To Err is Human. We Can Stop That.

Among the many benefits of driverless cars, revolutionary reductions in car accidents will result. The numbers are astounding.

George Burns once said “If you live to be one hundred, you’ve got it made. Very few people die past that age.”

Another wit states: “Statistics play an important role in genetics. For instance, statistics prove that numbers of offspring are an inherited trait. If your parent didn’t have any kids, odds are you won’t either.”

Many a comedian have gotten laughs by poking fun at statistics. Often, statistical numbers distort the truth.

And, yet, certain statistics jump off the page and beg to be understood. They hold the power of life and death.

The Dramatic Statistics On Car Crashes

The sexily named “National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey” (going by the even sexier acronym “NMVCCS”) published some startling findings. There are 2.19 million car crashes in the U.S. annually.

Here’s the NMVCCS analysis of what they call the “Critical Reason” that causes the crash:

Drivers 2,046,000 crashes 94% of the total
Environment  52,000 crashes 2% of the total
Vehicles 44,000 crashes 2% of the total
Unknown Reasons 47,000 crashes 2% of the total
2,189,000 crashes 100%

“Critical Reason” is the immediate reason for the critical pre-crash event and is often the last failure in the  causal chain of  events leading up  to the crash.

Humans, in other words, directly cause 94 percent of all vehicle accidents. Why?

The NMVCCS further broke down each category. Here are the relevant reasons for driver crashes:

Recognition Error         845,000 41% of the total
Decision Error         684,000 33% of the total
Performance Error          210,000 11% of the total
Non-Performance Error          145,000 7% of the total
Other          162,000 8% of the total
  2,046,000 100%

Recognition errors include driver’s inattention, distractions, and inadequate surveillance.                        

Decision errors include driving too fast, misjudging of other’s actions and illegal maneuvers.    

Performance error is basically bad driving and poor direction control.  

Non-performance error is mostly falling asleep at the wheel.

Even those skeptical of statistics should be sobered by these numbers.

We humans make a lot of errors – both on the road and off – and are the most dangerous part of motorized transport.

  RelatedDriverless Cars & the Trolley Problem

Get Rid of Those Damn Human Amateurs

Board a train, and a professional drives it. Board a plane, and a professional flies it. Same for ferries, trolleys and most other forms of transportation. Except cars, motorcycles and golf carts.

We should be overjoyed at the coming revolution in driverless cars. Computers, AI and sensors will replace human drivers. While not perfect, they should certainly err less frequently than carbon-based life forms.

In 2015, there were 35,092 deaths from road crashes in the U.S. (roughly 10 per 100,000 population). Worldwide, that number is 1.3 million. In addition, there are an estimated 20-50 million non-fatal injuries or disabilities annually.

And 9 out of 10 of them are caused by human fallibility.

Arguably, no other cause of death is capable of being eliminated as effectively as replacing human drivers with driverless cars.

Smallpox was conquered by science in the 18th century. Death by infection in the 19th.  Pneumonia and polio in the 20th.

Let’s add driver-caused crashes in the 21st.

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Article written by: Charles Bogle 3.0.  Submitted 3/1/17

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