The Cost of Self-Driving Cars Will Be the Biggest Barrier to Their Adoption

Our results suggest we need to change how we think about the future of mobility. Thus far, public scrutiny of self-driving technology has centered around answering questions like how safe is “safe enough?” Can safety provision be left to the private marketplace? And, are existing regulations effective and worthwhile? Addressing these questions is important given self-driving technology’s potential to address what the United Nations has labelled a major public health problem. Doing so, however, demands making the technology cost competitive with existing, older vehicles. Our work suggests this is unlikely.

In our view, consumer subsidies will be crucial to realizing the life-saving benefits of this technology. Although politically challenging, public revenues already pay for a portion of road crash-related expenditures. In the United States alone, this amounts to $18 billion, the equivalent of over $156 in added taxes for every household.