Please don’t read this while stuck in traffic.
Despite increasingly tight safety regulations and the fact that automakers are constantly improving on safety designs, traffic fatalities for the first half of 2015 have risen considerably, ending the downward trend in accident deaths that has been going on for years. The percentage increase in fatalities is 8.1 percent to be exact, the sharpest spike in deaths since 1977. While the data is only preliminary, the US Department of Transportation thinks that distracted drivers on cell phones are the cause of the increase.
This is showing regulators and engineers that you cant out-design stupid. They are postulating that low gas prices are adding riskier drivers to the road and causing the increase. The 8.1 percent rise is not set in stone, but it is indicative of an emerging problem. The lack of regulation on cellphone use in cars could be to blame given that now everyone has miniature computers in their pockets. It is unclear how this will affect the auto market, but adding more airbags is not the answer. Some automakers will respond with stopgap technology like autonomous braking, speech to text technology, and lane departure warnings, but others will see this as another reason to pour money into autonomous driving research.