The U.S. government has set a goal of zero traffic deaths within the next 30 years with the advent of driverless cars and other strategies, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement Wednesday.
The goal comes in the face of traffic deaths increasing in recent years. In 2015, traffic deaths increased by the largest total since 1966, and the first half of 2016 showed a 10.4 percent increase in deaths compared with the first half of 2015, according to the NHTSA.
"Our vision is simple – zero fatalities on our roads," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in the statement. "We know that setting the bar for safety to the highest possible standard requires commitment from everyone to think differently about safety – from drivers to industry, safety organizations and government at all levels."
The NHTSA is joining the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration along with the National Safety Council to create the Road to Zero Coalition to help achieve the goal. The NHTSA said that driverless cars will play a part in the "zero traffic deaths" goal.
"The Road to Zero Coalition will work to accelerate the achievement of that vision through concurrent efforts that focus on overall system design, addressing infrastructure design, vehicle technology, enforcement and behavior safety," said the NHTSA statement. "An important principle of the effort will be to find ways to ensure that inevitable human mistakes do not result in fatalities."
The increase in fatalities comes at a time when concerns over distracted driving because of smartphones have risen, according to USA Today.
"All of a sudden we're losing ground," NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind said, according to USA Today. "We have an immediate crisis on our hands and we also have a long-term challenge."
NHTSA also pointed to an increase in overall miles traveled, which is connected with low gasoline prices, USA Today noted.
"All this death and injury is avoidable," Transportation Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez told journalists. "We simply have to remain focused and not let up on this."
There are still doubts about autonomous vehicles, highlighted by the May death of Ohio resident Joshua Brown, 40, who died in a Tesla vehicle in Florida while the car's autopilot mode was on, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"Too few autonomous vehicles are yet on the road to have a statistical consensus about their safety," Weston Williams a writer with the Christian Science Monitor said. "But the technology is constantly improving, and more people have come to accept it as safe.
"Still, it may be hard to convince most drivers to make the switch to fully autonomous vehicles in the next 30 years, especially in the U.S., where cars in popular media often represent freedom and independence, with the allure of the 'Great American Road Trip' resonating with many citizens on a cultural level," Williams continued.
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