Driverless Cars [Pros and Cons]

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Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Cynthia Lanctot is an insurance professional with ten years of industry experience. Cynthia is licensed in several states, and holds an associate in claims law, as well as a bachelor’s degree in English. Cynthia’s experience includes the New England and Northeast states. She currently works as a liability claims professional and an occasional online contributor.

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Reviewed by Cynthia Lanctot
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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Autonomous Vehicles: So what now?

That’s right. While we may not have flying cars like George Jetson just yet, car manufacturers are stepping into this futuristic technology for cars. Manufacturers such as Tesla already have some vehicles available with this capability and are continuing to develop the driverless capability even further.

What does this mean for you, though? Is this a good thing? A bad thing? Somewhere in the middle? Well, that’s what we’re here to help you figure out. We’ve put together this list of pros and cons for driverless cars to help you know what to expect with this kind of technology.

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What are the pros of driverless cars?

With such a new kind of technology, there are boundless capabilities and applications that this can be used for. In this section, we’ll talk about all of the potential pros of driverless cars.

Roads Could be Safer

One potential benefit of driverless cars is that roads could be generally safer — even after taking a driver’s education class.  A majority of car accidents are caused by human error, so by taking this factor out, there could be a lot fewer accidents.

In fact, according to a study conducted by the ENO Centre of Transportation, if 90 percent of vehicles on the road in the United States were driverless, the number of accidents would fall from 6 million a year to 1.3 million. This same study also concluded that the number of deaths would even decrease significantly from 33,000 to 11,300.

This is groundbreaking, as one of the top causes of death in the United States is car accidents. Taking human error out of the equation can help save lives.

Traffic Could Improve

If you have a vehicle that’s driving itself and can navigate the roads and around other vehicles, that would mean less traffic to deal with.

A self-driving vehicle would be able to better calculate the best routes to avoid causing congestion and therefore cut down on, or even possibly eliminate, traffic jams. This would also mean that commute times could be quicker and less hectic in more heavily populated areas.

Economically Friendly

While the technology hasn’t quite become mainstream yet, it could become a more financially affordable mode of transportation for drivers.

What do we mean when we say that? Well, since autonomous vehicle technology is still new, it may not currently be the most affordable option for the everyday driver. But when the technology becomes more widely available and more competitive among car manufacturers, the price will become extremely affordable.

In addition to this, with the potential for fewer car accidents, there would be fewer car-related accident costs drivers would have to deal with. There would be less property damage and fewer medical expenses that can often plague car accident victims.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the year 2013 alone, the estimated total cost of vehicular-related deaths resulted in about $44 billion in medical and work loss costs. That’s a pretty hefty number. In fact, the cost of crashes across the United States ranges highly based on where you live, as you can see in the table below.

StateTotal Costs
Alaska$72 million
Alabama$1200 million
Arkansas$683 million
Arizona$1050 million
California$4480 million
Colorado$647 million
Connecticut$407 million
Delaware$139 million
Delaware$3020 million
Georgia$1630 million
Hawaii$149 million
Iowa$399 million
Idaho$303 million
Illinois$1410 million
Indiana$1070 million
Kansas$449 million
Kentucky$798 million
Louisiana$1010 million
Massachusetts$438 million
Maryland$690 million
Maine$180 million
Michigan$1200 million
Minnesota$521 million
Missouri$981 million
Mississippi$861 million
Montana$299 million
North Carolina$1710 million
North Dakota$162 million
Nebraska$311 million
New Hampshire$167 million
New Jersey$689 million
Nevada$433 million
Nevada$356 million
New York$1590 million
Oklahoma$1330 million
Oklahoma$902 million
Oregon$426 million
Pennsylvania$1600 million
Rhode Island$84 million
South Carolina$1050 million
South Dakota$177 million
Tennessee$1250 million
Texas$4890 million
Utah$268 million
Virginia$947 million
Vermont$86 million
Washington$654 million
Wisconsin$692 million
West Virginia$397 million
Wyoming$127 million
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Hotspots for vehicular-related deaths are more heavily concentrated in higher populated areas.  Imagine these numbers dramatically decreasing with the help of driverless cars.

