Will driverless streets be safe?

Private Life and Mobility

Raven Brooks

Raven Brooks



The safety of autonomous vehicles is always the first thing to come under fire whenever the subject of driverless cars comes up. But these concerns are usually centered on the safety of the passengers and pedestrians from the cars themselves. There has been considerably less focus on the impact driverless cars could have on the safety of people on the streets – from other people.

But are driverless vehicles likely to make us safer from other on-street dangers?


Urban versus driverless

Cities are sure to feel the driverless impact first. And, as the inhabitants of cities are usually at greater risk becoming victims of crime, its set to be where the impact of driverless technology on street crime is likely to be felt.


With more journeys likely to take place in it's possible that street crime has the potential to drop. This is due to less opportunity for public aggression, drunkenness, assault and the everyday activities associated with urban living – something every city in the world has in common.


Let's look at the risks posed by the cars themselves.  occur on roads around the globe each year. Ordinary pedestrians face risks that are often caused by momentary lapses of attention.


With planners building advanced cyber solutions, tracking devices and routes that will ensure a direct journey home, human error should eventually be replaced by AI, or sensors, which can't be distracted. This will hopefully lead to an increase in street safety by getting people off the streets where they could otherwise come to harm.


Stranger danger

Autonomous vehicles may also enable journeys . If, for instance, you have enjoyed a tipple (or five), or have been working late, getting home safely may be a little more likely with the assistance of a machine.


The safety stats are a little difficult to predict, but it's very likely people will feel safer. With notable cases such as that of John Worboys, the taxi driver who was imprisoned for assaulting dozens of women in London, strangers in the driving seat still pose an unknown threat to some. The autonomous vehicle could remove that threat, providing a door-to-door, dedicated and personalized journey home.



No more last bus home

Travelling alone means the potential for attracting aggression, including on public transport. With driverless tech, there will be more options available, so people could avoid catching the last bus home. Rushed, uncomfortable and unsafe journeys on public transport could well become a thing of the past.


Instead of having to deal with unwanted attention by intoxicated individuals, or opportunist criminals, automated vehicles could swoop in and usher people home, away from any potential confrontation, simply by reducing their time on the street. A higher level of safety could also be achieved through in-car surveillance and data sharing, with keener focus on dangerous cities such as Rio de Janerio and Mexico City and their problematic neighborhoods.


On the beat

What about police time? Well, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, self-driving cars will not require so much policing time, potentially cutting forces in half.


In the US, up to 42 per cent of all police interactions with citizens are traffic-related. It can only be assumed that, if driverless vehicles form the majority, there will be less need for forces on the roads tackling speeding, drunk-driving or other traffic violations. This means that they could be free to turn their attention to other things, such as policing the streets, as opposed to the roads.


Drunkenness has always been a problem – and probably always will be. But, with automated vehicles, there is less risk of people getting behind the wheel illegally.


'Think fast' moments

The Uber and Waze apps calculate routes in real time and often redirect down obscure side streets to avoid congestion. This could make for an increase in risk when not on popular, more public routes. For the planners involved in creating and managing driverless technology, any issues on the streets could effectively be re-routed with more advanced sensors – taking a person away from danger quickly, if needed.


There is even an argument that autonomous cars could enable transportation to become free. This would contribute to a new level of safety and convenience being available for the many, not just the few.




Self-driven "grand theft auto"

Then comes the question of a different type of security. Powered entirely by computers, driverless vehicles will also house more advanced security measures than their regular counterparts, in the physical realm and the cyber. Driverless vehicles fall into the Internet of Things (IoT), meaning they constantly communicate with other devices to run in a worthwhile way.


With installed GPS tracking, individuals looking to deprive others of property would not be able to power an autonomous vehicle, even if they had somehow gained access to it. Similarly, a the owner could have the function  to remotely shut down a car if they were made aware that it had been stolen, rendering it useless. They could then retrieve the GPS data so the the police could take over.


The bottom line

With the industry constantly evolving, what is important to one person, service or demographic, will be less so to another. Needs and wants will constantly evolve, as will the environments this technology will be used in. The bigger picture will be hard to determine until the technology is in regular use.


Until that day comes – stay safe out there.


Join the debate! Is driverless tech likely to have an impact on street crime, or will it have the opposite effect?


You maybe also interested in our related article :




<div id="hs_cos_wrapper_Engage_" class="hs_cos_wrapper hs_cos_wrapper_widget hs_cos_wrapper_type_inline_text" style="" data-hs-cos-general-type="widget" data-hs-cos-type="inline_text" data-hs-cos-field="submit_your_story.icon_text">Letter</div>
Submit your story

Become part of our automated revolution and submit your stories, images and videos

Submit your story
Stay informed

Stay up to speed with our mailing list. Enjoy automated driving content direct to your inbox

Join our weekly briefing
Connect with us

Follow us on our social networks for up to date information and thoughts on automated driving