Tom had just come out of his physiotherapist’s checkup and was worried about what he heard. Like many other Americans who commute to work by car he was suffering from frequent pain in the back of his thighs. Tom’s doctor informed him that he was suffering from sciatica, a condition stemming from his 4 hour round-trip work commute. His doctor advised to significantly reduce driving time to heal his thighs and avoid future injuries.
Driving is not only one of the leading causes of human physiological deterioration but also radically affects their psychology by routinely exposing them to stressful and emotionally draining situations. Furthermore, human driving is a direct cause of serious loss of life and property all over the world. Data from the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT) says that all around the globe more than 1 million people die and 50 million people are injured in roads each year. Put differently, more than 3,000 people die and 136,000 people are injured in road accidents every day in the world.
How would we react if aircraft crashed and killed 3,000 people every day?
These accidents cost a whopping $518 billion (U.S. dollars) globally, which accounts for about 1.22% of each country’s annual GDP but this doesn’t factor collateral costs from loss of income to families, loss of productivity, and other macro- and micro-economic repercussions. As a way of example, about every 10 years the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) prepares a report about the country’s economic and societal impact of motor vehicle crashes. The latest study concluded about 33,000 people die and 3.9 million people are injured every year in the U.S. due to road accidents with a cost of $871 billion (including some collateral costs) per year averaging $2,680 per person. Safe human driving requires more training and ability than most people possess. As vehicular density increases the probability of human-caused accidents increase exponentially. Policy and training are well-intended but only hinder transportation network performance and often worsens the problem. It is an epidemic of catastrophic proportions hiding in plain sight.
The solution is simple: get rid of human drivers and replace them with self-driving cars. These cars are utilizing very advanced and reliable technologies that have been developed by a number of large companies —some I’ve personally worked with— such as Uber, Google, Amazon, among others. In their most simple form there are three main advantages of utilizing self‑driving vehicles as a primary form of transportation.
In a study published at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, it is statistically established that longer driving times are associated with stressful conditions like insufficient physical activity, sleep deficiency, smoking, alcohol use, obesity, and psychological distress that can increase the risk of other physiological conditions.
Vehicle sales around the world have been increasing at a very fast pace, which is also a major cause of worry as more cars equals more car accidents, pollution, and transportation costs. The passenger to car ratio is not getting better as most people still commute alone.
Crashes, deaths, and injuries are the worst by-products of human drivers, but also stress, anxiety, bad posture, muscular injury, cardiovascular issues, and more are just some of the negative influences driving has on humans. Human-driven cars are a health hazard and it won’t be long before governments worldwide begin to push for autonomous vehicles. Only a few years back I participated in studying and lobbying for the use of self-driving cars in the U.S. through the use of multi-vehicular platforms including cars, trucks, and aircraft. The U.S. government acknowledged these issues presented and put in place policies aimed at achieving this goal. The Department Of Transportation (DOT) recognized these facts very early on and allocated a large budget for related research of vehicles, technology, and a system that supports it. The National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration(NHTSA) released new federal guidelines for Automated Driving Systems, and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCLS) has a nice database showing some of the recent state of legislation at various government levels.
Anyone who has driven any vehicle at rush hour in pretty much any major city around the world will know how extremely aggravating and stressful driving can be. Some of the situations that lead to stress are the following:
- Full-stop traffic or start-stop driving associated with congestion.
- Over-regulation from traffic lights, roadwork, and speed restrictions on empty roads.
- Aggressive drivers, including honking and forceful overtaking.
- Unpredictable and dangerous events like sudden unforeseen traffic stops or pot-holes.
- Lack of signaling, erratic driving (from intoxicated or distracted individuals).
- Running traffic lights or stop signs.
- Verbal abuse or road rage by other drivers.
- Pressure to drive faster by vehicles behind.
- Double parking.
- School buses.
To operate a vehicle, you need to be willing to sacrifice a significant portion of your wealth.
