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Will Smart Car Technologies Save Money?

Sept. 10, 2019
Researchers performed a cost-benefit analysis on several anticipated autonomous car features.

A team of Carnegie Mellon University researchers looked at the costs and benefits of three “smart car” features that are expected to be part of the assisted-driving suite that will be found on future autonomous cars: blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, and forward collision warning. The team determined that if these features were installed on all cars in the U.S., it would save $20 billion annually and prevent 1.6 million crashes a year (and an accompanying 7,200 fatalities). The cost to install all three features would be about $600 per car.

Alerting drivers to potential threats through “driver-assist” warnings has been shown to reduce the odds of a crash. Using cameras or radar to detect potentially dangerous situations, such as drifting from a lane, the features then alert drivers to the threat.

“We don’t have to wait for a future with fully self-driving cars to realize a lot of the benefits of sensing and automation,” says Corey Harper, a postdoctoral fellow in civil and environmental engineering who led the research. “A lot of crashes can be avoided with today’s tech.”

However, none of these safety systems are widely adopted, nor are they standard on new vehicles.

“Transportation is critical to our everyday lives, and yet for most of us, riding in a car is one of the riskiest activities we do,” says Costa Samaras, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

Overwhelmingly, the team found that the benefits fall to individuals rather than the public at large. Reducing the number of crashes reduces congestion and the number of emergency responses, which are distributed benefits. But most of the savings are private (86%), largely coming in the form of avoided injuries, fatalities, and damage to vehicles.

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