Driving a car in the US is more dangerous than being in Iraq

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Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

Iraq is a terrifying place to be right now. Last year there were 16,361 civilian casualties of the violence (read more). That’s nearly 50 people a day. The sheer terror those people must live in is unimaginable to me. Yet here in Washington, D.C., I am struck by an even more incredible number – the number of deaths due to automobile accidents in the United States.

Last year in the United States, 40,200 people died from automobile accidents (read more), 4.6 million people were “just injured,” and the total cost of those accidents is estimated at around $432.5 billion. That’s more than the federal government spends on Veteran Benefits, Transportation, and Education combined (read more). The average person maintains a personal network of around 120 people. That means that every year, you have one friend who gets in a car accident serious enough to see a doctor, and over the course of your lifetime, there is a 1-in-10 chance one of those friends will be killed.

Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

We live in a country full of distracted people, struggling to keep up with the ever increasing demands of productivity (read more). We have a thousand other things on our mind as we sit behind the wheel of a 2,000lb. vehicle we plan to drive 60mph, often inches away from oncoming traffic. Now I know what you are thinking, those stats are for the bad drivers. Well, let me put your mind at ease, only a third of those people were intoxicated, and nearly all of those 4.6 million injuries were on roads designed to federal safety standards (read more).

“Cars kill more people than war, every year!”

When I learned of these numbers, a few things struck me immediately. First that I could not remember the last time I saw a story on the national news about a deadly car accident. The local news has covered a few multiple car pile-ups that caused significant traffic delays, but generally speaking, those stories were covered and pushed aside as they moved on to more pressing matters – like the war on terror.

Did you know that in the entirety of Operation Iraqi Freedom (from 2003 to 2010), the total number of US deaths is listed as 4,424 people (read more)? Over the same period, an ten times that number died mostly from negligence at the wheel. That’s incredible. Why do we give so much attention and focus to something that is relatively less deadly? You read that right, cars kill more people every year than war.

Photo by Drew Graham on Unsplash

Driverless cars is such a misnomer. So is ‘autonomous vehicles’ for that matter. The future of personal transportation isn’t driverless – it’s driver full. It’s creating a world where we trust that a thousand dedicated computers can drive my car better than I can with a single brain engine. Isn’t this what the concept of horsepower already taught us? Why would I want a buggy pulled by a horse when I could use an internal combustion engine with 350 ‘horse-power?’

By all accounts, NVIDIA is leading the way in machine learning hardware – the computer equipment needed to make driverless cars work for everyday people. Their most recent driverless platform (roughly the size of an iPad) is capable of completing 24 trillion deep learning operations per second (read more). Thats a dedicated machine, considering all possible variables, dedicating every second of it’s existence to your safety. Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the type of brain power I would want driving me down the road.

Full Self-Driving Hardware on All Teslas from Tesla, Inc on Vimeo.

At this point, it’s still too early to tell what the solution is to keeping people safe on the road. I wish I could tell you that there was a technology ready now to keep people safe. We are close, but the fact is, we still have a lot of work to do. For now, if you’re interesting in helping me solve this problem, I’d recommend you get a developer kit from NVIDIA so we can get started creating the world that should be. For those more business minded, keep an eye on Tesla and NVIDIA as they help lead us to the world of tomorrow.

See you on the other side.

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