There were over 40,000 traffic fatalities in the United States alone last year. That number will shrink to near zero in the future, because we will no longer be driving ourselves around. We will be passengers in autonomous vehicles.

When I write fiction, I often set my work in 2048. In the fictional world I am creating, people sleep or work on the road. The transports they ride in take them safely wherever they want to go. I believe the realization of that vision is inevitable. Autonomous transportation will become ubiquitous. Of course, if you still want to drive in 2048, you will be able to on rented tracks or remote roads separate from the transportation grid. The grid will not be half and half. It will be dedicated to autonomy, and that is why fatalities will plummet to near zero. The human factor will be removed from the equation.

This is not a new idea, and I am certainly not the first to have it. Elon Musk, for instance, has been devoting a big chunk of his substantial financial resources to make it happen.

Yesterday, I watched The New York Times Presents documentary (Season 2, episode 1) Elon Musk’s Crash Course. The documentary shows the ups and downs of Elon’s quest to make Autonomous Transportation a reality. If you own one of his “self-driving” Teslas, you probably already know that the necessary technology hasn’t been developed, yet.

In order to make an autonomous car that is economically feasible for regular people like me, Elon is relying on an eight-camera system instead of prohibitively expensive radar and lidar. The camera system could work and will work in the future, but it is dependent on the software to instantly recognize every possible road hazard and make the necessary corrections. That isn’t happening, yet. Elon’s autonomous test cars have been involved in three fatal crashes and several other crashes with less severe consequences. Two of the three fatalities have been caused by Teslas broadsiding eighteen wheelers that turned in front of them, and one failed to figure out which lane to take when a highway split and went head on into an abutment. To be fair, a big part of the problem can be laid off on the dead “drivers” who may have become over-confident and complacent. The one who hit the abutment was reportedly playing a video game.

Despite the failures along the way, the future is on the way; and Elon Musk should be commended for making the future an emerging reality. His is the kind of spirit we used to celebrate in our bastion of Free Enterprise. Some of us still do!