Driverless Cars: Disrupting Government Reliance On Petty Traffic Enforcement

from the uber-but-for-killing-your-small-town-speed-trap dept

Self-driving cars are on the way, and in their wake, they’ll leave a variety of entities slightly less better off. Insurance companies may be the first to feel the pinch, as less-than-risk-averse drivers are replaced with Electric Grandmothers more than willing to maintain safe speed limits and the proper distance between vehicles. And as goes the car accident, so go other areas of the private sector: personal injury/DUI lawyers, hospitals, body shops, red light camera manufacturers, towing companies, etc.

But the public sector will take the hit as well. “Flow my tears,” said the policeman.

Consider the following. This past year, the City of Los Angeles generated $161 million from parking violations. Red light violations have a fee of $490. Californians caught driving under the influence are fined up to $15,649 for a first-offense misdemeanor DUI conviction and up to $22,492 for an under-21 equivalent. Cities in California collect, on average, $40 million annually in towing fees that they divide with towing firms. Simply put, the hundreds of millions of dollars generated from poor driving-related behaviors provide significant funding for transportation infrastructure and maintenance, public schools, judicial salaries, domestic violence advocacy, conservation, and many other public services.

Since California legalized driverless vehicles, Google has logged more than 1.7 million miles during the testing phase and been involved in 11 accidents, none of which were the fault of the driverless vehicle. Tesla, Mercedes, and others are not far behind. It turns out that automated vehicle technology—unlike humans—abides by the law. And that’s bad news for local government revenues. In other words, once driverless cars become mainstream, deep revenue sources acquired from driving-related violations such as speeding tickets and DUIs will decrease greatly.

Someone has to pay for the roads and other government activities, but it won’t be drivers. So, as the Brookings Institution report points out, new revenue streams will have to be sought. The obvious suggestion is tax-per-mile billing, but that puts the government right in your vehicle — an idea that’s not going to gain in popularity any time soon.

While the loss of revenue will have an impact, the picture painted here is skewed. For many years, communities have treated police departments as revenue generators, rather than crime fighters. This has skewed incentives so badly that some small towns have become nothing more than profitable speed traps. That’s one end of the issue: the pressure (or the willingness) to overpolice minor traffic violations to keep city governments (and the police departments themselves) funded.

But that’s only part of it. The situation looks rather dire, especially if one doesn’t examine what’s not being said in these paragraphs. As Scott Shackford at Reason points out, the Brookings Institution report does some mighty fine cherry-picking for its list of potentially-affected government services. Without a doubt, a downturn in revenue will affect good government programs like public schools and domestic violence programs. But it will also cut back funding for far more dubious government spending.

What an interesting list of government-financed uses they’ve chosen. Notice they left off “Poorly made third-party database software that will stop working properly in less than three years and that was purchased from somebody belonging to the same frat as the assistant city manager,” “police abuse settlements,” and “blatant pension spiking.”

These “losses” will also be somewhat offset by less tax revenue being spent on traffic enforcement, accident response units and other related law enforcement activities. This will also mean fewer law enforcement officers will need to be employed, which should further reduce government expeditures.

The problem is that most governments aren’t capable of heading off this sort of “threat” to their livelihoods, even with years of advance notice. Trimming back unneeded public sector employees won’t happen until years after it’s obvious they’re no longer needed and will often come accompanied with expensive severance packages. New tax revenue streams won’t be explored until they can be put off no longer, and often will just be added on top of existing taxes, rather than replacing those that have slowed to a trickle.

Worse, those most affected by this sort of shift will be the same people most affected by most government tax increases: the poor. The lowest income brackets will be the last to adopt driverless vehicles, leaving them the most exposed to fines for traffic violations (fines that will likely increase as revenue dwindles), as well as new costs like per-mile taxation. They’re also most likely to see support programs they rely on suffer cuts as traffic enforcement money dries up.

The report somewhat addresses this outcome with a discussion of income inequality and the “disappearance of the middle class.” While some of it is accurate and some of it is mostly buzzwords in search of a point, there’s no doubt that traffic enforcement revenue will mostly be collected from those who can least afford it. After all, governments have done this for years — something that helped fuel the outrage and backlash in Ferguson after the shooting of Michael Brown.

