Autonomous driving has clear benefits for the safety of passengers in both the equipped vehicles and others, but there's another feature that could dramatically improve safety all-around without having to go the route of full autonomy. We're talking automatic brakes, because more often than not, computers can react quicker than us mere mortals can.
On Friday, 10 top automakers agreed to install automatic braking systems in their vehicles, which is a rather major thing to go down. Such systems are sure to add to the cost of these vehicles, but the effect would be far lessened today versus how it would have been years ago - even aftermarket camera systems can be had for a couple of hundred dollars.
Unfortunately, there's no timeline of when this will come to fruition, but as the way things go with large scale rollouts, we can't expect this to become commonplace for a number of years. In time, though, automatic braking systems could become a requirement, not an option.
It's said that these systems will reduce both regular accidents and those that cause fatalities, and this move is a continuation of government efforts to dramatically reduce the number of the latter. Between 2004 and 2013, vehicle deaths dropped 25%. Still, with 32 thousand deaths within the US since 2004, and not to mention the sheer number of rear-end accidents out there (I invite you to play a game next time you're out, and find all of the cars with dented rear-ends!), I'd say anti-braking systems are largely overdue.
It's worth noting that many cars already come equipped with such systems, but we really are in need of a widespread rollout. And if cost seems to be an issue, perhaps it'd be wise for auto makers to stop cramming other systems into their cars that most consumers are not really looking for.