Self driving cars have been part of our imagination and technological aspirations for a long time.
Now that they are here, the question is not if their features are ready for us, but if we are ready for them.
This is not a dream anymore, and it is urgent that we not only think about the technological hurdles that can make this a reality, but the sociological and regulatory obstacles that can make the spreading of self-driving cars much slower than otherwise it could be, and generate unexpected side effects that if we are not able to foresee can actually slow down even further, or reverse this important technological development.
Why are self-driving cars so important? The most important factor is the ability to eliminate human suffering. More than a million people die every year in car accidents, and the vast majority of these accidents are due to human error. If we are able to have cars drive themselves and progressively eliminate human drivers, it is expected that over 95% of these accidents will not happen. Hundreds of thousands, and soon millions of people without even realizing will not have to die in car accidents. Even when someone doesn’t die there are tens of millions of people who suffer very disruptive and very painful accidents.
As a consequence, the moral calculation of accelerating the rollout of self-driving cars is in this respect, absolutely clear.