According to Clifford Winston and Quentin Karpilowa’s new book titled “Autonomous Vehicles: The Road to Economic Growth?”, technology won’t be the biggest obstacle standing in the way of autonomous cars, but the federal government and its policies.
Under the Covid-19 pandemic, some things just appeared a bit clearer to everyone. For example, returning to work would have been a lot easier if there were more autonomous vehicles. Better access to self-driving cars would have been an excellent alternative to public transportation, which was not the best plan to reduce the spreading of the virus.
However, in a recent bill passed by the House of Representatives back in July, there was almost nothing mentioned about autonomous vehicles. This proved the book’s point to a great extent. Winston, a senior fellow in Economics studies, and Karpilow, a former research assistant at Brookings, outlined the counter-productiveness of new political policies as well as the economic impact of the usage of autonomous vehicles, or its absence, should we say.
Autonomous vehicles would cause less traffic, which would eventually lead to less congestion. It would also be beneficial when it comes to decreasing collision-related deaths, resulting in lower health care costs.
According to a report published by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, $250 billion was the price that had to be paid for accidents in 2010 alone. And this was just the economic cost. When taking into account the social value, the total bill quickly rises up over $1 million, also including over four million deaths and injuries.
Since human error is the cause of 94% of these crashes, it’s quite apparent how autonomous vehicles could significantly reduce this percentage. And had self-driving cars been there in 2010, all that extra money and lives could have been saved, and the economy of California alone would have recorded a $35 billion surplus GDP.
With that being said, the many benefits of autonomous vehicles are more than obvious. So why is the government so slow to react, and why is it apparently trying as hard as possible to limit the spreading of such vehicles?
The problem may lie in the mindset of the population and fear of this technology. As with most new technology, it always takes some time to reach wide acceptance, and most people are still hesitant to buy a self-driving car. However, the authors have acknowledged all these issues, along with the fact that there is a high fear that autonomous vehicles operating systems may be hacked, adding to the general skepticism.
“The major obstacles to realizing most of the potential benefits are primarily policy-related, rather than technological,” Winston and Karpilow noted. But the testing and adoption of autonomous vehicles have also been delayed by the government. Also, it is not understandable that there are a lot of inefficiencies in different highway policies, which makes it difficult for autonomous vehicles to be successful.
This hypothesis is somewhat controversial, and we just have to wait and see if it is technology or the government that is holding the autonomous vehicles back. Nevertheless, if we go back 10-20 years or so, it was also the government that was holding back the emergence of electric cars. In most cases, when a situation like that happens, it’s usually worth it to look at the underlying economic implications of adopting utterly new technology.
Just as EVs are currently revolutionizing and turning the petroleum industry upside-down, the self-driving technology promised to create big waves.
… and governments always prefer to sail smooth sailing seas.