What would a world with autonomous vehicles look like?
First and most importantly of all, the death toll on our roads will plummet. Why? Around 90% of accidents are caused by human error. Already new crash avoidance systems are saving lives. Autonomous vehicles remove the unpredictability of human drivers and they are quicker to react to changes in road conditions. A reduced road toll means reduced insurance premiums to individuals and reduced costs on the healthcare system due to care of persons injured in crashes.
Congestion will be eased. Imagine a city with no traffic. It sounds absurd. Traffic jams, congested roads and long commute times are so ingrained in so many people’s lives that it seems hard to imagine a world without it. Autonomous vehicles will be able to communicate with each other to allow traffic to flow smoothly and cars to merge without stabbing the brakes to avoid an accident.
Fuel costs will be reduced and emissions lowered due to more efficient and quicker travel. Cars will spend less time on the roads. You may not even own a car yourself. You may own a share in a company that has 10 or 100 or 1000 cars. Along with other shareholders you have the ability to call on any of the cars that your membership supplies access to. Your yearly membership fee would cover fuel, insurance, registration and any other costs that your car may incur. You will never have to pay for parking fees or fines as your car will always be in use. By sharing vehicles between individuals, the cost of access to transportation is lowered for everyone. You will never have to drop it off at a depot though because it can drive itself to the next destination.
Policing road rules will become a thing of the past. Our police can then focus on more pressing matters like protecting life, liberty and property. Cars will never speed and no one will ever drink drive again. Policing them will become unnecessary. No more breathalysers and no more speed cameras hiding in cars on the side of the road. No more revenue raising at the expense of motorists by state governments. Government also won’t need to take money off you every year for your license. You won’t be driving so you no longer need a license. The registration of your car will cover the cost of road upkeep as it does today.
Your travel time is also free to be use as you please. As you no longer need to physically guide the vehicle to your destination, you can get started on work or prepare for a meeting, you can chat to your children and friends, you can entertain guests or you can sleep if it’s a long journey to your destination.
Autonomous vehicles will be another step on the journey towards prosperity, allowing us to use our time in ever more valuable ways while reducing costs to consumers and users. They will provide lower emissions, more efficient use of resources, fewer cars on the road, shared costs between many willing users, safer travel and reduced costs for users.
This bright future is coming and there is little that can be done to stop it. We can’t predict the exact form the industry will take. Millions of consumers voting with their feet and wallets will determine that. The biggest barrier to this prosperity is government, as shown when California regulators revoked registration of autonomous vehicles in San Francisco. Instead of showing what human ingenuity can achieve and becoming a leading light for all cities willing to adopt life-, time- and money-saving innovations, the California DMV has instead decided to once again slow progress down. UK regulatory bodies can learn from their mistakes, and make everyone’s lives better by making it easy for autonomous vehicles to become an exciting new addition to our future.