Traffic congestion costs the U.S. economy $121 billion a year, mostly due to lost productivity, and produces about 25 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions, Carnegie Mellon University professor of robotics Stephen Smith told the audience at a White House Frontiers Conference last week. In urban areas, drivers spend 40 percent of their time idling in traffic, he added. The next step is to have traffic signals talk to cars. Pittsburgh is the test bed for Uber's self-driving cars, and Smith's work on AI-enhanced traffic signals that talk with self-driving cars is paving the way for the ultimately fluid and efficient autonomous intersections.
Is "reasonably safe" defined by the average human driver, the perfect human driver, or the perfect computer driver? Because of the risk of such a lawsuit, the potential legal costs faced by manufacturers of autonomous vehicles are higher than the costs faced by human drivers. Most auto accidents usually result in pretrial settlements, and the 4 percent of cases that go to trial have relatively low legal costs and low potential damages, compared with those of a design-defect lawsuit. As the safety of autonomous vehicles improves and as legal costs become more predictable, stricter safety standards could be imposed to encourage further progress.