Self driving cars will save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the next 20 years, but there will be a few deaths every year caused by autonomous vehicles. There will be new categories of traffic fatalities resulting from coding errors, algorithm flaws, and human stupidity. But here is the good news, the fatality rate of self-driving cars will be 99% lower than for human drivers, maybe 99.99% lower.
In 2015 over 35000 people died in the USA from traffic fatalities. The annual number of fatalities and the fatality rate per mile both dropped around 2008. But they are still very high and in the past 5 years there has been no obvious trend down. I predict an increase in the next few years as distracted driving from smartphones becomes more prevalent.
Today for every 100,000 people 11 of them will die in a car crash in 2017. We should expect the fatality rate from self driving cars to be at or below 0.11 per hundred thousand people. It might even be far lower. If we could convert today, if all cars were self driving today, we might see less than 100 fatalities per year. Car crash fatalities will become so rare that most of us will never know anyone who dies in a car crash. And drunk driving crashes will be completely gone.
This will be bad news for personal injury attorneys. 99% of their lawsuits will vanish and most of them will lose their livelihoods. There is a little good news for them, there will be new categories of lawsuits against Waymo/Google and Tesla for deaths caused by the algorithms and programs. The bad news is that there will be very few of those lawsuits every year. Not enough to support an entire industry of personal injury attorneys. Most of those attorneys will be unemployed after we completely convert to self-driving cars. Google and Tesla will probably have automatic payments setup for families of the victims of self-driving cars. That will be cheaper than lawsuits so there may be approximately zero lawsuits every year.
Self-driving cars will save so many lives that we must convert as soon as possible. Yes a few hundred people each year will die as a direct result of the change. But that is a small price to pay.