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Driverless cars - full speed ahead?

Graphic of driverless cars


Alexander Pope wrote in his 1711 poem that ‘to err is human’. That phrase is as relevant today as it was then when you consider that – according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – human error is responsible for 94% of all car accidents. 

That leaves only six percent to cover vehicle failure (2%), environmental factors (2%) and ‘unknown causes’ (2%).

In the year ending September 2017, there were 174,510 road casualties (killed, seriously injured & slightly injured) in the UK to go along with a 1% increase in traffic levels. 

And with cars accounting for 58% of these casualties, it’s understandable why the government is in a hurry to get driverless cars on the roads as soon as feasibly possible. But it’s not just a safety issue - about half of all traffic slowdowns are caused by temporary traffic flow disruptions, for example an accident blocking a lane, a construction zone causing a bottleneck, or inclement weather conditions. 

There are more cars on the road than ever before but there aren’t enough roads to keep up with demand - between 1980 and 1999 the number of miles of highway increased by 1.5% whereas the number of miles travelled by drivers increased by 76 percent.

The scale of the congestion problem was highlighted in a recent study that found motorists in London lost an average of 74 hours - more than three days - in 2017 thanks to our busy roads.

While many see driverless cars as inevitability, the view from Close Brothers Asset Finance’s research is that it’s going to be well after the 2021 target set by the government that we see them as a feature on the UK’s roads. 

For many, they can’t come soon enough, but expect them to be part of the solution and not the cure all.