Is Brookings actually trying to blame the gap between billionaires and the poor for the racial tension in Ferguson? Which venture capitalist was it who told the Ferguson police to step up fine collection to rake in more money for the city’s coffers? Which hedge fund manager invented the bureaucratic court system in Ferguson and other St. Louis County cities designed to wring every last cent from any indigent minority who couldn’t afford an attorney? Which Wall Street “fat cat” is adding additional fees to every little fine so that getting pulled over for something as simple as not signaling a turn could end up costing hundreds of dollars for somebody who could end up losing his license and his ability to even work?

While driverless cars hold a great deal of disruption potential, when it’s all said and done, governments will remain largely undisrupted. Whatever changes are made in response will arrive well after they’re needed and be badly implemented. The same people who suffered in the previous system will find no improvement in the next one. While one would hope the drastic reduction in traffic enforcement would result in better, smarter policing more focused on serious criminal activity, old habits die hard. Cops will just go where the driverless car ain’t, rather than trim that area of law enforcement to the minimum required. And cities will cut programs deemed expendable, rather than subject their own spending habits to greater scrutiny.

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Comments on “Driverless Cars: Disrupting Government Reliance On Petty Traffic Enforcement”

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101 Comments
Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

…Electric Grandmothers more than willing to maintain safe speed limits and the proper distance between vehicles.

Here’s a thought to ponder: how do you maintain both a safe speed and the proper distance between vehicles, when the car behind you is still under manual control and they’re tailgating you?

Where I live, tailgating is a chronic problem. Police have a very visible presence on the highways, and I used to wonder why I never see them pulling tailgaters over. Then a couple weeks ago I spent about a mile and a half being tailgated by a police car before I could safely get into the other lane! Ugh.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Two Choices

Yeah, #2 would sure be nice, except for one thing: even though the mess that ensues is legally the other guy’s fault, it still ends up ruining my day, for several days, because my car needs repaired. (And that’s the best case scenario. Worst case: I end up injured or dead. No thanks.)

What I really wish I could do… remember that old Bond film where he’s got this blade-thing on his car that shreds the tires of the car next to him? Tailgaters make me wish I had one of those, but that deploys to the rear.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Two Choices

Yeah, #2 would sure be nice, except for one thing: even though the mess that ensues is legally the other guy’s fault, it still ends up ruining my day, for several days, because my car needs repaired.

What you do is jam them on hard but very very briefly, and then get back on the gas. When the guy behind thinks you might slam on the brakes at any time for no apparent reason, he’ll generally back off. And he won’t hit you unless he’s riding a couple of feet off your bumper, in which case you should probably just pull over or turn off the road and let him by, because that’s so dangerous it’s not something you want to deal with.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Two Choices

Yeah, that’s called brake-checking. It’s great except for one little problem: it doesn’t work.

There’s basically two reasons you’ll get tailgated: either the person behind you isn’t paying attention, or they’re a thug who’s doing it on purpose. In the former case, simply flashing your hazard lights at them will generally get them to realize they’re following too close and back off, and brake-checking them could cause them to freak out and react in a panicky way, possibly putting them or others around (including you) in danger.

In the latter case, they’re probably expecting it and they won’t stop even after you brake-check them, because they’re doing it on purpose. This is the most frustrating case, because there’s really nothing you can do without putting yourself in serious danger.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Two Choices

Yeah, that’s called brake-checking. It’s great except for one little problem: it doesn’t work.

As a blanket statement, that is not correct. I have done it to great effect – the tailgater immediately backed off and did not tailgate any more.

There’s basically two reasons you’ll get tailgated: either the person behind you isn’t paying attention, or they’re a thug who’s doing it on purpose.

Another possibility is they are paying attention and know how close they’re following, but don’t realize that that distance is too close. I suspect this is nearly as common as simply not paying attention.

In the latter case, they’re probably expecting it and they won’t stop even after you brake-check them, because they’re doing it on purpose.

Then you follow my second suggestion, or if you’re on a road where they can pass you, just gradually slow down until they do.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Here’s a thought to ponder: how do you maintain both a safe speed and the proper distance between vehicles, when the car behind you is still under manual control and they’re tailgating you?

By reducing the speed.

If your current speed is such that the safe stopping distance is (for instance) 5 meters, and the next car is only 3 meters behind you, your car should reduce its speed until the safe stopping distance is 3 meters or less.

Oblate (profile) says:

Re: Tailgater? Wow, is my windshield dirty!

If the occasional tap on the brakes doesn’t solve the problem, I’ve found that liberal use of windshield wiper fluid usually encourages them to follow at an appropriate distance. This works better when the offending car is new/sporty/freshly washed.

