There are numerous benefits to automated and heavily connected vehicles, with savings in time investment, attention – nobody will need to watch the road any more – speed, fuel efficiency, and congestion being just a few of the many. However researchers speaking at the recent SAE 2015 conference, said that they can unanimously agree that the biggest benefit that driverless vehicles will give us, is improved safety.
Of course this is something that we knew already to some extent and it’s why many car manufacturers around the world have been putting countless energy into implementing features like autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, smart cruise control and more: because it keeps us safer behind the wheel.
As we’ve said many times before, 90 per cent of all car accidents are caused by the fault of one or more drivers. Taking away control of the vehicle in certain instances and eventually altogether, is about the only other way we can make driving safer, as we are simply the biggest liability nowadays. While once upon a time car failures may have caused problems, or a lack of safety equipment, today with airbags, crumple zones and the new automated features, we’re as insulated as we’ve ever been and yet people still die, often because of their or someone else’s actions.
However what was interesting about the chat at the SAE conference, was that automated technology was touted, but not always in the vehicles themselves. One such piece of tech was a system already in place in Japan, whereby drivers are informed of accidents up ahead that may pose a danger, through remote detection systems that automatically transmit information to vehicles on the highway.
This sort of vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to highway communication is something that many researchers want to see implemented all over the world. Companies like Toyota are working with international organisations to make that happen, with specific impetus put into delivering that sort of early warnings system in the US on its many millions of miles of roads.
However, not everyone agrees that getting drivers on board with automation will be easy:
“Safety for safety’s sake is not going to cut it because research has proven over and over that everyone thinks they’re better than the person next to them in terms of driving,” said Myra Blanco, a research scientist at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Centre. “So how do we sugarcoat safety with something else to create that type of user adoption?”
One solution she suggested was selling it based on convenience. Instead of championing the fact that users won’t be driving so will be safer, giving them the idea of relaxing on the drive to work is a much sexier selling point.