Environmentally Friendly

Most people today are trying to become more environmentally friendly, lower the carbon footprint. Having a self-driving car would help with this goal. Self-driving (driverless) cars have fewer vehicle emissions than standard vehicles currently do. Think more along the lines of electric power cars such as Teslas. Due to their use of electricity, air pollution decreases.

Another factor would be more controlled speeds. Why would that help make a vehicle more environmentally friendly? Well, if a vehicle is able to maintain a safer speed and keep a safer distance between other vehicles, it helps to support not only human life but animal life, as well.

Animals are another common cause of car accidents in the United States. If a self-driving vehicle is able to better detect the road around it, the risk of hitting an animal would be drastically decreased and therefore help keep both passengers and animals safe.

Potential for Less Insurance Coverage Required

Yes, you read that right. If driverless cars become more mainstream, the requirements for insurance coverage may change.

There will still be a need for coverage such as liability, but as the human error will be eliminated from the equation, it’ll be car manufacturers and suppliers who will be taking responsibility. Not you. Insurance coverage options that are currently required might become optional.

Increasing Job Market for Driverless Manufacturers

The technology industry is already a pretty booming market. Advances in technology are coming out faster than ever, and there is now a higher demand for those who know how to support this. Car manufacturers will be in greater need of those skills not only people to help create a better self-driving car but also those workers who can help code and create the smoothest technology for their vehicles.

Those with automotive experience will also benefit, as the need for these vehicles increases. Doing technology-related work is one thing, but you still need to have someone who can put together the vehicle, so the demand for those who can put together solid vehicles will also be in demand.

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What are the cons of driverless cars?

Now that you know some of the pros of driverless cars, let’s move on to discuss some of the cons of driverless cars.

Computer-Caused Accidents

Although human error may be practically eliminated with technology, computers aren’t always the most reliable, either. If you’re in a self-driving car and the computer malfunctions, that could leave you in a pretty precarious situation.

In fact, according to a study conducted by IHS Automotive, two major technology risks for these types of vehicles are software reliability and cyber-security.

This study notes that while human error-related accidents would be almost eliminated, the risk for an accident, in general, isn’t completely eliminated. If an automated system were to fail for one reason or another, that could be very dangerous to drivers and could potentially lead to an accident.

Cyber Crimes

Going off of what we mentioned in the previous section, computers aren’t perfect, and one of the other potential hazards of a computer-automated vehicle is cybercrimes. If you’re riding in your driverless car and someone were to hack your system, depending on the hacker’s motives, you could be in some serious danger.

Not only that, but most of these systems will have a lot of your private information on them, leading to the potential for someone to steal information about you from your car.

Manufacturers of these types of vehicles are attempting to make them as hacker-proof as possible, according to a recent Forbes article. They are still having a difficult time finding ways to ward off cybercrimes in an increasingly digital world.

Professional Drivers Without a Job

While those in the technology industry would be finding jobs left and right, those who currently work as professional drivers would actually find themselves without a job. People working as truck drivers, cab drivers, limo drivers, food delivery drivers, and more would find themselves potentially out of a job.

Potentially Costly During Initial Development

We touched on this briefly in a previous section, but driverless cars are still not a mainstream type of vehicle. The technology is still very new and in its early development. This means that until this type of technology does become more mainstream, getting your hands on an affordable option will be out of reach for most people.

Extreme Driving Conditions

While driverless vehicles are boasted to be able to predict the driving conditions ahead of them, there are a lot of extreme driving conditions that such a technology might not be able to predict.

Extreme weather conditions, for instance, can be highly unpredictable. While a driverless car may be able to factor in some weather reports, some conditions are just simply too unpredictable for even the most advanced technology.

Combining EV Technology with Autonomous Vehicles

Electric vehicles are sought after to reduce carbon footprints and slow down global warming, but the same companies that produce electric vehicles are often at the forefront of producing autonomous cars.

A case in point is Tesla, perhaps the most advanced self-driving car company that also sells completely electric vehicles. Currently, it has 74% of the U.S. electric vehicle market share. In our 3-year report of the 10 most popular electric vehicles, Tesla held all top three spots, with the other competitors not even close.

Both EV technology and autonomous cars are the next frontiers for the automobile industry, two that we are approaching very quickly.

