The theory that driverless cars could make our streets far safer and reduce car insurance premiums has gotten support from a very unusual source: the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
A report on the potential effects of self-driving vehicles prepared by the Strategic Issues Group, a think tank within the Bureau’s Directorate of Intelligence, has been obtained by our friends at The Guardian. The FBI’s analysts agree with the idea that self-driving cars will reduce the number of automobile accidents.
Another Way Driverless Cars Could Reduce Accidents and Cut Insurance Rates
Among other things, self-driving fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars could reduce the number of accidents between emergency vehicles and other traffic. Police officers and firefighters are actually in more danger in vehicles speeding to crime scenes and fires than responding to the actual emergencies.
Around 80 people are killed in accidents involving emergency vehicles in the U.S. every year, The Guardian reported. The London Metropolitan Police sometimes get into as many as a dozen accidents a day while responding to emergency calls.
Self-driving cars would reduce the number of such accidents by performing complex maneuvers that most people cannot. Robot vehicles would be less likely to become distracted or get lost, which would help emergency responders reach people in need faster. Such vehicles would also make for safer high-speed chases because they are more likely to be able to outmaneuver escaping crooks.
Another added benefit is that other self-driving vehicles on the road will be more likely to get out of emergency responders’ way. That, too, would make it easier for emergency responders to reach victims faster.
That means our cities could become a safer place because firefighters, paramedics, and cops could respond to 911 calls faster. It might also help reduce your local tax bill by cutting the insurance costs to the city.
Any reduction in accidents will reduce car insurance rates for everybody. It could also reduce costs further because the major expense in insurance claims is medical expenses for treating accident victims. Fewer accidents would equal fewer victims. Faster response could reduce the need for medical treatment for the victims.
Could Self-Driving Vehicles Lower Homeowner’s Insurance Rates?
Better emergency response might also lower fire and homeowner’s insurance rates. If fire trucks can reach your house faster, your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance rates could go down.
There are a few drawbacks to driverless vehicles that the FBI noted. The vehicles will make it easier for police to follow people and track suspects. That’s bad because it will lead to more privacy violations and good because it will make it easier to locate criminals and get them off the streets. That means driverless vehicles could reduce crime rates.
A potential dark side to driverless vehicles is also revealed by the report. FBI analysts note that a self-driving car would leave criminals free to shoot guns from moving vehicles. The analysts also note that the self-driving car’s systems could be hacked so it could ignore traffic laws.
Another potential nightmare is that terrorists or madmen could turn a self-driving vehicle into a bomb on wheels by packing it with explosives. That means they could blow stuff up without suicide bombers.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect to the Strategic Issue Group’s report is the prediction that Congress will approve the use of driverless cars nationwide within five to seven years. That means self-driving vehicles are going to be part of our future whether we want them or not.