If I’m on a multi-lane road, I will move over to let them pass as soon as it’s safe, I don’t mind at all if they want to go fast and clear out any speed traps. And while I’m not the fastest driver on the road, I don’t think I’ve ever been tailgated because I was driving below the speed limit.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I used to work for a company that wrote software for police and I can tell you that “Following too close” is a pretty common citation.

If it were up to me there would be a lot more for tailgating and a lot fewer for speeding. IMO they should looking for drunks (obviously), aggressive driving, tailgating, and running red lights. Speeding a bit* is just not that dangerous unless it’s accompanied by one of more of the other things I mentioned.

* obviously 60 in a 35 or something is a different story. Not that I’ve ever been pulled over for doing 60 in a 35. Nope.

JMT says:

Re: Re:

“Here’s a thought to ponder: how do you maintain both a safe speed and the proper distance between vehicles, when the car behind you is still under manual control and they’re tailgating you?”

I think it’s obvious the the statement was referring to following distance, which is directly under the control of the driver (human or not), but it seems feasible to have an autonomous car react to a tailgater to moving out of their way if a free lane is available. Beyond that there’s not much an autonomous car should do. Pretty much all the suggestions people have for dealing with tailgaters involve risky or inflammatory behavior that is unlikely to ever be implemented…

TasMot (profile) says:

In many ways, the driverless cars are going to be a huge boon. Even the poor who “may” bear some additional cost IF they even have a car but will benefit from the driverless taxis that could be more responsive (no meal or potty breaks) and cheaper. As for the change in “revenue” from police departments, tere will be less accidents, less tickets and then there will be less need for police personnel to write up traffic reports (and less time investigating highway fatalities), but also there will be less judges and all of the associated courthouse personnel required to process tickets and other driving violations. So the cost to the public should be reduced. In Maryland, cars already have to have a vehicle environmental inspection where they check the vehicle milage. In the future, it will just include a mileage tax (assuming that there is a reduction in the gas tax anyway). There will be a huge rebalancing of money flow by the driverless cars. The cars will cost more initially, but as mentioned body shops, insurance rates, parking fees, and many other costs will go down drastically.

Stephen says:

Re: Re:

Even the poor who “may” bear some additional cost IF they even have a car but will benefit from the driverless taxis that could be more responsive (no meal or potty breaks) and cheaper.

That’s debatable. A driverless taxi may not have a driver to support, but a car of ANY kind, driverless or otherwise, represents a significant and expensive investment which still needs to be paid off. Plus a cab fleet which has no drivers to support also has drivers to chip in to buy or lease the licences you need to run a taxi service, licences which in some places can run to significant investments in themselves.

That, plus the increasingly high cost of fuel, may mean that taxi fares will not plunge as much as you seem to think.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If your car could go find a different sparking pot, then maybe you didn’t need a metered spot so close to your destination in the first place?

Maybe city planners will no longer need to build expensive parking structures within short walking distance of downtown businesses. (But that would lead the the destruction of business! gasp!)

Maybe your car could drop you off and then go park at a spot many blocks away. When you’re in the checkout lane, you could whip out your smartphone and tell your car to come get you?

Or maybe you wouldn’t even need to drive your own car? What if you could just summon a car (like Uber) to come to your house and take you downtown to shop? Then you could just page another car to take you to another store. (OMG, nobody might go to overpriced malls anymore!)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If your driverless car is parked at a meter that has a 2 hour limit with no renewal and you’ve told your car that it’s 10:00 now and at 12:00 the meter is up, can the car go find a different parking spot on it’s own? Or, is there going to be a new law that prohibits that?

Murphy’s Law. You come back out of the courthouse (court was running late) and your car is gone. It’s caught in a traffic jam 6 blocks away where it’s been circling around trying to find a new spot. Just like all the other driverless cars on the road right then.

… except for the one human driven car, driven by an 80 year old who mistook the gas pedal for the break pedal, and blocked that one intersection all the cars are programmed to pass through…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

IIRC, California law currently requires that Google’s driver-less cars have a person in them behind the wheel just in case.

Which would preclude your car from legally leaving to find another spot on it’s own, or drop you off and go find a parking space.

I doubt that’ll change any time soon. The technology will have to be a lot more mature before we transition from self-driving mode being an option the driver can engage, to an automated driver being issued orders by a passenger.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I doubt that’ll change any time soon. The technology will have to be a lot more mature before we transition from self-driving mode being an option the driver can engage, to an automated driver being issued orders by a passenger.

