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Will self-driving cars bring safer roads?

A Google self-driving car. (Photo: iStock)
A Google self-driving car. (Photo: iStock)

The future that The Jetsons predicted may be far away, but a world with self-driving cars is not. It’s actually predicted that self-driving cars will be on the market by 2020. What will that mean for human drivers? A lot. 

Expect big savings


Based on data from Metromile, there are predictions that we will see a drop-off in car insurance of around $1,000 annually, and that payments could even fall as low as $250 a year with the use of self-driving cars. That’s because self-driving cars reduce accidents by 90%. No risk, no premium. That’s how insurance companies work. Since self-driving cars are practically accident-free and will be almost 100% safe when they hit the market, auto insurance companies won’t have a choice but to drastically cut premiums.

They won’t be closing up shop anytime soon though. While self-driving cars can cut down risks of hitting objects while you’re in the car, they can’t stop weather, thieves, vandals or animals from causing damage. You’ll definitely still need some sort of insurance policy to protect against this, but look forward to much smaller premiums.

Self-driving cars can make the road a safer place


Google’s self-driving cars
 have been driving around Silicon Valley for years now and in a recent study, only got in five very minor accidents over the course of 200,000 miles on the road. While five accidents may make you raise your eyebrows, it’s important to know that 100% of these accidents weren’t the fault of the self-driving cars. In fact, every accident was caused by a human driver rear-ending the self-driving vehicle.

Google did report a recent mishap when one of its self-driving cars hit a truck due to a lack of intuition, but with every tweak, we’re getting closer to giving up the steering wheel to these smart robots. And with it, we could potentially spare the average 33,000 lives that are lost in car accidents every year, making the roads much safer.

Self-driving cars can do more than a human driver can


Humans are restricted by our physiology and physical make-up. Because of that, we can only see 180 degrees with our peripheral vision. Self-driving cars have the added bonus of being able to see 360 degrees around themselves with 100% focus at every angle. They literally have eyes in the backs of their proverbial heads and this means these cars can see everything around them and prevent more collisions. To prove that point, in the 2 million miles Google’s self-driving cars have charted, not a single one has been in a serious accident.

Accidents will still happen


As we mentioned above, mostly all of the accidents Google’s self-driving cars were in were because of human error. Since self-driving cars are predictable, they’ll be able to react much better to a fellow robotic car than a human who has emotions, distractions, and other factors that are hard to anticipate. Some say that humans may get into more accidents with self-driving cars if they’re gawking at them or overthink how they’re driving when they encounter one. This is all theory, but it does bring up a good point as to what might happen until everyone has a self-driving car.

While Google still has several years of testing and tweaking ahead, know that self-driving cars might be available sooner than you think. If you trust in technology more than humans, this is an exciting thing. And if you’d like to spend less on auto insurance, it can be an even more enticing future to look forward to.

Michelle Johnson is an author for Salt Lake City-based insurance information webiste Obrella.com.

Related: Google self-driving vehicle collides with bus in Silicon Valley

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