Sturdy inference and the amelioration potential for driverless cars: The reduction of motor vehicle fatalities due to technology

Richard Fowles, Peter D. Loeb

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Motor vehicle crashes continue to result in a large number of fatalities each year and represent the leading cause of death for young persons. This study is the first to examine specifically the effects of a set of focus variables thought to be major contributors to motor vehicle fatalities including distractions caused by, for example, cell phones, suicidal propensities among others using a newly developed Bayesian technique designed to measure the \sturdiness of the results. The analysis is conducted using a rich panel data set for the period 1980-2010 by the State and the District of Columbia which includes motor vehicle, economic, and driver-related variables. As mentioned, the analysis makes use of a new Bayesian statistic developed by Leamer, that is, S-values. This statistic summarizes both estimation uncertainty and model ambiguity by considering millions of potential models of motor vehicle fatalities. Once the major factors of motor vehicle fatalities are unambiguously determined and their influences measured, the study considers the ameliorating potential of driverless cars on such fatalities as well as their costs to society. In particular, the ability of driverless cars with, for example, their self-braking capacity, to reduce the number of crashes, and their associated fatalities and injuries in a significant manner is examined. In addition, they may offer individuals the ability to use cell phones for calls and texting while not enhancing risks to vehicle occupants and pedestrians. Obviously, they may also serve in place of a designated driver should alcohol use be an issue. However, the ability of driverless vehicles to provide safe transportation is not without costs. These include developing and maintaining reliable computer systems and sensors along with back-up systems while addressing legal and possible environmental issues. We conclude that driverless cars offer the potential to ameliorate motor vehicle fatalities due to distractions, such as with the use of cell phones, alcohol use, and suicidal propensities. In addition, modernization of the vehicle fleet is expected to reduce motor vehicle fatalities since newer vehicles are expected to incorporate technologies which may be life saving.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTransportation Policy and Economic Regulation
Subtitle of host publicationEssays in Honor of Theodore Keeler
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)9780128126202
ISBN (Print)9780128126219
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


  • Alcohol
  • Autonomous vehicles
  • Bayesian econometrics
  • Cell phones
  • Classical econometrics
  • Driverless vehicles
  • Median car age
  • Motor vehicle crashes
  • Motor vehicle fatalities
  • S-values
  • Sturdy inference
  • Suicide
  • Vehicle safety


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