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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Autonomous cars will reduce traffic deaths. That's good, isn't it?

Truly automated cars will reduce highway deaths, since some <bignum> percentage of fatal accidents are caused by human error. That's good, right?

Yes, but, as this fascinating essay on Wired shows, its not entirely straightforward because there will be some fatal accidents which would not have happened if autonomous cars didn't exist. That is, self-driving cars will kill some people who would not have died otherwise.

Even though widespread adoption of self-driving cars mean more people will be saved than killed (thousands will not die in accidents which would have happened if human-driven cars were around), the savings will be hypothetical and the losses will be concrete. That muddies the safety debate about self-driving cars, which are coming much faster than I ever would have predicted.

Read the essay; it's excellent.