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Every day, people around the world get caught in traffic going to work, school, or other places and activities. Some people may wonder if everyone had an autonomous car, would people still get stuck in traffic? This raises the question; will autonomous cars prevent traffic? Through research, experts have found information surrounding the topic that can give people an idea on whether they would. Collisions being the main cause of traffic is one variable that plays an important role in this research.
Many lives around the world could be saved if autonomous cars prevent traffic. Alternatively, some people believe that autonomous cars would not prevent traffic and that they would make it worse. In this research, both perspectives are taken in account to understand, will autonomous cars prevent traffic?
Some people believe that autonomous cars are dangerous and would cause more traffic. This is because they believe they will copy human’s driving behavior. “The way autonomous vehicles are currently being programmed may not be safe because the programs are copying humans” (Andrea Wells, 2018).
This shows how some people believe that if autonomous cars are being programmed to drive like humans, there would be no change and possibly even more accidents. This is because the cars would copy human mistakes and make the same driving errors. Others believe that autonomous cars would not have a positive impact on traffic as there is a higher rate of autonomous vehicle collisions than manually driven vehicles. Don Mackenzie, Professor Civil and Environmental Engineer, from the University of Washington stated, “In the U.
S., manually driven vehicles have one fatal crash every 93 million miles, on average. Uber’s AVs made it to just three million miles before their first fatal crash” (Don Mackenzie, 2018). This statement means that since the rate of autonomous vehicles’ fatal collisions is higher than human drivers, it is more likely for autonomous cars to be involved in a collision and cause more traffic. These reasons give perspective on why some choose to believe that autonomous vehicles are more dangerous and more likely to be involved in collisions, causing more traffic.
Many people believe autonomous cars are going to prevent congestion (a form of traffic caused by clusters of cars). When people are driving below the speed limit and others are trying to pass them, this can cause congestion on the roads. Science in Our World course at Penn State University states, “While some people are going faster than other, some go slower which causes the traffic to flow unevenly” (Science in Our World, 2018). This statement means that the differences of speed from human drivers causes traffic. If there were autonomous vehicles, they would most likely all travel the same speed, getting rid of the congestion on the roads. Poor communication between other drivers is a cause for many accidents, leading to traffic on roads. Autonomous cars are thought to be able to communicate better with each other than humans can. Often, congestion can be caused because of poor communication while trying to switch lanes.
Ching-Yao Chan, Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, University of California at Berkley, stated, “automated drivers may communicate with each other through machines in ways that cannot be done by visual glances or body gestures to communicate intentions” (Ching-Yao Chan, 2017). This statement means that the computers in automated cars will be able to communicate with other automated cars much more efficiently and effectively than humans can. The ability for automated cars to communicate in this way would stop congestion on the roads because the cars would navigate without confusion or misinterpretation from other drivers. This would help with preventing traffic. Many human drivers take on different techniques to conserve gas while driving, which can lead to congestion. The U.S. Energy Information Administration stated, “In 2017, about 142.98 billion gallons of finished motor gasoline were consumed in the United States, a daily average of about 391.1 million gallons per day” (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2018). This gives an idea of how much gas people in America used a day during 2017. If automated cars were used by everyone, people would not have to worry about conserving their gas as more would be saved because of decreased stopping and starting. Because people would not be driving in different ways and causing traffic to conserve gas, there would be less traffic. These reasons show how automated cars would stop congestion and prevent traffic.
Many people also believe that autonomous cars are going to prevent people from being stressed while on the road, leading to less traffic. When people are stressed at the wheel, they tend to drive more anxiously, increasing the chances of causing an accident and traffic. Elite Driving School states, “94% of all traffic accidents are caused by driver error. Of those accidents, 33% could be linked to behaviors typically assigned to road rage, such as illegal maneuvering or misjudging the intent of another driver” (Elite Driving School, 2018). This means that when people are stressed while driving, they are more likely to get into a traffic collision. Collisions on the road are one of the main causes of traffic so, if everyone had autonomous cars, people would not get stressed because they wouldn’t be driving and traffic would be prevented. Fatal accidents, which often cause dead stop traffic, are often caused by stressed drivers. Fatal accidents can cause backed up traffic for sometimes hours upon hours. Adrienne Lafrance, reporter on technology for Nieman Lab, stated, “Researchers estimate that driverless cars could, by midcentury, reduce traffic fatalities by up to 90 percent.
