PhotoRecently, there has been some pushback by consumer advocacy groups that say self-driving cars aren’t ready to hit the open road. After several accidents, one of which took the life of a passenger in Florida, it would make sense if U.S. drivers are hesitant when it comes to the new technology.

However, a new study shows that other automated vehicle technologies are not only saving consumers money in the long run, they’re making roads safer. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon College of Engineering believe that continuing to implement these devices is a step in the right direction.

“While there is much discussion about driverless vehicles, we have demonstrated that even with partial automation there are financial and safety benefits,” said Chris T. Hendrickson, director of the Carnegie Mellon Traffic21 Institute.

Avoiding accidents

Hendrickson and his colleagues came to their conclusion after analyzing data on crash-avoidance for light-duty U.S. vehicles.

They found that automated vehicle technologies, like forward crash prevention systems, blind-spot monitoring, and lane departure warnings, would be relevant in 24% of all crashes in the U.S.

With these statistics, the researchers posit that these technologies could help reduce the severity of 1.3 million crashes per year, as well as over 10,000 accidents that would otherwise be fatal.


But while the safety benefits may be indisputable, are the systems cost effective enough to be worth it? To find out, the researchers contrasted the cost of implementing the technologies against the potential cost of the accidents that would occur without them.

After creating different scenarios that measured crash avoidance, the researchers found that implementing the technologies was much more cost-effective. In the first scenario, assuming a perfect world where the technologies helped avoid all accidents, the amount saved by consumers totaled $202 billion, or around $861 per car.

In the second, more conservative scenario -- where the number of accidents was reduced only if they correlated with forward collisions, blind spot accidents, and crashes caused by lane departures – consumers still came out ahead. The researchers estimated an annual savings of $4 billion, or $20 per car.

Advancing technology

While the researchers admit that $20 doesn’t seem like a lot, they believe that advancements in technology will only allow cars to become safer and earn more savings as time passes.

“If you bought a car right now with these safety systems at the current prices offered by auto manufacturers, both you and society would have a positive economic benefit. We are seeing that partial automation is accomplishing crash and crash severity reductions, and we expect to improve. This study creates a framework for regulatory action encouraging early deployment of partial automation technologies,” said Hendrickson.

The full study has been published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention

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