Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Faith Is Strong

I admit I continue to be amazed by the number of people who express to me their unwavering faith, based on assertions like "all the people working in the industry know," that self-driving cars will (when? this is a big question? when???) increase automobile safety. It isn't so much that I even doubt this especially strongly, it's that it is an empirical question which can be answered, but not one which can be answered yet because *the fucking cars don't work yet*. Until they work, the argument is "they will be safe one day so if a few kids get killed along the way no big whoop." Maybe true! But that's the argument.

Yes, yes, we all know how many test miles these things have supposedly been running on the dangerous streets of Arizona, but it's infinitesimal compared to the number of miles driven overall in this country. It's going to take a long time to make the stats for robot cars look better than the stats for human cars after one death.

There are 12.5 deaths per billion vehicle miles driven. This is the statistic that self-driving cars have to beat in order to be "safer."

Based on this, Uber has had about 3 million test miles (under mostly safer than average road conditions, but I'll leave that aside). They're now at 333 deaths per billion miles driven. Gonna have to go a few more days without a death before they're "safer." (This is not all robot cars, of course, but not all robot cars are meaningfully the same right now).