Study: Self Driving Cars Could Reduce Accident Injuries and Fatalities by 50%

A study by researchers at Virginia Tech lends credence to the idea that putting more self-driving vehicles on the road would reduce auto insurance premiums. Professor of Biomedical Engineering H. Clay Gabler and Research Associate Kristofer D. Kusano found that automating the most dangerous aspects of driving could cut the number of accidents leading to injuries and fatalities in half.

It's hard to believe but David Hasselhoff accurately predicted the future. He had a self-driving car in the 1980s on Knight Rider.

It’s hard to believe but David Hasselhoff accurately predicted the future. He had a self-driving car in the 1980s on Knight Rider.

If their claims are true, car insurance premiums would fall because accident victims’ medical bills are the biggest expense in insurance claims. Insurance companies wouldn’t have to pay out as much money, so they would cut premiums accordingly.

The two researchers sampled data from crashes nationwide and found that the number of injuries and fatalities in the wrecks fell by 29% to 50% when vehicles with self-driving features were involved. They discovered that such simple technologies as collision warning systems, automated braking, and lane departure warning capabilities prevented accidents.



The study was reportedly financed by Toyota, perhaps in an attempt to see if automated safety features pay off. The researchers found that they did.

Self-Driving Cars Could Be as Important as Seat Belts

That means such safety features are as effective at preventing fatalities and injuries as seatbelts were, New York Times writer Claire Cain Miller wrote. Seatbelts reduced deaths and injuries in car accidents by around 50%.

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It also indicates that true self-driving cars, such as Google’s cart and Mercedes’ Intelligent Drive, would reduce car accidents even further. That means there could come a time when auto accidents are as rare as house fires. There’s a reason why house fires make the evening news in most cities; they’re actually pretty rare because of modern fire codes.

That would certainly be good news for car owners but bad news for personal injury attorneys. They make most of their money suing on behalf of injured accident victims. Less personal injury claims would drive down insurance rates even further.

Those that don’t believe these claims should compare their auto insurance bill to their homeowners or renters insurance bill. Your house or apartment probably costs 100 times more than your car, yet your homeowners or renters insurance bill is probably a tenth of your auto insurance premium.

This means that the biggest resistance to self-driving vehicles might come from personal injury attorneys. It also means that insurance companies will be among the biggest advocates of self-driving automotive technology. Just like seatbelts, there will be efforts to mandate self-driving cars.

How Self-Driving Cars Would Make Driving Safer

Some of you are probably wondering just how self-driving vehicles would reduce the accident rate. The reason such vehicles would have fewer accidents is simple: 92% of accidents are caused by driver error.

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Modern vehicles are incredibly safe; modern drivers are not. Humans get drunk, text, run stop signs and stop lights, drive over the speed limit, and make illegal lane changes; robots do not. That means self-driving cars could keep traffic cops out of work as well as taxi and truck drivers.

Perhaps 20 years in the future we’ll wonder how we ever allowed cars that were not self-driving on our streets. Thanks to self-driving cars, our streets will be a very different place in 20 years and a far safer place.