Are We Putting Data at Risk for Smarter, Safer Cars?

Vehicles with the capability to operate independently of a human driver may be safer for roadways, but the data they collect and store could pose other issues altogether.

(TNS) — Autonomous vehicles are the wave of a rapidly approaching future that is already bringing increasing amounts of “smart” technology to cars and trucks, and could eventually make passengers of everyone in a vehicle.

Experts say smart cars will make the roads exponentially safer by taking the automobile’s weak link — its human driver — out of the equation.

Accidents would decline 90 percent by 2050, according to professional services company KPMG in a June report on the impact autonomous vehicles will have on the insurance industry. More than 305,964 traffic crashes occurred in Ohio in 2016, including 1,133 fatalities.

If the forecasts are correct, that would mean Ohio could have barely more than 100 fatalities a year, or about two a week. Currently, the state averages more than three a day.

This can all be accomplished, according to those involved in the research, because artificial intelligence and machine learning would make the computer “brain” driving autonomous cars and trucks far better at making decisions than humans, whose errors today cause 94 percent of car crashes.

“The computer brain is programmed. You’re pretty sure reliably what it’s going to do. But the human brain? Who knows,” said Carla Bailo, assistant vice president for mobility research and business development at Ohio State University.

OSU is pioneering research into autonomous vehicles, helping make Ohio a key player nationally in the development of technology that could revolutionize driving. Ohio State’s partners include the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Ohio Turnpike and the Transportation Research Center (TRC) in West Liberty, the nation’s largest independent automotive testing and proving ground.

“With our research we do have some of the really ‘out there,’ (things) that you wouldn’t even recognize as a vehicle in its current state,” said Joanna Pinkerton, TRC chief operating officer.

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