A new report from global research firm McKinsey & Company suggests it could be roughly 300,000. There’s no doubt that automobile accidents take too many lives. According to the World Health Organization, each year sees about 1.2 million traffic fatalities. In the United States, more than 30,000 people died in automobile crashes last year.
But that may be about to change thanks to the rapid advancement of autonomous vehicle technology.
The McKinsey & Company report, which was written by consultants Michele Bertoncello and Dominik Wee, argues that self-driving cars could save 300,000 lives every decade. Importantly, Bertoncello and Wee argue that, as driverless technology evolves, it could save even more lives – up to 90 per cent compared to today by the mid-21st century.
Using the number of traffic fatalities in 2013 as a baseline, that means self-driving vehicles could save nearly 30,000 lives every year.
“By midcentury, the penetration of [autonomous vehicles] and other [advanced driver-assistance systems] could ultimately cause vehicle crashes in the United States to fall from second to ninth place in terms of their lethality ranking among accident types,” the consultants note in their report.
Of course, there’s a long road ahead for driverless vehicles. Andrew Moore, a computer science expert and dean at Carnegie Mellon University, says those building self-driving cars must show that they save lives.
“No one is going to want to realize autonomous driving into the world until there’s proof that it’s much safer, like a factor of 100 safer, than having a human drive,” Moore said.