Brad Templeton Home
My Forbes Articles
(Book from 2008)
End of Transit
Valley of Danger
A summary of some of the numbers that make the case for robotic
transportation so compelling. Much of this is based on the presumption
that before robocars are deployed, they will demonstrate an accident
rate 10-50 times better than human drivers.
- Car crashes kill around 35,000 per year in the USA (NHTSA,) 1.2 million
worldwide (WHO.) This is the single largest cause of death for people
after they get past infant diseases and before they suffer the ravages
of aging. The number was 45,000 recently -- it's dropping in part due
to car automation technologies, better safety systems, and better medicine.
- There are 2.6 million people injuried in 1.8 million injury accidents in the USA
in a typical year, and around 6 million total accidents. There are 50 million injuries
- The NHTSA estimates the total cost to society of accidents at around
230 billion dollars, around 2.5% of the GDP. Expressed per mile
driven, it's about 8 cents/mile -- more than the cost of gasoline in
a highly efficient car.
- In the USA they drive about 3 trillion miles per year, spending roughly
50 billion hours doing it. At the national average wage that's well
over a trillion dollars per year in human time. This is about 8% of
the GDP. Even at a $7 minimum wage that's $350 billion.
- Of those 3 trillion miles, 2 trillion are urban and 1 trillion rural.
Based on FHWA classifications, about 40% of all miles are on freeways
and fast roads, the rest on slower streets.
- As a rough estimate, figure total global figures by multiplying U.S. figures
- Studies suggest that 40% of fatal accidents involve drunk driving and
that 80% of all accidents are the result of driver inattention.
- Almost 60% of fatal accidents are single-vehicle, 70% of those involving a car leaving
the road, often due to mistake, sleep or alcohol. 30% of fatalities involve
alcohol impairment, over 50% have some alcohol involved. (NHTSA)
- The average passenger car and U.S. transit systems both
average around 3,600 BTUs per passenger-mile. Ultralight single-person
electric vehicles, as enabled by robotics, can use around 300 BTU/pm.
$400B/year is currently spent on gasoline for personal transportation.
(About 3% of GDP.)
- The low efficiency is partly because 30% of the weight of a modern vehicle is there
for safety systems to protect occupants from human driving. Amory
Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute claims states 1% of the energy used
in a traditional car goes to moving the driver.
- Congestion alone wastes an average of 44 hours per year per traveler
in the USA, and in the major cities 2.8 billion gallons of fuel and
87 billion dollars of fuel+time at $15/hour. (Texas Tranportation Inst.)
- US road travel burns about 170 billion gallons of gasoline per year, producing
1.7 billion tons of CO(2) per year. The world
figure is about 4x that.
- Estimates suggest there are 3 parking spaces for every car in the USA,
and 235 million licenced cars, more than one per adult.
- In Los Angeles, it is estimated that over half of all real estate is devoted
to cars (roads and environs, driveways, parking.)