Google’s car project and numerous efforts by car manufacturers show unmistakably that the technological components for automated driving have reached a level of maturity that will allow rollout in the near future.
But are we on the verge of handing over our car keys and let a car drive us automatically from A to B? As a side event to this year’s Geneva Motor Show, the ITU of UNECE organized a symposium titled “The Future Networked Car”. The international symposium brought together leaders from the automotive industry, motor sport, international automobile associations and ICT experts. The two day event started off with a high level discussion.
President of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Jean Todt pleaded to make road safety the central subject in development of autonomous vehicles. His motive is clear. Road safety is urgent because traffic accidents are the cause of 1.3 MM deaths worldwide and 15 MM people injured every year. It makes it the number 8 cause of death in the world following diseases such as HIV and Malaria. If no solution is created it is estimated it will become the number 5 cause of death in the world. The majority of the victims of accidents with vehicles are within the age group 15-29 years old. These victims are not behind the wheel of a vehicle, but they are users of the road in the broadest sense.
Technology is part of the problem as well as a part of the solution, because 80% of the accidents worldwide is caused by driver distraction. Texting and the utilization of smart phones is the main reason for drivers being distracted. In that sense, technology is a risk. ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré went a step further and said that texting and driving is currently causing more accidents and traffic deaths than drinking and driving. Later on in the day Peter Burns of Transport Canada made the connection between self-driving cars and drunk drivers. He quoted a French research in which 71% of the French respondents stated that the main reason for them for wanting a self-driving car is that it could take them home safely when they are intoxicated.
What do you think, should preventing accidents become the central topic in the discussion on self-driving car technology or could there be a role for a themes such as driving pleasure, comfort or freedom?