LinhPTK | May 29, 2017
When business giants from Google to Tesla are piling into the driverless auto industry, it’s clear that something major is afoot. In only a few years, the notion of self-driving cars has gone from a science fiction fantasy to a technical reality, and the days when it also becomes a widespread commercial concern are very close indeed.
The auto is so deeply embedded into modern society that the large-scale arrival of driverless cars will have profound social and economic effects. Here are just 7 of the biggest changes the world is likely to see once this technology becomes established.
Loss of Driving Jobs
The days of earning a living from driving are surely numbered. From pizza deliveries to cabs, services can be made much cheaper when the cost of human wages are taken out of the equation, and in today’s harshly commercial world, the collapse in employment through driving jobs will surely be dramatic.
Nearly every city in the world has problems with traffic congestion. While driverless cars may at first do little if anything to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, the precision and efficiency of computer-controlled driving has the potential to increase traffic flow considerably. When cars can travel automatically and safely at speed, only inches apart and with none of the stop/start driving resulting from slow and imperfect human reactions, transport efficiency in our cities will be hugely boosted.
It’s a sad fact that vehicle accidents are one of the largest killers in the western world. Although trusting in a car to drive itself seems like a major step, modern life already relies on computers for many varied aspects of everyday well-being. It’s likely that society will soon come to terms with this new addition, and reap the substantial safety benefits. Driverless cars will never jump a red light, become distracted by a cellphone, drive while under the influence, or behave in any of the myriad other ways humans find to cause injury on the roads.
Increased Freedom for More People
Although it may be a few years away yet, the likelihood is that once driverless autos have become a trusted feature of our highways, there will be no need for a competent and licensed driver to be aboard. These intelligent cars can be expected to open up independent travel for many more people, for example providing greater freedom for the elderly and disabled who may struggle today to drive an ordinary car. It’s not impossible that eventually people will even trust driverless to carry their kids to and from school or sports practice.
Time spent driving a car on the daily commute is often time frustratingly wasted. With a driverless car, these hours every week can be spent on productive work. Whether this results in the working week shrinking in response, or simply the amount of work growing to fill the extra hours available, only time will tell.
More Car Sharing
The vast majority of cars spend most of their time sitting idle in a garage or parking lot. Driverless cars can be expected to lessen the emotional bonds of ownership that drivers feel towards their cars, so opening up the idea of car sharing. Why have a car parked up, unused, when it could be automatically driving to pick up its next passenger? We could soon see fleets of these cars patrolling our city streets, easily summoned by smartphone when required, providing an extremely convenient and efficient form of public transport without all the costs of personal car ownership.
The days of touring a parking lot looking for the perfect space will be over. A driverless car can let its passengers out at a convenient location, and then drive off to park itself automatically. We may even one day see the end of large parking lots altogether, if the idea of car sharing pools takes off, as cars will spend their time productively carrying a range of passengers instead of sitting on lots awaiting their owners’ return.
As with any major new technology, the effects driverless cars will have on society will probably include plenty of surprises, but one thing’s for sure: the ride into the future is going to be very interesting.