Umm…the technology is there. 100% perfect driving record for the Google vehicles already. They are safer without human interference.

It’s not being held back by technology any longer, now it is just legal and cultural issues.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

1) “It’s worked fine on a relative handful of test cases” is not the same thing as “it works fine on the scale that people drive today.” As the technology comes into wider use, and expands from carefully controlled prototypes to mass production, problems are going to crop up. Software bugs, equipment failures, or conditions and/or circumstances that were simply unforeseen by the designer. We can’t even build 100% mechanical and electrical failure proof cars right now. That’s not going to magically change with self driving cars, and more complex systems tend to be more susceptible to break down. In short, the technology is promising, but far from perfect. Case in point:

http://www.businessinsider.com/googles-self-driving-cars-dont-work-in-rain-or-on-roads-2014-9

2) That combined with the legal/cultural issues is why I say the change from requiring a driver behind the wheel “just in case” won’t happen any time soon. The technology will need to be in widespread use, and it’s reliability taken for granted, before cars will be legally allowed to drive themselves without a human on hand.

DannyB (profile) says:

In defense of the horse and buggy

Just as the noisy, smelly, unreliable and difficult to start automobile eventually displaced the beautiful horse and buggy, these self driving cars threaten to replace human drivers.

The automobile which could sometimes break your arm when you try to start it, led to the destruction of businesses such as blacksmiths and buggy whip manufacturers. Similarly self driving car will cause the downfall and complete destruction of our society by destroying business and leaving people unemployed, just as the first automobiles did.

Too much technology is what made the automobile finicky, requiring drivers to need to know about the technology in order to keep their autos working, and keep the chain drive oiled. We should be concerned about how much technology people will be required to understand to use self driving cars which are bristling with high technology.

The solution to green house gasses and the destruction of society caused by self driving cars is to go back to the horse and buggy. You can do it. It served other people well. You’ll be glad you did.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oy. Just imagine what an iCar would be like.

Its styling would make it look like a high-end luxury car, and it would be priced like a Ferrari, but it would have comparable performance to a Ford or Chevy sedan.

It would have a “special” gas tank opening so you could only fuel up at an Apple station. Hobbyists would inevitably develop a conversion kit allowing you to fuel up anywhere, but each new model would be subtly redesigned to break existing conversion kits.

It would have no steering wheel, brake petal, turn signal, wiper, or headlights controls; just a single button on the dashboard that says “Drive.” Destinations must be input through Siri. Any destination (or route) that was not in the Apple-provided database could simply not be reached.

They would sue Google over using “rounded tires” in their self-driving cars.

Despite all this, for some bizarre reason, millions of iDiots would buy one, making it the best-selling car in its class, for the first few years at least.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Despite all this, for some bizarre reason, millions of iDiots would buy one, making it the best-selling car in its class, for the first few years at least.

The alternative would not have the compatibility issues, but all of the operating instructions would be different for each manufacturer, it would require frequent updates that would sometimes cripple the car and require you rebuild the engine, and it would, at times, decide to crash for no reason.

Anonymous Coward says:

Holy cow those fines, almost $500 for running a red light, and over $15,000 for the first GUI?!?

Given red light shortening, and how it can actually be quite dangerous to slam on your break and safer to just run through when it turns red, that’s a lot of encouragement for accidents.

And $15,000 for the first DUI? That’s enough to put a lot of people into bankruptcy, especially since I’m sure there’ll be jail time if you don’t pay up soon enough.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“And $15,000 for the first DUI? That’s enough to put a lot of people into bankruptcy, especially since I’m sure there’ll be jail time if you don’t pay up soon enough.”

Where I live, if you don’t pay your court costs you get put in jail until the fines are paid, with your account being credited $10 for every day in jail. If you got put on probation, not paying is a violation and you can get up to the maximum on the original charge.

Seegras (profile) says:

You could actually put a tax on gas, to cover the damage that’s done to the environment and to people. Which would raise gas prices by a factor of 3. You could even factor in the costs of road building and repair, which actually wouldn’t raise it much more.

The other option of course is to have people pay it with income taxes or healthcare costs. As it is done now…

DB (profile) says:

I predict that there will be a long gap between self-driving cars, and autonomous self-driving cars that will be allowed on the public roads.

Both have been demonstrated, but the autonomous self-driving cars primarily have been shown finding an empty spot in a parking garage.

