It’s no longer a secret: many of the world’s biggest companies — from Toyota to Ford to Google — see huge potential in the self-driving car. Now, a new report by global consulting firm McKinsey and Company suggests that autonomous vehicles could have an enormously positive impact on highway safety.

Self Driving Cars

Specifically, the report says that self-driving cars could result in a 90 per cent reduction in traffic accidents, thereby saving thousands of American lives. Not only would that keep people alive, but it would save drivers an estimated $200 billion each year.

The study also suggests that the widespread emergence of self-driving cars could see Internet revenue skyrocket. Why? Because once drivers let go control of their vehicles, they’ll have time to spend surfing the web — to the tune of $5.6 billion in additional digital revenue for every minute drivers spend in their cars. The report says many different types of companies — from automotive and software firms to companies in the service industry — will absorb that increased revenue.

“People will be able to shop for services or products from their mobile devices or from embedded systems in the vehicle,” notes Hans-Werner Kaas, head of McKinsey and Company’s automotive division.

That said, no one expects this change to emerge overnight. Most automotive experts believe it will be another decade before the average consumer embraces the self-driving automobile. In the meantime, many automakers are rolling out vehicles with semi-autonomous features, such as collision warning and automatic braking systems.