An article by Andrew J.Hoffman, Holcim (US) Professor at the Ross School of Business and Education Director at the Graham Sustainability Institute, University of Michigan, brought up some interesting pointers of what is going to happen in the transport industry after self driving vehicles launched for public use. It is definitely not only going to change how we commute but the change will also be economic, political as well as cultural.
As a start, there are two assumptions that we need to make. One is that there is improvement on battery storage technology which is practical enough to be implemented on electric cars worldwide. It is currently happening on 2017 Chevrolet Bolt, Tesla Model 3 which promises a range of 200 miles on a single charge at a cost of $30,000 after rebate. Secondly, the self driving technology will mature and will be implemented in the vehicles worldwide. It is not really difficult to imagine given the amount of research and developments that are already being seen in this area by some of big automakers and technology companies such as Google or Tesla.
With all these assumptions take places, it will transform our personal automobile into personal mobility. This means that rather than relying on human driver, we can use our smartphone or tablet to summon our car to pick us up and get us to our destination. We also able to do our work while on the road. On top of that it will be shared which means that we do not own the vehicle and after it has done whatever request that we asked them to do, we will release the vehicle to other people to use. In this way, we do not need to worry on finding car parks and it will save us time and cost.
It is expected that self driving car will be safer as according to studies, most of road accidents happen because human driver was distracted on doing something else rather than concentrating on the road. We also can minimize road accident caused by drunk drivers’ scenarios. It is also expected that there will be fewer theft. However, if it bound to happen, we can trace the stolen vehicles through the network as we can assume that all self driving vehicles will be connected which means that if one vehicle learns about something, it will be shared to all the vehicles in the network.
There are also disadvantages of using self driving electric vehicles. The downside is that the people who still choose to drive without using the driverless technology will have to pay more for insurance as the risk is higher. We also can expect the highway speed limits will be increased as human error is taken out from the equation. It is also a disadvantage for the people who like to drive as with the driverless technology, it means that the joy of driving will be taken out from the equation too.
Driverless electric car will also change the road infrastructure. We can expect that there will be less car parks and parking garages on many urban roads as well as homes. On top of that the neighborhood gas stations will be replaced by charging stations and many corporate mobility providers will be expected to build their own. This could mean that we no longer are needing oil and it could spell trouble to the oil-producing countries.
Driverless electric car could also mean that some jobs will be replaced by some new jobs. It could spell the end of taxi drivers, gas station owners, and mechanics as well as long haul truckers. On top of that, could it mean that people would take jobs which distance is further away from their home? If that is the case, then it will be great as unemployment rate could be lowered as distance might not be an issue anymore. Engineers or customer call center operator might be on demand in the future. Engineers are needed to fix the broken part of the self driving electric cars whereas if there is any issue while charging the vehicles, owners might need to call the operator to get it fixed.
On the more positive note, driverless electric car will help towards a greener environment as the electric cars will produce lesser gas than gasoline powered cars. Having said all this, there are still challenges in terms of the protocols and the rules that need to be solved before all these can be turned into a reality.