Every day, approximately 1 billion people drive a car. The majority of these drivers are driving to work in a highly populated area. The result of this is a road crowded with people who all have different styles of driving and different ideal speeds. These different styles and speeds result in an uncoordinated mess of cars trying to flow through a highway, and thus there is a higher likelihood of a car accident occurring. The introduction of autonomous vehicles would greatly reduce this issue, as groups of cars would move at a uniform, coherent pace. Cars would not be constantly switching lanes and attempting to go around one another, reducing the number of chances for an accident to happen.
The other improvement that comes with autonomous vehicles is the number of sensors they are equipped with. For example, the Tesla Model S has 8 proximity sensors operating simultaneously whenever it is in operation. These 8 sensors working together give the autonomous system a constant 360 view of its surroundings, allowing the system to quickly detect danger coming from any direction.
Though it could greatly increase the safety of travelling by car, one of the major concerns associated with autonomous vehicle technology is its vulnerability to cyber attacks. It is possible for hackers to find a way to obtain remote control over a vehicle and do what they please with it. To name a few potential threats, attackers could kidnap someone driving their car, cause a major car accident, or send a duplicate unlock signal to unlock and steal a car. Researchers at University of Michigan believe that there is a 60% chance that a skilled hacker would be able to execute the third type of attack, while the others still require more research.
While autonomous driving has the potential to improve the safety of billions of lives, the nature of its impact will depend heavily on whether the entities who regulate and produce this technology make the cyber security of autonomous vehicles a top priority.