Study: Driverless cars could save US $300B a year

Study: Driverless cars could save US $300B a year
© Getty Images

Self-driving cars could eventually save the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars because of a dramatic reduction in traffic crashes, according to a new study.

GPS tracking company Global Positioning Specialists found that the U.S., which loses more money on car crashes than any other country in the world, could save $306 billion a year due to the impacts of autonomous and connected vehicles.

The study calculated the percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) lost to all types of road crashes each year and factored in how much of that would likely be reduced by driverless car technology. It’s estimated that self-driving cars could cut the 90 percent of crashes caused by human error.

ADVERTISEMENT

If all vehicles in the U.S. were driverless, the country would save a majority of the $340 billion in GDP lost to traffic accidents each year, the report estimates.

The findings underscore the potential economic and safety benefits of autonomous vehicle technology, which is emerging at a time when traffic fatalities are climbing. Road deaths increased to 35,092 fatalities in 2015 — the largest spike in 50 years. 

But self-driving cars can create their own set of safety issues, and any bumps in the road could deliver a major setback for their widespread adoption. Some have also worried about the impact of robot cars replacing human drivers in trucking, freight, ride-hailing and other sectors of the transportation industry.

Lawmakers and federal agencies are wrestling with how to oversee the safe deployment of self-driving cars. The government released the first-ever federal guidelines for driverless cars last fall, which included a 15-point “safety check list” for automakers.

“This research has two facets to it, on the one hand there is the amount of money which we spend on accidents each year, which in itself is interesting. Then you realize how many of these accidents could be avoided with new driverless technology,” said Lucile Michaut, head of Global Positioning Specialists.

“There are strong economic reasons to invest in driverless technology, as well as the obvious improvement to public safety.”