When the world is run by economists and the bottom line is always money, sometimes it pays to translate important stuff into their language. And Global Positioning Specialists has done exactly that with driverless cars, working out how much autonomous vehicles could save a country in cold, hard cash.
The results are startling. In the U.S. alone, driverless tech could save over $300 billion a year, just from GDP lost due to car crashes. Currently, the U.S. loses a mind-boggling $341 billion to crashes, and GPS predicts that driverless cars would bring that down to just $34 billion.
To drive at these figures, GPS took already-existing data for the GDP of a country, then applied a simple formula based on the percentage reduction in crashes expected if we adopt autonomous vehicles. The U.S. is at the top of the list only because it loses so much money right now. The next country on the list is India, which “only” wastes $62 billion a year on traffic accidents and their effects, less than a fifth that of the U.S. As a quick reminder, India is home to 1.3 billion people, whereas the U.S. counts just 322 million people. Americans really like their cars–and crashing them.
“[Y]ou realize how many of these accidents could be avoided with new driverless technology,” said GPS boss Lucile Michaut in a statement. “Governments will never spend on investing in things like this unless there is concrete evidence, but here we have proved there are strong economic reasons to invest in driverless technology, as well as the obvious improvement to public safety.”
When everything is viewed in terms of return on investment, the cash savings of big projects are more important than their effect on people’s quality of life. That’s backward of course, but it’s the language spoken by many politicians around the world. In the U.S., roughly 33,000 people die per year in motor vehicle crashes (about the same number that die from breast cancer, or gun deaths, or opioid overdoses, three issues politicians spend a lot more time talking about fixing), and 2.2 million are injured. Autonomous cars could keep many of those people alive, or uninjured. And those people, and their families and friends, probably won’t be thinking about the financial benefits to their country.