Could fewer crashes lead to lighter cars?

Human error is linked to the vast majority of road collisions – 94% according to US safety regulator NHTSA – and this has driven the industry’s push for autonomous driving. Take away the potential for distraction, drowsiness, inebriation and the myriad other factors associated with human driving, and crashes should decline.

This could mark a significant step change for an industry that, for the better part of a century, has been developing stronger, more impact resistant vehicles. Is such a focus on crash safety still necessary for fleets of low-speed autonomous vehicles operating within geo-fenced areas, such as dedicated city streets or corporate campuses? Instead, super-strength metals could be cut out and replaced with significantly thinner, lighter materials.

In theory, the appeal is clear: that extra weight loss could facilitate significant jumps in electric driving range, more compact vehicle bodies that take up less space, and even the opportunity to house digital screens within body panels.