Driverless cars are coming. We still don’t know exactly when we will be able to afford one and where they will make their first large-scale appearance, but they are on their way and they will significantly impact on efficiency, health and safety, business models across different industries and our lifestyle in general. Companies like Google are already putting a lot of money and effort into developing them and even claim that driverless cars could reduce road accidents by 90% and save up to $400 billion a year. These are big numbers.
The exact impacts of this new technology will depend on certain factors once it becomes a frequently used product in our lives. These include whether users will actually buy these cars or rent them in effect using them as taxis which will in turn have an impact on prices, tariff innovation and congestion depending on the level of empty running. Computer controlled cars will be far more energy efficient as acceleration and breaking will be far smoother leading to potential reduction in CO2 emissions. They could even impact the way we design our streets and cities, as parking spots in central areas may no longer be necessary. As a result, there is potential for transformation not only of our transport systems but our towns and cities and many aspects of our life.
How quickly driverless cars enter the market in a significant way will depend on purchase/rental price, regulation, insurance policy and reliability. Which country will be the first to adapt them is intriguing. Will it be in the US, where parking lots occupy a vast proportion of urban space or China where road accidents and congestion are serious issues, or Iceland with its supply of cheap electricity but expensive imported oil. It could happen almost anywhere.
A series of articles under the name “The implications of a driverless car world” will be published in this blog in the near future with the aim of exploring the potential impacts of driverless cars on the following areas:
-Public and Private transport use and urban development
-Health and Environment
Driverless cars will soon no longer be a science fiction product but a reality that will transform personal mobility and will require adaptation from many other sectors.