The public will be much more comfortable starting with human supervised self-driving cars. Even if they are drunk or sleeping, there is the illusion of control and an easy target of blame when something goes wrong.

Geno0wl (profile) says:

One thing missing

One thing this article doesn’t touch on, that I know a lot of officers are concerned about, is straight up catching criminals.
How many stories do you read about drugs being found on people after being pulled over for a minor offense?
Well that won’t happen anymore if they have an auto-car now will it.
Don’t know the exact impact on crime, but I know it will have some impact.

Anonymous Coward says:

This whole thing reminds me of the infamous parable of the broken window

“Have you ever witnessed the anger of the good shopkeeper, James Goodfellow, when his careless son has happened to break a pane of glass? If you have been present at such a scene, you will most assuredly bear witness to the fact that every one of the spectators, were there even thirty of them, by common consent apparently, offered the unfortunate owner this invariable consolation – “It is an ill wind that blows nobody good. Everybody must live, and what would become of the glaziers if panes of glass were never broken?”

Now, this form of condolence contains an entire theory, which it will be well to show up in this simple case, seeing that it is precisely the same as that which, unhappily, regulates the greater part of our economical institutions.

Suppose it cost six francs to repair the damage, and you say that the accident brings six francs to the glazier’s trade – that it encourages that trade to the amount of six francs – I grant it; I have not a word to say against it; you reason justly. The glazier comes, performs his task, receives his six francs, rubs his hands, and, in his heart, blesses the careless child. All this is that which is seen.

But if, on the other hand, you come to the conclusion, as is too often the case, that it is a good thing to break windows, that it causes money to circulate, and that the encouragement of industry in general will be the result of it, you will oblige me to call out, “Stop there! Your theory is confined to that which is seen; it takes no account of that which is not seen.”

It is not seen that as our shopkeeper has spent six francs upon one thing, he cannot spend them upon another. It is not seen that if he had not had a window to replace, he would, perhaps, have replaced his old shoes, or added another book to his library. In short, he would have employed his six francs in some way, which this accident has prevented.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_broken_window

Lets also not forget that breaking windows produces tax revenues that pay for all sorts of useful programs since those repairing them and those paying for them to be repaired are paying taxes. So, the solution, lets all start vandalizing everything. Lets break windows, burn houses, pop tires, damage cars, because it causes people to pay for them to be repaired which produces tax revenue that helps fund all sorts of useful government programs. In fact, lets all just break all the laws we want because it causes us to get fined which produces useful tax revenue (aren’t laws supposed to be about preventing people from acting against the public interest and not about revenue generation?).

That’s what they’re arguing here. They’re arguing that less car accident destruction, fewer car related injuries and fatalities, and fewer traffic violations is a bad thing because it reduces tax revenue and hurts industry. So, in that case, lets all just start burning cars, popping tires, breaking and vandalizing things, spreading graffiti, driving drunk because tax revenue, funding schools, industry, etc…

The government’s argument against progress is ridiculous.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

What’s not told is that money here is being used as a way to allocate labor. The amount of labor that a society can produce is limited. All that labor, all the manpower, that was previously used to fix damaged vehicles and manage fault and payment (ie: lawyers, judges, insurance companies, etc…), enforce traffic laws, etc… can now be used for more productive endeavors (ie: building schools). There is no reason to start breaking windows so that we can assign manpower to fix them when we can simply decide not to break those windows and that manpower can better be used elsewhere. We are better off without vandals breaking windows just like we are better off with less car accident related damage. Too bad it seems like government has never taken an economics class.

Adam (profile) says:

No way.

You mean the police will actually have to start responding to incidents rather than create them?

I’m waiting for google to announce a whole city… all automated cars, no human drivers allowed. I’ll move there. The efficiency at which cars can control their own speed, distance and integration with others would result in a utopia of traffic. No stop signs, lights or even yields… Sign me up.

Rekrul says:

First, it’s going to be a long time before the public is allowed to buy self-driving cars. Letting a company test them is one thing, actually selling them to the public is a different story. I expect lawmakers to fight their availability tooth and nail.

Second, when self-driving cars are sold to the public, I expect a whole host of new regulations regarding their use that the cops can ticket you for. Not having someone behind the wheel while the car is driving itself. Being behind the wheel, but not having a valid driver’s license. Using a phone, eating or otherwise not having your hands on the wheel while the car is driving itself. Not having a special permit to own a self-driving car. Not having an AI inspection sticker to show that your self-driving car has passed its yearly AI test…

That One Other Not So Random Guy says:

Will they be hover cars too?

