Monday, November 4, 2013

What happens when autonomous becomes ubiquitous?

Seventeen ways in which the self-driving car will transform how we live.

Let’s speculate that at least 25% of cars on the road are autonomous — and that those cars are sufficiently advanced to operate without a human driver. Let’s also assume that the legal issues have been sorted out somehow.

How would this impact society?

  • The elderly could maintain their independence. Even if they have lost the ability to drive, they could still get groceries, go to appointments, visit family and friends, or just go for a drive.
  • Cars could chauffer intoxicated folks safely home — no more drunk drivers.
  • Municipalities could get rid of buses and trains, and replace them with fleets of vehicles that would pick people up and drop them off exactly where they want to go. Mass transit would become individual transit.
  • Car sharing would become more popular, as the cost could be spread among multiple people. Friends, family members, or neighbors could chip in to own a single car, reducing pollution as well as costs. The cars would shuffle themselves to where they are needed, depending on everyone’s individual needs.
  • Fewer vehicles would be produced, but they would be more expensive. This could drive some smaller automakers out of business or force more industry consolidation.
  • Cities could get rid of most parking lots and garages, freeing up valuable real estate for homes, businesses, or parks.
  • Taxi companies would either go out of business or convert over to autonomous piloted vehicles. Each taxi could be equipped with anti-theft measures, alerting police if, say, the taxi detects it is being boarded onto a truck.
  • We could have fewer roads with higher capacities. Self-directed cars would be better equipped to negotiate inter-vehicle space, being more “polite” to other vehicles; they would also enable greater traffic density.
  • Instead of creating traffic jams, heavy traffic would maintain a steady pace, since the vehicles would operate as a single platoon.
  • Autonomous cars could completely avoid roads under construction and scatter themselves evenly throughout the surrounding route corridors to minimize the impact on detour routes.
  • There would be no more hunting for parking spots downtown. Instead, people could tell their cars to go find a nearby parking spot and use their smartphones to summon the cars back once they’re ready to leave.
  • Concerts or sporting events would operate more smoothly, as cars could coordinate where they’re parking. The flow of vehicles exiting from events would be more like a ballet than a mosh pit.
  • Kids growing up with autonomous cars would enjoy a new level of independence. They could get to soccer games without needing mom or dad to drive them. Parents could program the car to drive the children to fixed destinations: sports game and home.
  • School buses could become a thing of the past. School boards could manage fleets of cars that would pick up the children as needed by geographic grouping.
  • You could send your car out for errands, and companies would spring up to cater to “driverless” cars. For example, you could set up your grocery list online and send your car to pick them up; a clerk would fill your car with your groceries when it shows up at the supermarket.
  • Rental car companies could start offering cars that come to you when you need them. Renting cars may become more popular than owning them, since people who drive infrequently could pay by the ride, as opposed to paying the capital cost of owning a vehicle.
  • Cars would become like living rooms and people would enjoy the ride like never before — reading, conversing, exercising, watching TV. Some people may even give up their home to adopt a completely mobile existence.

1 comment:

  1. I really like the last one, my parents are a 5 hr drive away and I'm always thinking this would be the perfect time to be exercising. So all I need is a van with a treadmill in the back :-)
    Plus I'd like to think that the journey time will be significantly decreased as there is no reason when I'm on a long motorway stretch to be limited to 70mph