The annual America’s safest drivable cities list has been published, let’s start thinking about what the list will be like once driverless cars emerge.
The annual ranking of the top cities in the United States for having the “safest” drivers has been recently published by Allstate Insurance, the chronicler of the America’s Best Driver’s Report . I’m sure that you want to know which cities have the best drivers and which ones have the worst.
Of the 200 cities listed, the “best” or topmost five in terms of being at the top of the list were:
• Brownsville, TX (ranked in position 1)
• Boise, ID (ranked in position 2)
• Huntsville, AL (ranked in position 3)
• Kansas City, KS (ranked in position 4)
• Laredo, TX (ranked in position 5) Of the 200 cities listed, the “worst” in terms of ending at the final pole positions of 196 through 200 were: • Glendale, CA (ranked in position 196)
• Worcester, MA (ranked in position 197)
• Boston, MA (ranked in position 198)
• Washington D.C. (ranked in position 199)
• Baltimore, MD (ranked at the bottom of the listing, 200th place)
Some people glance at the list to see where their particular city has landed. Some use the list to be extra cautious when driving in the cities that are toward the latter portion of the list. There are some that find the list amusing and perhaps goad their friends or colleagues, bragging when their city is above or below the home city of the braggart.
In fact, there are people that relish being considered in the lower ranks, claiming that it shows just how good a driver they must be that they have to contend with so many other rotten drivers in their own city.
Generally, drivers tend to think they are good at it and don’t see themselves as bad or lousy behind the wheel, instead believing that those around them are the culprit miscreants .
It might be worthwhile to take a moment and reflect upon how the listing was derived. I say this because I’ve mentioned previously the importance of always scrutinizing various research studies about drivers and driving. You need to make sure that the headlines about a study can match adequately to the substance of the study.
Besides analyzing this study, toss another twist into the mix: consider how this ranking might change in an era of true self-driving cars .
You might be surprised to see how the listing could change.
Unpacking The Existing Study
If you were trying to figure out which cities in the United States has the “safest” drivers, what method or approach would you use?
There are lots of ways you might conduct such a study .
In the case of the Allstate Insurance approach, they opted to use their own automobile claims data and examined principally the number of years between collisions , as reported via their claims database. According to Allstate, their automobile policies represent about 10% of all U.S. automobile policies.
It doesn’t seem to be reported how the 10% of their U.S. automobile polices is spread across the United States, and it could be that some cities and states are over or underrepresented, thus, the resulting claims data could be statistically skewed. Also, the claims themselves might be skewed in terms of perhaps more so claims being reported or fewer claims being reported for that 10% of the U.S. automobile policies in comparison to the nationwide total of all automobile policies. And so on.
I’m not going to argue the point and instead will agree to stipulate that presumably, their data is representative across the United States, especially since the ranking is not an especially life-or-death matter and not so crucial that we’d want to be more assured about its representative nature.
Likewise, you could have qualms about using the metric of the number of years between reported collisions. Reportedly, their data suggests that the average driver in these top-ranked cities gets into a collision every 15 years, while the overall national average is every 10.57 years. That’s an important point in that it implies there are presumably a lot more cities beyond this list of 200 that are increasingly worse, meaning they are trending toward a higher frequency of collisions.
To clarify, the longer the interval of years, the better, since it implies that you are having less frequent collisions. Thus, collisions every 15 years is better than collisions every 10.57 years.
You might right away be concerned that the population size of a given city would have a potentially dramatic impact on the number of collisions per year. If you have a lesser population, and if this suggests you have a lesser number of licensed drivers, perhaps there is a lessened chance of getting into collisions, simply because there are less driving efforts underway.
Or, maybe you have an equal number of drivers but your city is compacted and the drivers tend to be driving closely to each other, maybe leading to more collisions than otherwise in a more spread-out locale.
You could also bring up that the roadways of the city are a factor. If you live in a city that might have cruddy roadways, possibly designed during the horse and buggy era, or that your city is not keeping up to par, it could tend toward more collisions, and somewhat hiddenly impact the driving related stats.
Yes, all of those aforementioned elements can come to play.
It is for those and other such bona fide reasons that you should take any such listing of “safest drivers” with a grain of salt .
I’ll say this, at least however the list has been prepared, given any list that is genuinely sincere, it sheds light and attention on the importance of us all being safer drivers. That’s worthy for any methodological reservations as it brings drivers to the realization that they ought to be taking driving seriously and not let themselves become complacen t in the driving task.
Era Of Self-Driving Driverless Cars
Now for the icing on the cake, as it were.
I had mentioned that the list might change once self-driving driverless cars become prevalent.