This is fantasy. Two words… Snow. You will never be able to program the “proper” response to snow covered roads. Another one that is my personal favorite… motorcycles.
On the legal side… who is responsible when a system glitch say poor GPS signal, poor wifi signal, hardware failure, etc causes a death? Well it was not my fault as I was just technically a passenger.

I was promised a hover car dammit. where is it?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Will they be hover cars too?

You will never be able to program the “proper” response to snow covered roads.

Really? Never? In 1000 years, engineers will still be thinking, maybe we wouldn’t need so many teleporters if only we could have figured out how to make self-driving cars deal with snow?

On the legal side… who is responsible when a system glitch say poor GPS signal, poor wifi signal, hardware failure, etc causes a death?

Who is responsible now if a mechanical or electronic failure causes a death? Why should that change?

Anonymous Coward says:

im of two minds on this

Firstly………kit, get me outta here……….its cool

Secondly, how my concience will feel if one of the software bugs is death

How reliable is it when one mistake is one too many

Another aspect to this is, how would you feel if a driverless vechicle malfunctions and totals your car knowing that a human driver possibily wouldnt have

I still think the concept is cool, assuming they cant be HACKED, but not sure about their environment….in an ideal world, they’d have their own seperate lanes with containment barriers…….but we dont get ideal worlds

Two minds

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Firstly………kit, get me outta here……….its cool

That’s KITT, man! As in Knight Industries Two Thousand. End nerdrage.

Another aspect to this is, how would you feel if a driverless vechicle malfunctions and totals your car knowing that a human driver possibily wouldnt have

Let’s not base this on emotions. Instead, consider how many accidents will occur due to a driverless car that wouldn’t with a human (let’s call that Type A), compared to the number of accidents that occur with a human driver that would be prevented by autonomous cars (Type B). I assure you, Type B vastly outnumbers A. If you put them on a bar chart you probably wouldn’t even be able to see the Type As.

in an ideal world, they’d have their own seperate lanes with containment barriers.

That sounds nice, that way the people with autonomous cars don’t have to worry about getting hit by idiot human drivers. Maybe they wouldn’t even need insurance that way.

You weren’t suggesting that to protect the human drivers from the robot cars, were you? Either way you’re right, that isn’t happening.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Driverless cars won’t be allowed on the streets unless they’re proven to be substantially safer than human drivers, which isn’t a huge hurdle to cross. Auto accidents are the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S.

Nobody believes self driving cars will be accident or fatality free, but it could substantially reduce the number of fatalities and injuries currently caused by human drivers.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I think the rest of us will be more reasonable.

If we even see a 25% reduction in collisions or injury / fatality I think that will be enough, at least for commercial purposes.

Sure, the robotics company will live in perpetual litigation, but so it is for the car manufacturers, themselves.

I expect more than a 50% reduction, given that computers don’t get sleepy or drunk or angry, each of which are big contributors to accidents.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I think the rest of us will be more reasonable.

I expect more than a 50% reduction, given that computers don’t get sleepy or drunk or angry, each of which are big contributors to accidents.

I expect a lot more than that. Over 90% of car accidents are due to driver error currently. There will obviously be a few caused by malfunctioning software or hardware, but there will be layers of redundancy and double checking (I hope anyway), and my feeling is that the accidents caused by autonomous cars will very rarely be fatal.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 I think the rest of us will be more reasonable.

I think a reasonable expectation is that they would be 1-2% of what they are now.

It’s interesting to consider the future historical perspective. Assuming we get near 100% driverless cars, which seems very likely over time, that could save somewhere in the neighborhood of 25,000 lives every year just in the US. How will we view people who feared or opposed this change? If progress is artificially slowed for some reason, how many more people will die because of it? This seems like the most obvious automotive safety improvement since the seat belt (and of course the auto makers opposed that because it would make cars more expensive).

Stephen says:

These “losses” will also be somewhat offset by less tax revenue being spent on traffic enforcement, accident response units and other related law enforcement activities. This will also mean fewer law enforcement officers will need to be employed, which should further reduce government expeditures [sic].

Wanna bet?

Highway patrol staff may take a hit, but that will be likely not be enough to offer significant savings.

