Which is worse, human or machine error?

It’s weird when your personal and professional life meet, here I am writing about it. This is my personal blog, these are my personal thoughts.

Often, when I am thinking about something and just can’t get it out of my head, I write. It’s therapeutic for me and helps me get my thoughts down on paper. So here I go…

I am a victim of distracted driving. 2.5 years ago I was walking my dog before work and I was hit by a distracted driver while crossing a crosswalk. From the scene, I was rushed to the nearest Level 1 trauma center where I had an emergency brain surgery to save my life. In addition, I shattered my face, pelvis, sternum and sacrum. I went on to have two pelvis surgeries and the doctors ‘hoped I would walk again’.

Coming home 100% wheelchair bound after over a month in the hospital.

Statistics say that 90% of people do not survive accidents like I had and those that do, do no go back to their lives before the accident. Lucky is an understatement. I live a pain free life and have some minor memory issues. You will see my carrying around printouts so I can remember things, if that’s the worst of it then I am good!

I was hit in a crosswalk in broad daylight, the driver didn’t have his hands or eyes on the road. It was a crash not an accident. A self-driving car would have seen me, stopped and this crash could have been avoided.

Autonamous vehicles and self-driving cars have been a major use case for 5G technology. 5G promises faster data rates and lower latency making it the missing link that can make self-driving technology work the way it should with much lower error rates. In my current role, I work to market and launch products to help Service Providers build their 5G networks.

Given my history, WHY would I ever trust a vehicle without someone behind the wheel? Because I feel human error is much worse than machine error and machines don’t stop to answer a ‘quick text’.

  • People are as impaired when they drive and talk on a cell phone as they are when they drive intoxicated at the legal blood-alcohol limit of 0.08%.   University of Utah
  • Cell phone users are 5.36 times more likely to get into an accident than undistracted drivers. University of Utah
  • Text messaging increases the risk of crash or near-crash by 23 times.  Virginia Technical Transportation Institute, USDOT
  • Sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds, long enough to cover a football field while driving at 55 mph NHTSA
  • 10% of fatal crashes and 15% of injury crashes in 2015 were distraction-affected. NHTSA.
    Distracted driving crashes are under-reported and the NSC estimates that cell phone use alone accounted for 27%  of 2015 car crashes. NSC
    In 2015, there were 3,477 people killed and an estimated additional 391,000 injured in crashes involving distracted drivers. NHTSA
    The fatal crash rate for teens is 3 times greater than for drivers age 20 and over (IIHS)
    Driver distraction is responsible for more than 58% of teen crashes.  AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety * All stats from enddd.org

After all of this reflection, I am an advocate for autonamous and self-driving vehicles. There will be error (there is with planes as well, which are for the most part, self-flying) but I truly believe that the error will be much less than it is with a human {who is easily distracted} behind the wheel.

Additionally, self-driving cars can’t get drunk. Drunk driving is just as dangerous as distracted driving and visa-versa. Machines cannot get drunk or distracted. There is a small margin of error (like with planes) and it will be much less than mistakes that humans make.

The problem is the minute ONE self-driving vehicle makes an error, they are ALL pulled off the road. Here is the hypocrisy: we don’t pull all humans with cell phones off the road when they make one error.

We have to get this technology right, I know that the evolution to 5G will bring about less error for these autonamous vehicles and in turn, save many lives that are lost at the hands of distracted drivers.

I truly believe the technology evolution can be used for GOOD and I see this use case as a lifesaver.