Automobile Accidents Are Easy to Prevent Using Modern Technology

The Bad News

World-wide, more than a million people are killed by cars every year. (The numbers are easy to check on line.) In the USA alone, auto accidents cost each and every American - man, woman and child - over a thousand dollars per year. That's over $150 billion a year. Every 12 minutes, someone dies in a car crash on U.S. roads, and every 10 seconds, someone in America is injured by a car and taken to an emergency department. Every ten seconds!

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. According to the National Safety Council of the United States,

    The calculable costs of motor-vehicle crashes are wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses, motor vehicle damage, and employers' uninsured costs. [... ] The costs of all these items for each death (not each fatal crash), injury (not each injury crash), and property damage crash were:

    Average Economic Cost per Death, Injury, or Crash, 2010

    - Death $1,410,000

    - Nonfatal Disabling Injury $70,200

    - Property Damage Crash (including nondisabling injuries) $8,900

    [... ]

    Expressed on a per death basis, the cost of all motor vehicle crashes i.e. fatal, nonfatal injury, and property damage was $7,280,000.

    [... ]

Since the number of deaths from car accidents in 2010 was almost 33,000, the total cost of them all was over $240 billion. In just one year!

Egads! and Gadzooks! Compare that with death by terrorist attacks and school shootings and the like, all of which combined, since the year 1857, have not, in the USA, exceeded 5,000. To put that in perspective, in the same 150-year period over 3,200,000 people were killed by cars in the US alone. That's over 600 times as many as killed by terrorists. It's a mind-bogglingly disproportionate ratio. (Worse still, the US Department of Transportation spends only about $5 billion a year on its safety programs, while the NSA, CIA and FBI have a combined budget that's almost four times as large.)

And that's just the deaths caused by road crashes. Injuries are far more prevalent. There are around 6 million road accidents every year in the US alone, and around 3 million people are injured by them. The economic cost of all of these, in the form of cost of treating them and work-hours lost, is incalculable. It could well be half a trillion dollars every year. Given that the GDP of the United States is only $14 trillion or thereabouts, that comes to 3.5% of the entire output of the USA just going down the drain, year after year.

The Good News

Fortunately it doesn't have to be this way. We already possess the technology to almost eliminate vehicle accidents involving other vehicles, and to drastically reduce accidents involving cars on the one hand, and people on the other. All that's needed is to have the will to mandate this technology in every auto; and that's not too much to ask in the interests of safety, because we've already exercised our will to mandate seatbelts and airbags for the exact same reason.

Here's how it could work. GPS systems are ubiquitous and cheap, and are installed in pretty much every new vehicle these days. They are also small: some can even fit into a pocket. Wi-fi is even more ubiquitous and inexpensive: it's built into every computer, tablet and cell phone sold today. And both GPS systems and wi-fi are getting cheaper by the year. To make them work to avoid accidents, all that's needed is software that will take into account an object's mass, speed and direction of travel, so as to predict exactly where it will be a few seconds (or microseconds) later, if it keeps going the way it's going. Such software is easy to write: in fact it already exists to enable airline pilots to land airplanes in the worst of weather and with zero visibility. (Of course we only have to write the software once: the cost of developing it, even if high, can be spread over literally billions of cars.) Combine the three - GPS, wi-fi and the necessary software - into a single gadget, and then mandate that such a gadget be installed in every road vehicle... and you'd have the essence of an early warning system that could predict and help prevent every road collision. Each such gadget would broadcast its GPS coordinates, via wi-fi, to every other such gadget in its vicinity, and every other such gadget would use its built-in software to determine whether a collision is imminent.

Such systems could first of all alert the driver, using lights and/or sounds, that a collision is imminent, leaving the driver to control the car and avoid the collision. Any prudent driver will do so, of course, after having been so alerted. However, if the driver is incapacitated, stupid, or drunk, the system could be designed to automatically slow the car down to avoid the collision, taking over control from the driver. Some drivers may not like it, just as many drivers the world over don't like seatbelts, but if the system were mandatory and tamper proof, they would have no choice. It's not just for their own good, but for the good of everyone else they could ruin the lives of, so there's ample legal and ethical reason to mandate such a thing.

The cost per vehicle would be miniscule. Even if each such gadget were to cost a thousand dollars - and that's pushing it, since GPS systems cost only a couple of hundred dollars each - since only 17 million or so cars are sold in the US every year, it would mean an annual US expenditure of only $17 billion, which, compared with the $240 billion that road accidents cost the American economy every year, is next to nothing. In fact, even if it were mandated that such a gadget be retrofitted to every single vehicle ­- and since there are about 250 million road vehicles in America today (that includes cars, trucks and motorcycles, of course) - it would only be a one-time expense that costs just a tad more than traffic accidents cost the US economy every year.

But, you may ask, what about accidents between cars on the one hand, and people on the other? Such accidents would also be easy to prevent, if people were to carry GPS transmitters on their persons: transmitters which would inform all vehicles in their vicinity of their location. Such transmitters could be made small enough to carry in a pocket, or even embed in a wrist watch; and since they would only amount to a wi-fi equipped GPS, they would be extremely cheap. As a matter of fact, personal GPS locators sold these days - about the size of a cookie - cost less than a couple of hundred dollars, and will surely get even less expensive as time goes by. Any car equipped with the gadget proposed here would be able to take into account people carrying such wi-fi-enabled GPS transmitters, and avoid hitting them.

As for accidents involving cars and other stationary objects like lamp posts, those are even easier to prevent, since the exact GPS coordinates of every lamp post in the world is easily obtainable from such things as Google Earth. Just program these coordinates into the gadget installed in every car, and Bob's your uncle.

Anyway - you get the point. Given the fact that automobile accidents are listed by the World Health Organization in the top ten causes of death in the world, and given in addition that the CIA World Factbook gives the world mortality rate as 8.37 persons per 1,000, it comes to almost 1.23 million people being killed world-wide by motor vehicles every year. In a single lifetime (of the Biblical three-score-and-ten years) that would be more than the entire population of Germany - the most populous nation in Western Europe. Do we really want all those deaths on our conscience? If not, then don't you think we should agitate for the installation of the system recommended above, asap?

My name is Ardeshir Mehta. I am a Philosopher and Seeker after the Truth. I am almost 70 years old, have expertise in a wide range of subjects, and have written many essays, articles and books, some of which can be found at my web site, My aim in publishing my works is to promote knowledge, by making my expertise available as widely as I can. Among my fields of expertise is engineering, and in this field, I, along with my son Cyrus, have conceived the most advanced automobile in the world, about which I have written at one of my web pages,


  1. I would also like to add some automotive tips to this article.
    There are many reasons for car engine problems, primarily negligence. Some car owners just fill the gas tank, give the car a hose down and drive away without worrying about servicing, maintenance regimes and periodic lubrication. Even coolant levels are not being checked from time to time.

    This leads to problems like overheating, fuel gumming, sludge formation which results in lack of power, compromised fuel efficiency and engine problems. To help prevent this, one should go through parts and accessories and meticulously service the engine from time to time. Timely oil/fluid replacements, filter cleaning/replacements and tuning will ensure a healthy engine which could last for decades.

  2. Thanks for your post.
    David A. Kapelman is a personal injury lawyer representing victims of construction accidents, lead paint poisoning, medical malpractice,
    birth injuries, premises liability, sexual assault, injuries caused by defective products, automobile accidents, or any other personal injuries or accidents that result in serious injury or death

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  3. They are very easy to prevent and getting educated through a proper Driving School is the way to go!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. And that technology is quite prone to hacking which a child can do these days.
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