In a world that is defined by one constant: change, one single technology being called “ the most influential technology in the past century” is a bold statement that people cannot ignore any longer. But is this truly a technology which will revolutionize the way in which we see our world? Is this really the aforementioned “most influential technology in the past century”? As we’ve covered previously, car manufacturing and transportation, two of the sectors that people are perhaps most familiar with and can relate to will experience massive changes that will effect not only the people in the industry, but also the world at large. And yet, the positive aspects of this technology are immeasurable. Looking at the U.S. transportation system current day, once a person is 17 they are flung into the traffic and daily struggles of navigating on some of the most dangerous roadways. Now stop and think for a second as the future of driving will be changed with upgrades to the standard vehicle today: Roads will be safer, traffic could be eliminated, and “passengers” (anyone in an automated vehicle) will experience an increase in the amount of free time they have due to shorter rides.
We can see one very apt comparison can be made when buildings first adopted fully automatic elevators. There was a similar reaction made by many people back then akin to the reaction people have when talking about automated vehicles today. Many felt uncomfortable to be in an elevator that was automatic, these people longed for an operator in the elevator to make sure they could get to their floor safely because they simply did not trust the new technology. Current-day generations unsurprisingly take this technology for granted because they never experienced a time where there was not automated elevators. Is this starting to sound familiar? It should. Just how the idea of automated vehicles driving around and having free reign on the road is a scary thought for so many people today, so too was the idea of elevators working on their own in the past. So then, will automated vehicles one day be as simple and regular as automatic elevators? We’ve all seen videos online like this one involving young children who display a familiarity and enjoyment in using an iPad, so in that same vein will these self-driving cars become the new iPad or automated elevator? A tool that newer generations will accept much more easily than those who live through the transition? I’d like to think that as the technology advances, and the world gets more and more exposure to autonomous vehicles it will become a banal normality to no longer drive your vehicles any longer. The common person will have to become comfortable with the fact that their cars were pre-programmed and they do not have complete control in decision making.
Perhaps contrasting the final point regarding a loss of control in the previous paragraph, another angle to self-driving cars is to think about the amount of companies that will grow and prosper making their living off of the rise of this technology. Not only that, we must also try to observe and understand the amount of change that will be brought on not only on a personal level by automated vehicles but also for city planning and other logistical endeavors. This article does an extraordinary job looking at the different ways in different approaches to automated vehicles will have different results for society as a whole. For example, Uber has already taken over Pittsburgh with their autonomous fleet as we’ve discussed previously. However, this is just one of the three options currently being talked about for the future of autonomous vehicles. The first option is private ownership, which is perhaps the most well known category. We see this already with the current state of our transportation system using buses, trains, etc. to move people from point A to point B that are all owned by companies. Another option is buying into companies and “renting” cars from Tesla, Google, or Ford. This means that after paying a fee to a specific company whenever a car is needed you would simply call for it and they would send a car. The last option is a bit similar to the last but for key reasons is the favorite of urban planners because it will eliminate the most cars: a shared fleets of cars. Acting like Uber Pools or a taxi, a car would pick up a group of people all heading to the same location and would drop them off and then when a car is needed again, another one can just be called. The key difference here is that these pools would be owned by the government much like buses or trains and not require fees be paid to a company for the service.
Now there is currently a three-era breakdown of the installation of fully functioning autonomous vehicles that starts at 2015, goes to 2020, and finally stops at 2050. The first era as most of you may already know has already started: automated vehicles are already a reality and being tested in fleets across the world like in Singapore and Pittsburgh. Couple this with the fact that there are now emerging models and technologies that are being created and released and that testing has been ramped up especially in a state like California and you get a formula that is set for mass amounts of innovation in a very quick time span. Tesla is one of the best examples of this with their release of Autopilot 2.0. The next era is set to begin in 2020 and end in 2030: this era will be marked by the insurance companies no longer covering an individual driver, but rather now covering companies due in large part to private ownership becoming a thing of the past, causing companies to own the cars and rent out their vehicles to citizens in the country. Along those lines, since the driver will have no longer have liability of any decision that the car makes the insurance must also insure that the technologies controlling the vehicles is for lack of a better word, bulletproof. Finally, the years from 2030 to 2050 are forecasted to be when automated vehicles are predicted to become the primary means of transportation. The most important milestone reached in this era will be that vehicle crashes will fall 90%, saving billions of dollars per year and making the roads a safer place for all drivers. This will then lead to the redesigning of major cities and towns as we know; as an example, with cars constantly coming and going parking spots can be replaced or removed. Today, cars are parked 95% of the day which will be dramatically decreased to a mere 40-50%. The extra space can lead to further innovation of new technology in now available space. Right now it may be hard to fathom of a world where the drivers will no longer be driving but rather passengers in their own car however once the world has become fully comfortable with this idea, look out for the rapid of advancements of this great technology. The world of tomorrow will undoubtedly become more efficient and roads will look dramatically different than they do present day.