We Can't Be Trusted
According to Peter Stone, Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Texas, life will be better when computers do the driving for us. He cites a few spectacular statistics:
- 95% of car crashes are caused by human error
- ¼ happen at intersections
- 1/3 of all accidents are fatal
- 48 hours a year lost in traffic jams
- $5 billion lost in fuel and productivity
Gee, it seems we just can’t be trusted behind the wheel and need computers to take control. Didn’t I see this in I-Robot?
Not so fast Peter
I wanted to know more about the statistics quoted by Stone, but couldn’t. His page at the University of Texas only lists a string of research papers dealing with robotics and robot soccer—not accident statistics. So I looked around on my own. I wonder if Stone considered that pedestrians and bicycles account for about 6% of fatal accidents or that you’re 3 times more likely to have an accident at an intersection with a flashing light than you are at a stop sign. And what about the intersections without signs or lights? I don’t believe the hype and I don’t believe the answer to anything will be found in taking away a person’s obligation to be responsible.
Symptom vs. Source
Car crashes are problems but they aren’t the problem. Perhaps finding solutions starts with a look at the reasons why people are irresponsible behind the wheel.
- Unable to delay gratification long enough to stop the car before texting.
- Can’t face the day without something to numb life so you were driving drunk.
- Fear of losing your job has you distracted and you carelessly step in front of a car.
- Can’t turn off the TV at night so you’re overly tired and nod off on the way to work.
- Stress and frustration have your emotions near the boiling point making road rage easily triggered.