RAND: With Driverless Cars, How Safe Is Safe Enough?

Inevitably, some will insist that anything short of totally eliminating risk is a safety compromise. They might feel that humans can make mistakes, but not machines. But waiting for autonomous vehicles to operate perfectly misses opportunities to save lives by keeping far-from-perfect human drivers behind the wheel. In the United States alone, about 30,000 people are killed and more than 2 million injured in crashes every year. The vast majority of the existing carnage is caused by human error (PDF). Moreover, perfection could be a standard that is unattainable or that is not economically viable for developers, putting the kibosh on the industry. This would be a classic case of the perfect being the enemy of the good.