Will self-driving cars cause more harm or good?

That’s an often discussed question nobody really has an answer to yet. But what we know for sure is that the shift from driven cars to self-driving cars will not only lead to a shift in the automobile industry but also in human behaviour.

Self-driving cars seem to be much more secure since the element of human error could be eliminated. Means we can reduce the 190 deaths in road traffic in Switzerland each year. However, human behaviour can lead us to not adapt to new technologies as soon as we could. This is because of some cognitive biases that hinder us.

All humans have different biases that affect the way they make decisions.

We also know that humans have a loss aversion – meaning that we do overrate the output from what we could lose compared to the output from what we could win. Additionally we do overrate the things we do already possess and the status quo compared to any other future solution. Given these biases, we could feel like we do lose more by giving up our own car then we gain by changing to autonomous cars. The change to an autonomous car means we have to give up all the advantages we have from our personal cars and we gain the advantages of the alternative we do not know yet very well. People will tender to stick to the option they already know and therefor the private car.

Many of us do associate autonomous cars with something unknown, uncontrollable and involuntary. These are exactly the kind of risks we do categorize as the most risky. With our own vehicle, however, we associate feelings of familiarity, control and awareness. The human brain categorizes risks that are familiar, can be controlled and that we already know from our day-to-day life, as less risky even though it doesn’t correspond to reality. Means that with our own car, which we know from our day-to-day life and we can control, we do associate a quite small risk and therefore we do think we drive good and safe. We even think we drive better and safer than the majority and then we actually do. This assumption leads to people trusting their own capability more than the capability of autonomous cars even though statistics show autonomous cars can be much more secure.

Nevertheless we for sure have to consider that no technology is perfect and there is still a long way to go until the risk of malfunction can be minimized.

Let’s see what the future holds for us.