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Autonomous Vehicles: So what now?

There are many potential benefits for driverless cars, and there are many things that could be potentially hazardous for driverless cars. The more developed the technology becomes, the better the chances of decreasing some of the cons we mentioned above, but it’s still something currently not in reach.

But what can you expect to see as of now for driverless cars?  There are currently various levels of automated driving, which range from no automation at all to complete automation. The table below displays these various levels, from the level of automation to who does what in the vehicle.

Levels of AutomationWho Does What and When
Level 0The human driver does all the driving.
Level 1An advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) on the vehicle can sometimes assist the human driver with either steering or braking/accelerating, but not both simultaneously.
Level 2An advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) on the vehicle can itself actually control both steering and braking/accelerating simultaneously under some circumstances. The human driver must continue to pay full attention (“monitor the driving environment”) at all times and perform the rest of the driving task.
Level 3An Automated Driving System (ADS) on the vehicle can itself perform all aspects of the driving task under some circumstances. In those circumstances, the human driver must be ready to take back control at any time when the ADS requests the human driver to do so. In all other circumstances, the human driver performs the driving task.
Level 4An Automated Driving System (ADS) on the vehicle can itself perform all driving tasks and monitor the driving environment – essentially, do all the driving – in certain circumstances. The human need not pay attention in those circumstances.
Level 5An Automated Driving System (ADS) on the vehicle can do all the driving in all circumstances. The human occupants are just passengers and need never be involved in driving.
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Many states across the nation are already starting to test these types of vehicles and are creating laws around them.

Check out the table below to see what laws are in place in your state:

StateWhat type of driving automation on public roads does the law/provision permit?Require an operator to be licensed?Require an operator to be in the vehicle?Require liability insurance?
AlabamaDeployment?? commercial motor vehicles onlyNoNoYes; $2,000,000
ArizonaDeploymentYesDepends on level of vehicle automationYes
ArkansasTestingNot addressedDepends on level of vehicle automationYes
CaliforniaDeploymentNot addressedNoYes; $5,000,000
ColoradoDeploymentNoNot addressedNo
ConnecticutTestingYesYesYes; $5,000,000
District of ColumbiaDeploymentYesYesNo
FloridaDeploymentDepends on level of vehicle automationDepends on level of vehicle automationYes
GeorgiaDeploymentDepends on level of vehicle automationDepends on level of vehicle automationYes
HawaiiTestingNot addressedNot addressedNot addressed
IlliNoisTestingYesYesYes
IowaDeploymentYesDepends on level of vehicle automationYes
LouisianaDeployment ? commercial motor vehicles onlyNoNoYes; $2,000,000
MaineTestingNot addressedNot addressedYes
MassachusettsTestingNoYesNo
MichiganDepends on vehicleYesNoYes
NebraskaDeploymentDepends on level of vehicle automationDepends on level of vehicle automationYes
NevadaDeploymentDepends on level of vehicle automationDepends on level of vehicle automationYes
New HampshireDeploymentYesYes, except for TestingYes; $5,000,000
New YorkTestingYesYesYes; $5,000,000
North CarolinaDeploymentDepends on level of vehicle automationNoYes
North DakotaDeploymentDepends on level of vehicle automationDepends on level of vehicle automationYes
OhioTestingYesNoYes
PennsylvaniaDepends on vehicleDepends on vehicleDepends on vehicleNo
TennesseeDeploymentNoNoYes; $5,000,000
TexasDeploymentNoNoYes
UtahDeploymentYesNoYes
VermontTestingYesYesYes; $5,000,000
VirginiaTestingNot addressedNot addressedNo
WashingtonTestingDepends on whether operator present in vehicleNoYes
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In conclusion, this new and exciting technology may soon be in reach for many drivers and depending on what things you look most for in your driving experience, it could be a wonderful new technology or one that you’ll want to avoid.

Whether you own a nearly autonomous car or are still driving one completely manually, it always helps to save on car insurance. To do so, just plug your ZIP code into our FREE online quote generator. You’ll find the best rates for your area based on your demographic information.

References:

  1. http://www.ihssupplierinsight.com/
  2. https://www.forbes.com/

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