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We have the technology: is solving drunk driving as easy as it sounds?

Out of the 37,461 people killed on the roads in 2016, 10,497 people died because they, or someone else, was drunk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SwissCognitiveOut of the 37,461 people killed on the roads in 2016, 10,497 people died because they, or someone else, was drunk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another way of thinking about it, someone dies in a drunk driving accident about every 50 seconds. That’s also 30% of all deaths on the roadways, which is down from 50% over the past 30 years, but is still far too many. Hundreds of thousands, by the way, are injured. On average, there is a drunk driving injury every 12 seconds, and in the U.S. alone there are $132 billion in costs per year, according to MADD.

Drunk drivers are a stubborn population. It is estimated that about one-eighth of 1% of drivers in the U.S. are responsible for 30% of all fatalities. For such people, traditional traffic-safety programs like education and deterrence are not likely to move the needle.

While it’s hard to imagine a world without drunk driving, some are saying we have the technology to start making a difference—possibly a big one—once we begin to implement it in the right ways. Yet, at the same time, what are the legal and social issues that come with them? Let’s take a look.

Oddly enough, self-driving technology could be a huge part of the equation. Most experts believe self-driving technology will come to trucks and other commercial vehicles before it is widely available to consumers and passenger vehicles. While the public slowly begins to accept autonomous technology as safer, the ironic reality is that our roads will be safer without the “human factor” behind the wheel.

A self-driving vehicle is an operating system that can’t get drunk. Once Level 5 autonomous vehicles for commercial and passenger vehicles is ready, we can expect to see a huge social benefit from less alcohol-related deaths and injuries. But that’s part of the issue: As a solution anytime soon we actually don’t have the technology yet.

Waymo has been testing in well-mapped, rectilinear, relatively idle, residential neighborhoods in Arizona. They are considered the forerunners among the autonomous pioneers, and even their ambitions have been slowed by all sorts of tech trouble. The larger point is that it will take decades for autonomous technology and adoption to see any kind of significant change. For now, this solution remains pie-in-the-sky.[…]

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