Self-driving cars could end Arizona highway woes

7 November 2017; John Krafcik, CEO, Waymo, on Centre Stage during the opening day of Web Summit 2017 at Altice Arena in Lisbon. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Web Summit via SportsfileAccording to the Arizona Department of Safety, there were over 740 wrong-way driver accidents from 2016 to 2017.  This issue has gotten to the point where there has been a push by Governor Doug Ducey to curb these crashes from occurring, with larger and brighter signs on highway off-ramps being one of the plans in place.  Meanwhile, Waymo, a self-driving car company owned by Alphabet Inc., is planning on bringing an autonomous ride-sharing program to Phoenix sometime this year, according to an article from AZCentral. Beyond both being somehow related to cars, what do these have to do with each other?  Well, I believe that one can solve the other.

As you probably could tell by the title, I believe that self-driving vehicles have a potential to reduce accidents, specifically ones caused by wrong-way drivers in Arizona.  With autonomous vehicles rising in popularity in recent years, notably Tesla’s Autopilot being featured in all of its newer vehicles since 2016, and the aforementioned Waymo being tested in multiple cities along the West Coast including the Metro Phoenix Area, there has been a lot of concern over how it will affect road safety as a whole.  I think there is a reason to believe their implementation will only help make Arizona’s, and other places, roads safer for drivers and pedestrians alike. According to a safety report released by Waymo, “Over 94% of accidents involve human error”, if cars become automated, the element of human error would be removed entirely.

This would reduce a significant amount of accidents, leading to safer roads for passengers and pedestrians. This would be achieved through sensors contained in the car, which examines the surroundings and combines this with traffic data from the internet to create a safe, and fast, a route for the passenger.  They would also be able to detect sudden changes in the environment, such as a car breaking out of nowhere, a wrong-way driver, or a pedestrian jaywalking into traffic. Although there are these benefits, some people are hesitant to the idea of an autonomous machine making decisions on the safety of living beings. The death of a bike rider after being hit by a self-driving Uber in Tempe this week has also raised concerns among Americans and Arizonans alike about how safe these cars are.

But it should be known that the reason this is national news is precisely because of the safety of these vehicles.  This was the first time a self-driving car has ever resulted in the death of a pedestrian, not just in Arizona, but in the entire world.  Plenty more pedestrians die every day at the hands of human drivers in the state. Personally, I believe that autonomous vehicles, despite hiccups in reputation, have plenty more benefits than drawbacks in relation to the safety of Arizonans.  The dangers of wrong-way drivers, surprise jaywalkers, and freak accidents could be significantly reduced if we decide to transition from human-driven cars to self-driving cars.

Mesa Legend Staff

Mesa Legend Staff

These are archived stories from Mesa Legend editions before Fall 2018. See article for corresponding author.
Mesa Legend Staff

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