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Self-driving cars can soon save lives


A new report suggests lives can be saved by adopting autonomous vehicles once they demonstrate ‘moderately’ superior capabilities than humans.

Instead of waiting until they are up to 90% safer, the RAND Corporation report estimates that hundreds of thousands of fatalities could be avoided – over the next 15 years – if they are made readily available when they can perform 10% better than current American drivers.

“Our work suggests that it is sensible to allow autonomous vehicles on America’s roads when they are judged to be just moderately safer than having a person behind the wheel,” said Nidhi Kalra, co-author of the study and director of RAND’s San Francisco office. “If we wait until these vehicles are nearly perfect, our research suggests the cost will be many thousands of needless vehicle crash deaths caused by human mistakes. It’s the very definition of perfect being the enemy of good.”

Car makers are making swift progress on the technical side. An autonomous driving initiative led by BMW and Intel is bringing together the biggest names in the industry, united by their ambitions to accelerate the delivery of self-driving vehicles to the market.

And testing continues apace.

Audi of America has tested self-driving cars in New York state, Nissan showcased its autonomous driving technology on the streets of London earlier this year. While Volvo is running a project to trial 100 autonomous cars on Swedish roads.

Regulators will now need to look at the findings of research, such as the RAND report, to decide at what stage autonomous cars can go on the roads.

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