as universal auto ownership arrives in India and China.
Deaths from car accidents create pain and suffering for millions more people around the world. That’s why something has to be done to stop it.
For the longest of times, actually solving the problem of car accidents seemed like an impossible task. It was science fiction to propose that cars might be able to drive themselves. How could a computer possibly drive a car, given the millions of un-programmable scenarios cars encounter on the road?
But back in 2004 DARPA launched a grand challenge to see if the impossible could be done. They challenged teams from all over the world to design a car that could safely navigate a course. To begin with things didn’t look good. All the teams failed and the naysayers said, “look, I told you it wasn’t possible.”
But by 2007, the technology and expertise had advanced to the point where one car did succeed. The effort by Carnegie Mellon University and General Motors bagged the $2 million prize and the self-driving car was born.
Once the concept had been proven, others wanted to find out more and improve on it. Google began their own self-driving car project back in 2010. The car has now completed over 1.5 million miles driving itself around Californian roads. It has successfully navigated a myriad of hazards on the road and usually come out on top.
The purpose of these efforts is to reduce the number of accidents by an order of magnitude. Accidents are expensive. Each year millions of people contact their auto accident attorney because they’ve had an accident. Millions of dollars of cars are written off. And millions of days at work are lost.
Now Tesla has stated that it wants to see fully self-driving cars on the road by 2020. In fact, Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, recently tweeted a cryptic message that the new Model 3 might be the first genuinely self-driving car.
Up until this point, Teslas have only had autonomous driving aids for use on the main roads. They require the driver to be sat at the wheel ready to take over at any moment. But the Model 3 could be different. By the time the car reaches the consumer market, probably late 2017, self-driving technology will have moved on. In fact, the release of the Model 3 is just before 2018, the year in which Musk believes fully autonomous cars will be feasible.
Musk is not shy about his desire to get autonomous vehicles on the road. He’s lamented, as everybody else has, the human cost of driving and wants to put an end to it. He’s said that autonomous vehicles have the potential to reduce accidents on the road by an order of magnitude.
The obstacle? Regulators need to be convinced that self-driving cars are safe. Musk says that they’ll be so safe that no politician will be able to stand in their way.