This means that, using the number of fatalities in 2013 as a baseline, self-driving cars could save 29,447 lives a year” (Adrienne Lafrance, 2016). This gives an example of how many lives are taken from fatal driving accidents. Stressed drivers caused one-third of those accidents. If autonomous cars became normal, traffic would be prevented because there would be no more stressed-driver accidents. Stressed drivers cause many accidents worldwide which cause traffic and costs a lot of money. Rocky Mountain Insurance Information stated, “The per-capita costs for each state vary from roughly $600-$1,200 compared to the nationwide average of $897” (Rocky Mountain Insurance Information, 2018). These costs give an idea of how many accidents occur per state which cause traffic. Out of these costs, the per-capita cost of stressed drivers alone would be $298.97 which shows a large fraction of these costs are from stressed drivers. Stressed drivers have been shown to cause a lot of traffic across the world and if human driven cars were replaced with automated cars, these situations which cause traffic, would be prevented.
As many drivers know, traffic is often caused by car accidents on the road. If everyone around the world drove autonomous cars, driving would be much safer, preventing traffic. Dwight D. Brannon from Brannon Law Firm stated, “An additional 2.35 million suffer injuries or disabilities annually from car accidents – about 6,438 per day” (Dwight D. Brannon, 2018). This means that now, the roads are still not completely safe from car accidents. Because car accidents still happen often, traffic still happens across the world. If autonomous cars were normally driven, they would be more safe, meaning they would prevent traffic. Self-driving vehicles are much safer than human driven vehicles as the fatal risk rate is much lower. Since the fatal risk rate is lower in self-driving cars, city traffic and dead-stop traffic are prevented. Society for risk analysis stated, “The results show that the respondents believe that Self-Driving Vehicles (SDVs) should be four to five times safe as Human-driving vehicles (HDVs).
Current global traffic fatal risk is estimated at 17.4 per 100,00, which is 350 times greater than the frequency accepted by 50% of the respondents for SDVs” (Society for Risk Analysis, 2018). This information provides the chances of fatal risk in an autonomous accident and compares it to the human drivers’ chances of being in an accident. The higher the chances of being in an accident, the higher the chances of causing traffic. This shows how autonomous vehicles are safer, leading to them preventing traffic. Many people say that the cost of road crashes correlates to the amount of collisions and how much traffic there is globally. Association for Safe International Road Travel states, “road crashes cost USD $518 billion globally, costing individual countries from 1-2% of their annual GDP” (Association for Safe International Road Travel, 2018). This proves that because autonomous cars are safer, there would be less accidents leading to the road crash cost, meaning that traffic would be prevented. Based on these reasons, autonomous cars are more safely driven which proves that they prevent traffic on public roadways all over the world.
When I started my research on autonomous cars, I believed that autonomous cars would make the traffic worse than it is now. After researching, I found that they would prevent traffic because the cars would travel at the same speeds, getting rid of congestion. Now that I have completed my research, my idea on autonomous cars has changed and feel that they would be a large step towards safer roadways. As I was doing this research, I came across the question, will autonomous cars be safer than today’s cars? If I were to further my research, I would look to see what factors/features of autonomous cars make them safer than today’s cars. During my research, I found that autonomous cars would be better with communication and decrease stressed drivers, preventing traffic. I have also found that autonomous cars would have driving errors and are more likely to cause driving errors, increasing traffic. From my research, I think that autonomous cars wouldn’t increase or prevent traffic around the world because although autonomous cars are faster and better at communicating, they don’t have the experience of human drivers.
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