Scottsdale may often be associated with retirement more than technology, but Mayor David Ortega and others at the City Council are looking to change that. In conjunction with General Motors, autonomous, self-driving cars will be coming to our streets sometime in the relatively near future.
Observant readers may have noticed that GM cars have been mapping Scottsdale streets for the last four months in preparation, and while a specific timeline for those services in Scottsdale has not been publicly mentioned, according to Mayor Ortega the cars are coming off the production line as we type. This same model has already cut its metaphorical teeth in San Francisco (a much more harrowing degree of difficulty driving-wise) to the tune of 2 million miles driven.
The thought of self-driving cars is charmingly futuristic for some and a terrifying idea for others. The truth as it stands now is somewhere in the middle, but leaning towards charming. According to McKinsey, autonomous cars are involved in 9.1 crashes per million miles driven versus 4.1 for traditional driving. That said, McKinsey notes that said crashes were typically much less damaging than those in traditional driving accidents, and one would presume that as the technology matures, the autonomous crash number will likely decrease going forward.
In the meantime, between human error and a robust nightlife culture, Scottsdale is far from immune from preventable but serious car crashes. Many readers will remember the rash of wrong-way drivers on the 101 over the last few years (many at the sort of hours that imply that intoxication was involved). In that vein, there was a fatal crash on the 101 in Scottsdale just last weekend.
Unfortunately, bad decision-making will never be fully eliminated, so any technology that helps minimize the impact of those bad decisions on others should be embraced. Moreover, it’s a positive that Scottsdale diversifies and embraces new technologies and ideas. We already have a reputation for being on the old end of the age spectrum, a reputation that isn’t necessarily a positive one for building a robust economy not based on health care and funeral homes. This will kill two birds with one stone: make our roads safer from the reckless amongst us, and position us closer to Tesla than AOL. Embracing new technologies is sometimes difficult, but in this case it is worth it.