Why no self-driving cars? Blame the politicians

  • The average commute in San Francisco is 32.2 minutes. The employed civilian population is 837,442.
  • There are 251 working days per year, so the average worker spends 16164.4 minutes/11.23 days commuting per year.
  • That is 13,536,747,464.8 minutes – 25,754 years for the Bay Area population per year.
  • Assuming a life expectancy of 80 years, 322 lives are wasted every year due to the commute time in SF.
  • Given an average San Fransisco per capita income of $46,777, the average hourly rate is $23, which means the commute costs San Franciscans alone $5,189,086,528 – five billion dollars.
  • If 100% of the working population adopted self-driving cars then AI convoys and anti-congestion algorithms could reduce the time by at least half, and turn the remaining commute into relaxing/working time.

Consider the lives saved and productivity gained if self-driving cars were adopted by the USA. This does not include the 30-40 thousand people killed and over 2 million injured in car accidents over 90% of which could be prevented by self-driving cars.

The technology for self-driving cars exists now. Google’s self-driving cars have driven millions of accident-free miles. All that’s missing is a few algorithms for snow and other conditions.

That is the potential upside. But you dear reader, know perfectly well that self-driving cars will be delayed by decades because the politicians will not let us. Our legal system is set up in a way that makes it impossible for car makers to innovate because of prohibitive liabilities and regulations intended to ensure our safety, and our nationalized road system blocks innovation in traffic safety.

This is a coordination problem – trillions of dollars and millions of people* will die because our political system prevents markets from satisfying consumer values. The true cost of the inadequacies of our present political system is beyond calculation.

* 3,551,332 people died in car accidents since 1899

2 thoughts on “Why no self-driving cars? Blame the politicians”

  1. A nice idea, and your concerns about it being delayed by gov’t are, of course, perfectly valid, but that’s not the kicker for me.

    To me, the worst part is that it is all-but-guaranteed that automatic automobiles would have an override/kill switch in them that could be used by law enforcement. Does anyone truly believe that the gov’t would allow such an opportunity to go to waste?

    Even though the cars would presumably come with the ability to be used manually, with so much technology (from GPS tracking the car to programs controlling turns / acceleration / braking, etc.), there is absolutely no way I will ever believe that these systems will be left without a gov’t backdoor.

    Of course, it would be so they could “protect” us from “criminals” (who were stupid enough to use an automatic car).

  2. Self-driving cars are a neat idea. I just would never trust them.

    What makes anyone think that the gov’t would not use the technology inherent in such vehicles (GPS tracking, the ability to make the car turn / brake / accelerate, etc.) to further its own purposes.

    Perhaps they would make it so that auto-automobiles must stop when they receive a certain signal from a gov’t car. Nice tool for some would-be-rapist cop, eh?

    Maybe they make it so that autocars cannot enter a certain geographic area. Want to head down to that protest downtown? Woops. Sorry. Your car refuses to go there.

    They want to know where you’ve been . . . ever? Download those records more easily than ever.

    Cars already have plenty of ability to spy on you and record information about you. It will only get worse.

    If everyone else wants one, more power to you. I’ll go Luddite on this one, thanks.

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