And the Worst Driver Award goes to…

Automologist LING is an advocate for self-driving cars because she simply DOESN’T WANT TO DIE. It occurred to me that every time I ride...

Automologist LING is an advocate for self-driving cars because she simply DOESN’T WANT TO DIE.

It occurred to me that every time I ride in a car, I am putting myself at high risk of dying. Road injury is the tenth leading cause of deaths worldwide, preceded by health problems and diseases (2015). And since I keep active, eat (relatively) well and have a healthy family history, the most potentially harmful thing I do to myself again and again is…well…driving.

Every time my friends (or I) get anxious about flying, I remind them (and myself) that they are more likely to die during the drive to the airport than during the flight (they don't appreciate my candidness, though). Yet, aviophobia (fear of flying) is more common than amaxophobia (fear of riding in a vehicle). If you knew better, you SHOULD be amaxophobic. In 2013, more than 3 billion people took commercial flights, and out of that, there were 210 fatalities. The odds of dying from a motor vehicle crash is 1 in 113 and the number of road traffic fatality in 2013 was 1.25 million globally

In 2015, more than 35,000 road deaths occurred in the US of A alone. Guess how many were caused by human error? A whopping 94 PERCENT. We are all inclined to distraction and fatigue. And although I can promise to put my phone away, to not drive after drinking and to always get enough rest before I take the wheel, I cannot be sure that the other drivers on the road will do the same. The worst drivers are...all HUMANS. 

Self-driving cars, on the other hand, can only focus on one thing – to drive safely. And that is all their programming allows. In fact, they more than have eyes at the back of their heads; they have 360-degree sensors and are capable of making split second complex calculations (faster than it takes me to add one to two) and taking immediate action to avoid accidents. The sensors can pick up potential dangers where our eyes cannot detect. For instance, as the self-driving car cruises along a line of parked cars, it can detect if the door of a stationary car is slightly ajar and proceed cautiously (by slowing down or changing lane) in case there is someone about to get out of the parked car. A human driver might not notice the opened door or cannot react fast enough to avoid the alighting passenger.

Just last month, Tesla’s Autopilot showed yet again how it can preclude accidents in this dashcam video that has been making the rounds on the Internet:

The Autopilot system had apparently detected the SUV slowing down and started applying the emergency brakes before the driver stepped on the brakes himself; as a result, the Tesla Model X was at a safe distance when the smaller vehicle slammed into the back of the SUV. You see, while human eyes can’t see past obstructions, radars are undeterred.

So, you see, I very much welcome the day when self-driving cars dominate the roads because I want to get around and NOT DIE, thank you very much.


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