Ford turned the car into an indispensable mass-market item that has defined modern societies and changed the way we travel. Today, almost a billion cars roll along the world’s highways.
The downside – road accidents
The arrival of cars has also had its downside. Road accidents have been a major cause of deaths all over the world, including the Nordic countries. For instance, last year 264 people died in road crashes in Sweden(1). In Norway, the average is 171 killed by traffic accidents and an additional 694 seriously wounded each year(2). In Finland, an average of 299 persons died in transportation related accidents in 2010 alone(3). In Denmark, the number was 182(4) .
These sad statistics have attracted the attention of government regulators. In 1997 the Swedish parliament approved ‘’ Vision Zero’’, a road traffic safety project that aims to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries in road traffic. Although the Economist recently looked into the data of Swedish accidents: the number of cars on the road and the distance driven have doubled since the 1970s in Sweden, yet just 264 people died in road crashes in Sweden last year.
That represents only three deaths per 100,000 people, a record low(5). To put this into context, there are 5.5 deaths per 100,000 within the EU and 11.4 in the USA(6).
But can we get the number even lower?
The driverless car
In the private sector, Google and other technology companies have come up with their own solutions. On February 9th 2016 Google earned a major regulatory victory when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) declared that in the USA you do not need to be human to be a driver. In a letter to Google supporting the company’s driverless car system, the NHTSA said that a driverless car technically does count as a driver. A week after, Google filed a patent application to deliver packages from self-driving package delivery trucks .
Within Europe, the British government had already announced on 30 July 2014 that they would allow driverless cars be tested on public roads in hopes that driverless cars can reduce road accidents. As data shows, almost all motor accidents are caused by human error (approximately 95 % globally).
Although there is no guarantee that Google is planning to rollout a fleet of delivery trucks or mass-produce driverless cars for sales any time soon, these developments call for reflecting on our side as insurers. Google for instance estimates a reduction of 90 % in motor accidents .
We at If believe that our customers can greatly benefit from all the advancements. When the day comes that our vehicles communicate with each other and can operate in ‘autopilot mode' when driving on the motorway, we might actually see a large reduction of the risk level both to our customers and for us as insurers. With the reduction/elimination of deaths and injuries caused by human related accidents, motor insurance premiums levels will also have to reflect the changes.
To the society in general, driverless cars can ease congestions on the road and save fuel. Something that will benefit our customers greatly.
Better regulations and smarter technology make cars cleaner, more fuel-efficient and safer than before. A variety of driver assistance technologies takes stress off our customer’s shoulders in traffic and prevents accidents.
The benefits are there. Now it is our job to adapt these technologies, and make the roads a safer place for people to travel on.
Gilbert Kofi Adarkwah
(1 ) Mudallal, Z. (2016). Why Sweden has the world’s safest roads. [online] Quartz. Available at: http://qz.com/319940/why-sweden-has-the-worlds-safest-roads/ [Accessed 11 Feb. 2016].
(2) ssb.no, (2015). Veitrafikkulykker med personskade. [online] Available at: https://www.ssb.no/transport-og-reiseliv/statistikker/vtu/aar [Accessed 11 Feb. 2016].
(3 ) Among men more than one in ten (12.0%) fatal accidents took place in traffic (transportation), among women slightly fewer (7.6% of women's fatal accidents). See Stat.fi, (2016). Statistics Finland - 4. Accident mortality in 1936 to2010. [online] Available at: http://www.stat.fi/til/ksyyt/2010/ksyyt_2010_2011-12-16_kat_005_en.html [Accessed 11 Feb. 2016].
(4 ) Dst.dk, (2016). Traffic accidents: Key Figures - Statistics Denmark. [online] Available at: https://www.dst.dk/en/Statistik/emner/trafikulykker [Accessed 11 Feb. 2016].
(5 ) The Economist, (2014). Why Sweden has so few road deaths. [online] Available at: http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/02/economist-explains-16?fsrc=scn/fb/te/bl/ed/whyswedenhassofewroaddeaths [Accessed 11 Feb. 2016].
(6 ) Anon, (2016). [online] Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/pdf/vademecum_2014.pdf [Accessed 11 Feb. 2016].