Insurance: according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners the average amount spent to insure a car in the U.S. was $815 in 2012. However, anyone who pays either less or more than that can tell you there are a lot of variables that affect these rates.
Fuel: according to AAA‘s annual “Your Driving Costs” study, the average cost of fuel to operate a sedan 15,000 miles in the U.S. sits at 14.45 cents per mile, or $2,167.50 per year.
Maintenance and repairs: everyone knows vehicles break and other than driving as smooth as silk and praying to the road gods, there isn’t much more that can be done. The average cost of repairs, maintenance, and tires is $99 a month for a new car, according to AAA.
Depreciation: the moment you drive your vehicle out of the dealership it loses value and that continues every year until it reaches zero. According to Black Book, cars lose 20% to 30% of their value in the first year and 15% to 18% over each of the next five years, depending on the vehicle and market conditions.
Parking: this can go through the roof if you commute every day to a large metropolis such as New York with rates of $606.37 per month according to the 2017 Global Parking Index, a report based on Parkopedia’s own dataset, which covers more than 50 million parking spaces across 6,500 cities in 75 countries.
Lastly: there are many factors that cause collective and individual financial losses but an interesting one to consider is the investment loss from training human drivers. I know it sounds cold but it takes a fortune to train humans and it gets more expensive every year. Training amortizes over time and ideally lasts until retirement at 65. Crashes are the leading cause of death among people ages 15‑29, those in the most recently trained segment of the population taking the worst possible hit. This doesn’t even take into account grief and trauma that affect a survivors’ productivity, much of which lingers for years and some people never recover.
No, this is not the same as money. Time is much more valuable. You can find ways to earn more money per hour but nobody found a way to earn time (yet). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average worker commutes for 26 minutes to travel to work. That’s the longest it has been since the Census began tracking this data in 1980 when the average commute time was just 21.7 minutes. The average American commute has increased nearly 20% in the last 40 years. As per the survey, there were a little over 139 million workers commuting in 2017 in the U.S. alone. At an average of 52 minutes round-trip, five days a week, 50 weeks a year, that works out to around 1.8 trillion minutes Americans spent commuting in 2017 or a collective 3.4 million man-years. To put it in perspective, this is enough time to build the Pyramid of Giza with ancient methods (131,200 man-years according to this Civil Engineering Magazine article, PDF) every 2 weeks. That is 26 Giza Pyramids in a year. Mind-blowing.
After looking at the colossal amount of time the entire nation is wasting why not take it back put it to productive use? Why not allow self-driving cars do the stressful, hazardous jobs, and let humans enjoy all their recouped time?
These are the three main arguments, but there are more reasons such as financially viable on-demand mobility for disabled or elder individuals, faster logistics due to the elimination or traffic restrictions, high-efficiency disaster mobilization for evacuation and/or rescue, active and passive drastic pollution reduction…the list goes on.
The purpose of this article is to inform readers about the benefits of using self-controlled vehicles and adopting them to improve everyone’s lives. I urge you to learn, understand, and support policies and actions towards the adoption of a mass-transit self-driving vehicular matrix to save the nation — and the world — the huge loss of time, money, lives, and health that we are losing through manually driving cars. After all — before cars became popular — almost no one believed such machines would ever replace a horse.
About the Author:
Patricio Feder is a High‑Tech Business Strategist and Serial Entrepreneur specialized in the analysis, creation, development, and exit of high-tech companies. He founded and architected the vision and culture of multiple startups and has been the inventor of many technologies and products. He currently leads Magna Lucrum, a technology agnostic high‑ROI focused investment group, and has executive and board roles in a number of other enterprises. Patricio held management positions at leading edge technology companies like Siemens, SynQor, Feder Aerospace, Quercegen Pharmaceuticals, and Brunswick Labs giving him an in‑depth experience that spans the corporate technology spectrum across a variety of markets like real estate, investments, telecommunications, information technologies, AI, aerospace, defense, biotech, and electronics.