Why my first accident made me wish self-driving cars were a reality

Tuesday night, I became a statistic. Thousands of accidents occur in the USA every year and as many as 94% are a result of human error, and, now, I am in that number.

As I rode to the Boys & Girls Club to volunteer, the car in front of me stopped abruptly, but I didn’t. My Chevy HHR crashed into the rear end of her Ford Explorer. The airbag exploded into my chest as my feet scrambled to find the brakes and put the car into park. The impact sent shock waves through my body as I burst into tears. Gas fumes permeated the air around me as I turned off the car and unlatched my seat belt.

I hurried out of the car to check on the passenger whose car I hit. Thankfully, we both were unharmed by the accident. However, the front of my car was smashed like an accordion, damaged and inoperable.

As I left the scene of the accident, with a friend of mine I said to her, “What if we lived in a world with self-driving cars? I bet this would not have happened.”

“There would probably be hardly any accidents,” she said.

I thought back to the summer, when I learned about the technology used in the self-driving car at Google BOLD Immersion. I believe technology can change the world for the better. The Google self-driving car uses sensors and computer systems to detect obstacles in  and guide the car safely through the road. While the project is still in prototype phase, it has made tremendous progress, driving over 2 million miles.

“While self-driving cars are expected to reduce accidents by 90 percent, 81 percent of Americans feel they are safer driving themselves,” reported Seth Birbaum in the Nov. 8, 2016 TechCrunch article ‘The insurance impact of self-driving cars and shared mobility.’ This statistic surprised me. I would feel safer knowing that the automated technology has a near perfect crash record.

Other companies like Uber and Volvo have also invested in self-driving car technologies on the road now. However, even if these cars are available to the public within the next decade, it will takes years before everyone purchases or has access to one. And with a combination of both autonomous and driver-controlled cars on the road, the risk for accidents is present, though decreases.

There is no doubt that driverless cars will dramatically transform society, from jobs within the auto and insurance industry, to completing everyday tasks. Ultimately, self-driving cars will save society millions of dollars and precious lives.

Millions of people suffer the, often fatal, consequences of an accident. Tuesday, I got into my first accident. While I know it probably won’t be my last, I will be glad when self-driving cars become the norm instead of the exception.

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