Self-driving vehicles could completely change our transport system – as car ownership becomes a thing of the past.
Currently, our cars spend most of their time sitting in garages or parking spaces, close to where we live. In the future, autonomous vehicles will be available when and where you want them. You’ll even be able to change the type of vehicle you want, for any particular occasion, whether it’s a van, a bus or even a limousine.
I’ve always been certain that the impacts of this new technology will be overwhelmingly positive. However, the journey to autonomous transport will not be without its roadblocks. On the plus side, autonomous cars could be faster, cleaner, safer and more affordable. Not so good is the threat of malicious hackers, the potential for mass unemployment, the challenges of providing enough power for the move towards electrification and the potential for increasing the number of cars on the road.
“Human errors cause 90% of road accidents – switching to autonomous vehicles is predicted to save 1 million lives a year. ”
– 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, by Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens
A terrifying example of the potential power of hackers was demonstrated on a Jeep. Even though the driver was a willing guinea pig he eventually pleaded for the perpetrators to stop, as he discovered his radio on full blast, his wipers going haywire and most frightening of all the loss of control over the acceleration. Full story here.
The rise of smart cars is predicted to go hand in hand with electrification, which could put massive pressure on the national grid. In fact, some people are uncertain whether the new infrastructure that would be needed is either technically or economically viable. I’m not convinced by this argument and think that smart charging stations, upgraded power lines and a renewable energy internet will provide workable solutions to the problem.
But surely car sharing will drastically reduce the number of cars on the road, which will ease traffic? Well, maybe… Surprisingly self-driving vehicles could actually increase congestion, by encouraging people away from mass transit towards a personalised, comfortable, convenient alternative. Uber is an example of how and why this might happen. Apparently, 60% of their customers say that if Uber hadn’t been around, they would have walked, biked or stayed at home. The question is will the greater convenience, and reduced costs of self-driving cars cause an explosion in road travel.
OK – I now see that self-driving vehicles won’t solve all our transport problems. They even create a whole new set of issues. But that hasn’t stopped my enthusiasm for the autonomous revolution. Of course, we should be investing in walkways, cycling lanes and car-free zones, but a driverless world should be central to our vision for a better, cleaner and more efficient future.
What else could self-driving technology do?
Jeromy Rifkin’s book – The Zero-Marginal Cost Society – got me excited about the emerging logistics internet.
Billions of sensors and smart devices are being put at every level of the supply chain, which of course has the potential to improve productivity drastically. Networks like these only get stronger as they grow, the efficiency gains would come from scaling laterally rather than vertically, from collaborating rather than competing. By working together on this, companies could save money, as well as, thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide at the same time.
Overall, I think automation is going to revolutionise the global economy at every level, but the next question is, who will control these technologies and what will happen to the millions of displaced workers?
I’ve Written More About How Technology is Transforming Society
If you want to watch a video to understand more about this topic and see where I got some of my information from, check out – Self-Driving Cars Won’t Save Cities – Here’s What Will