How Autonomous Cars May Change How We Drive

The tragic Uber crash on March 18th that killed a pedestrian in Arizona has slowed down the testing and development of autonomous cars. But we expect that as time passes and the investigation brings to light details about where the fault for the accident lies that autonomous driving software will improve and testing will increase.
In other words, autonomous vehicles seem an inevitability. So, how will their presence on roadways affect how we drive?  Based on what we know about Albuquerque drivers, here’s what we expect to see when autonomous cars reach New Mexico roadways.

Traffic Moving at the Speed Limit—the Ironic Solution to Traffic Jams

While autonomous driving cars are expected to “learn” and adapt to real-life driving situations, autonomous cars are much more likely than human drivers to abide by the speed limit. And for those who routinely hit 80 on clear stretches of I-40 or I-25, this may seem like a drag. But, ironically, autonomous cars may show us that to get to Point B faster, we actually need to slow down.

An increase of autonomous vehicles that are both adhering to posted speed limits and sensing the presence and movement of other vehicles, bodies and obstacles without distraction are likely to make roadways safer. After all, statistically, human error is the biggest causative factor in car accidents nationwide. And car accidents are one of the biggest causes of bottlenecks and slow-downs on highways. So, by slowing down the speed of traffic, autonomous vehicles could also improve the flow of traffic.

A Spike and Then a Decrease in Road Rage

As creatures of habit, humans generally don’t invite change. And a change from driving fast and aggressively to speed limits is likely to anger a great many Albuquerque drivers. During an initial adjustment period, the slow downs that autonomous cars may create is likely to increase cases of road rage, which are hopefully limited to horn honking and obscene gestures (because as offensive as they may be, they are nowhere near as dangerous as swerving, veering, intentional bumping or other aggressive and/or retaliatory behaviors).

But humans do adapt, and once speed-limited traffic becomes the norm, road rage may actually decrease because:

  1. There may be fewer human drivers to rage at.
  2. Human drivers may actually improve their driving as they model autonomous cars’ driving, thereby reducing events that incite road rage to begin with.

At the very least, autonomous cars will not rage back, reducing the threat level presented by any raging human driver.

Decreased DWI-Related Accidents and Deaths

As autonomous vehicles are tested and deemed more reliable, they may prove more cost-efficient for ride-for-hire companies. And cost-efficiency may translate into expanded operations and lower prices, making calling a taxi, Uber or Lyft for a ride after a night out an increasingly exercised option. And that would be a welcome change to a state struggling to “EnDWI”.

But these are just our best guesses for the future with autonomous cars. What do you think? Post your comments on our Facebook page.