The smarmy answer to how the list would change is that presumably in a fully autonomous car world there would be no collisions ever again , and the list would no longer have any significance. You would merely say that all cities are equal in driving safety. No need to craft a list of that.
In essence, if you got into an autonomous car in Brownsville, Texas (ranked on the existing list as the safest driving city), you would have the same exact safety as you would while riding in an autonomous car while in Baltimore, Maryland (ranked at the bottom of the existing list of 200 cities). Not only would the safety be the same, but this Utopian viewpoint suggests your safety is guaranteed, meaning you have zero chance of getting into a collision.
Well, I’ve been repeatedly trying to debunk this notion of so-called zero fatalities and zero incidents due to autonomous cars that some pundits keep trying to parlay into the media. It is a dreamland scenario that won’t happen.
Cars are still cars, even when they are an autonomous car . Tires will still blowout. Car mechanical parts will still breakdown . The complex software and systems of an autonomous car will have bugs or errors , along with being subject to real-time failures and sensory issues. Pedestrians will still jump in front of a moving car, which no matter how good an autonomous car might be, it cannot overcome physics when there is insufficient time to stop.
Plus, the Utopian perspective seems to assume that we’ll have all and only self-driving driverless cars on our roadways. That’s a quite debatable contention.
We have 250 million conventional cars today in the United States alone. Economically, those cars are not going to be switched out overnight to make way for autonomous cars. Thus, for a long time, we are likely to have human-driven cars mixing with driverless cars. Collisions will happen, either because the driverless car failed to anticipate the action of a human driver, or a human driver has run into or bumped against a driverless car.
Mixture Changes Driving Safety Aspects
Back to the cities ranking, we can anticipate that there will be a gradual adoption and spread of autonomous cars and this emergence will not happen necessarily uniformly across the face of the country.
Assuming that driverless cars are likely to be used for ridesharing and acting as a moneymaker for some owner, perhaps in a fleet of autonomous cars by an automaker or a ridesharing firm , you need to consider where those driverless cars will be placed.
Would you put your limited supply of autonomous cars in a smaller city like Brownsville (population of around 180,000) or a larger city like Baltimore (population around 612,000)?
Everything else being equal, you’d probably be more likely to make more money in the higher populated areas, assuming that the populace embraces riding in autonomous cars.
If you believe that AI-run driverless cars will tend to be safer “drivers” than human drivers , you then need to start exploring the proportion of autonomous cars that will be appearing in any given city over time. It could be that as the proportion of autonomous cars versus human drivers rises in say Baltimore, the safety as based on years between collisions goes up (that’s good), and might surpass Brownsville, assuming that Brownsville remains predominantly human-driven focused.
The trickle effect of autonomous car adoption might be a shot in the arm for any city that perchance is more attractive for those that are deploying driverless cars, boosting the safety driving record in that city, even while human drivers are still on the roads there.
A counter-argument some make is that the human drivers might resent or detest their driverless brethren autonomous cars and allow a new kind of road rage to emerge, whereby the human driver purposely seeks to strike or cut-off driverless cars. If that scenario were to actually occur, it would potentially suggest that any such city would actually arrive at a worse “safety driving” record due to the advent of autonomous cars in their locale.
Though there have admittedly been some minor incidents and skirmishes already of human drivers attempting to bully driverless cars, I believe it is a stretch of the imagination to assert that human drivers will openly attempt to ram or get into collisions with driverless cars on any widespread basis, especially once the novelty of being near an autonomous car wears off.
I’m suggesting that human drivers will eventually take it for granted that there are driverless cars in the traffic with them.
Those autonomous cars will become ho-hum and human drivers will treat those driverless cars as just another “driver” to be dealt with on the roadways.
And, I would contend that those human drivers via their own sense of self-preservation , wanting too to keep their insurance premiums from skyrocketing, would ultimately put a damper on untoward overt behaviors toward autonomous cars.
What might the cities ranking look like once we have some prevalence of self-driving driverless cars?
It’s hard to say, but if you review the list and consider which cities might offer the highest bang-for-the-buck in terms of where you would place your money-making autonomous cars, the infusion of those “safer” drivers (assuming that turns out to be the case) of AI-run driverless cars could vault those cities to the top tier of safest places for driving.
I suppose you could plan your vacations to coincide with those cities, allowing you to be driven by driverless cars or even human drivers, and feel at ease that you are in a city with a safer overall overarching driving effort taking place.
Can’t you already see the brochures, our city has the best safety driving record in the U.S. and we are proud of our AI driverless cars for achieving our ranking.
That’s a pat on the back for the AI.