Those who think the pain will be limited to cuts in “law enforcement activities” are basically kidding themselves. These are the same people who cheered Reagan’s tax cuts without thinking through the longer term consequences. One of those consequence can be found in the parlous state of America’s public infrastructure. Another consequence is America’s $18 trillion federal debt. While some of that has come from two trillion-dollar wars the wider cause lies in the reality that the cost savings American governments thought they’d be able to make to pay for the tax cuts America invested in beginning with Ronald Reagan were never enough to pay the remaining bills, so either they have had to make cuts elsewhere–like putting off infrastructure maintenance–or they live off the governmental equivalent of a credit card: the public debt.

So what is likely to happen if US local governments find that driverless cars are cutting into their revenue stream? Well, they could lift taxes elsewhere. But given that voters will likely squeal if they do what is more likely to happen is that the revenue shortfall will be paid for in less visible ways. That will likely mean not merely fewer highway patrol cops but also fewer public school teachers, more public infrastructure maintenance postponed, and a greater tendency to live off the public credit card.

All of which may mean, over the longer term, that some counties and cities in the US (especially the smaller and more vulnerable ones) will go the way of Detroit.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That will likely mean not merely fewer highway patrol cops but also fewer public school teachers, more public infrastructure maintenance postponed, and a greater tendency to live off the public credit card.

States, counties, and cities have a very, very limited ability to run a deficit. Some describe it as “cannot” run a deficit but I’m not sure that’s quite true. At any rate, yes it will mostly be budget cuts, which of course disproportionately affect the poor.

Shaun says:

Economy Auto-Taxis

Isn’t it likely the poor will benefit from automated vehicles thanks to the upcoming automated taxi fleets. It seems to me that there is a high probability of automated taxis becoming the de-facto mode of transportation for lower-income families than the bus or older vehicles. They should be cheaper to build, maintain, charge, and operate.

Daniel Bigham (user link) says:

Lost Revenue But Richer Society

In the short term, lost revenues can be disruptive, but we of course need to remember that all of these lost revenues are actually symbolic of a richer society. Any time you need to spend human labor or create equipment to support these revenues, you’re actually *costing* society, not improving society.

The worst case scenario is that your city revenues drop $100 million due to decreased fines etc, but your city costs drop $300 million because you don’t need to employ as many people or buy as much equipment.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Lost Revenue But Richer Society

The worst case scenario is that your city revenues drop $100 million due to decreased fines etc, but your city costs drop $300 million because you don’t need to employ as many people or buy as much equipment.

Did you reverse your numbers? That sounds like a pretty good scenario. Or are you saying the massive layoffs are a major problem?

Country has more in prison then some countries pop says:

They will never allow it too much money involved

Glad someone else thought of this and I do not think they will allow it there is a reason people in this country are bad drivers and are not forced to go to drivers education classes. If cars self drive they would have to fire most of the police force, insurance companies would go bankrupt, lawyers, judges, and social workers would lose their bread and butter. How would police find criminals? Any one who has ever been to court, or reads articles on crime, or who has taken court ordered classes will notice everybody involved was arrested in a vehicle. In a class I took it was 100% every offender had been in a vehicle. Cars are just an excuse for the law to get involved in your life. People who imagine they will put their focus to other crimes have no evidence and no alternate, jay walking? Are you serious you really believe petty fines will replace the biggest industry in our country the criminal justice system that was built on the backs of ignorant drivers? Dream on.

Country has more in prison then some countries pop says:

They will never allow it too much money involved

To further my point I just called police because there were gunshots about 10 or more over a 10 minute period, and this is a good neighborhood. Not one cop car showed up. 5 minutes later I see a guy in a white hat holding a coat over on arm sneaking through our buildings called again, not one cop showed up. I drove through my neighborhood and found him stealing a bike which he ditched when he saw a car coming and he had changed clothes ditching his over shirt and lost the hat but still had the same coat draped over his arm. I called police and told them exactly where he was not a single cop showed up. I kept circling the neighborhood then passed him more than 10 blocks away I turned down a side street and saw police so I followed so I could tell them where the guy was. He wasn’t looking for him he was helping another office pull over some poor guy just trying to go to work. I continue to circle my area I see the poor guy who was pulled over come out of the street he was down no police they obviously went back to the station. A half hour later there the guy is at the gas station relaxing sitting down right under the lights as a police car drives right by. Then I called the corner store to warn the clerk and he pretty much told me to F off didn’t even sound the least bit grateful what a screwed up society we live in.

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