The Cost of Self-Driving Cars Will Be the Biggest Barrier to Their Adoption

Road crashes claim nearly 40,000 lives annually in the United States. The result is considerable financial and emotional suffering to society. Highly automated vehicles (HAVs) — vehicles that drive themselves some or all of the time – should help. By shifting responsibility for driving from humans to machines, this technology minimizes opportunities for behavioral errors blamed in most road crashes.

However, the systems underlying HAVs, namely sensors, radar, and communication devices, are costly compared to older (less safe) vehicles. This raises questions about the affordability of life-saving technology for those who need it most. While all segments of society are affected by road crashes, the risks are greatest for the poor. These individuals are more likely to die on the road partly because they own older vehicles that lack advanced safety features and have lower crash-test ratings.