The New York Times interviewed Ed Humes who has written “Door to Door: The Magnificent, Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation” looking at how we shaped the world around our personal ownership of a car. And Mr. Humes wastes no words describing the car as a social, health and economic challenge.
Next to our home, the car is our single largest household expense. We’re paying for it round the clock. Yet, it sits idle for 22 hours a day. Plus, it’s horribly inefficient in how it uses energy. The average car wastes about 80 percent of the gasoline put into it. By comparison, an electric vehicle uses about 90 percent to actually move the car.
Humes also quotes the National Safety Council’s data on car crashes showed that in 2015, 38,300 people died and 4.4 million were seriously injured. Roads are built for vehicles to travel much faster than the stated speed limit. People go to fast, and speeding is one of the major reasons for crashes. Humes points out that over a lifetime, we each have a one in 113 chance of dying in a car. Despite safety devices in vehicles, cars are driven too fast to survive collisions. And pedestrians?
A pedestrian struck by a vehicle going 40 miles an hour has a 10 percent chance of surviving, and one struck by a car at 20 m.p.h. has a 90 percent chance. So when we post a 40-mile maximum speed limit on a boulevard where pedestrians walk, we’re saying that in the event of a crash, a 90 percent mortality rate is acceptable.
In the 1920s, The New York Times referred to what we now erroneously call “accidents” as “motor killings.” There was more outrage then.
Humes describes that in the 1920’s there was a national movement to place speed governors on cars that would prevent cars from travelling at high speeds. The car industry pushed back. Humes sees the driverless car technology as taking the life-or-death decisions out of the hands of the drivers, and getting back to the days of speed governors on cars. Except this time the car industry is backing the technology. And Humes notes that until the driverless car technology is perfected, those speed governors are not a bad idea to be implemented now to save lives and prevent injuries.