TL;DR – Paul stuck in a traffic snafu today has been thinking about some of the driverless car changes that are coming (also caught the last 4 minutes of a segment yesterday on NRP about it which may or may not have better covered everything below). Lot of words from an amature futurist.
Self driving cars are coming. I’ve seen the advancements at CES year after year and we’ve seen the news recently of GM shutting down plants and laying off large percentages of their workforce. That’s in preparation for what is coming (Winter, self driving cars).
What’s coming is accurately described as disruptive (and I hate that word,) and chances are you’re not going to want to own a self driving vehicle.
The reason you probably won’t want to own is because it will be more expensive than the alternative, which is renting time from a fleet. Your car, which sits idle what, like 90% of the time, will cost you the same more or less as a fleet owned vehicle which will be active all day.
You’ll also have to park it, maintain storage for it, insure it, wash it, yadda yadda. Fleets will also have to do this, but they’ll benefit from significantly lowered insurance rates (car’s not going to cause an accident most likely,) will never be exceeding the speed limit, or potentially driven by a drunk driver.
As AI cars hit the roads you’re going to see some changes pretty quickly. Each AI fleet car is probably going to be handling several people per day on their commutes to and from work, and from work to lunch, etc. While a driverless car is still a car, one will do the work of many.
More parking spaces, fewer cars on the road, suddenly the drivers left will start having some breathing room from the idiots on the road who have taken to the self driving path.
But there’ll be a lot of changes. While fewer vehicles on the roads mean less road damage, pollution, etc, it also means fewer insurance jobs, police able to work crimes rather than crashes, lower fuel demands, dogs and cats living together, and turning the road infrastructure we currently have into overcapacity.
There are a lot of things that change… what happens when you can go to sleep in a driverless car and drive through a former tourist attraction that was mostly there because people got tired and stopped?
What happens to the mechanic shops, auto body, etc as driverless cars are maintained by fleet mechanics and fewer and fewer human-driven vehicles are in operations?
What happens when insurance companies lose most of their customer base they were betting on? When hailing a self driving vehicle is so simple and relatively inexpensive that even the drunkest of people doesn’t think twice about leaving their car at the bar?
What happens to the entire truck nut industry?
So yeah, I’m thinking in the next few years the demand for ownership of a vehicle is going to pretty much disappear except for certain professions, which will then have to pay exorbitant rates in comparison to fleet self driving vehicles.
What’s going to happen when we’re not losing 40,200 people in the US a year to traffic accidents? When you can let your kids play around traffic with the assumption that the person on the cell phone in the oncoming vehicle is not in control/going to hit you.
What happens when cost of ownership of transportation is no longer a barrier to transportation and people who don’t have reliable transportation suddenly do?
Interesting future is coming, lot of areas to be affected… man, just think what future cities will be like without parking monopolies and 1/6th of the city devoted to parking structures.
GM thinks it’s here, I’m thinking they’re probably right. Man it would be nice to get that hour or so a day spent commuting back.