The Unexpected Impact of Self-Driving Cars

We’re living in exciting times.

Technology is advancing at an incredible rate, and an elite few are pushing us into new territory every single day.

Love him or hate him, Elon Musk is one of those few. He is pushing the boundaries in a lot of technological fields but, in my opinion, the most direct and short-term impact is going to be with Tesla.

Don’t get me wrong, colonising Mars sounds fucking awesome; but I don’t think people have fully grasped the massive shift we could experience over the next 5+ years with self-driving cars.

Sure, being chauffeured around by a robot car sounds pretty self-explanatory, but I think a lot of people are failing to see the bigger impact self-driving cars could have.

So here’s a few predictions I have for some of the unexpected ways in which self-driving cars could change the world.

Accidents Will Be Reduced

Duh.

Not very unexpected when you consider that 94% of accidents are caused by driver error.

But while that figure will be reduced dramatically by self-driving cars removing decision and performance-based errors, I also believe the number will drop much more significantly than expected when you account for the number of accidents that are caused by drink-driving, texting, or other driver distractions.

All of a sudden, these problems will cease to exist, and the accidents caused by them will too.

Insurers & Taxi Services Could Suffer

With reduced accident numbers comes a reduced need for insurance.

Sure, you’ll likely still have to have some form of cover, but I believe those services will have to be priced significantly cheaper than they currently are in order to remain competitive. This could result in some of the smaller companies being forced out by larger companies who are able to take a loss in the short term.

If you combine that with the fact that the number of self-driving cars could eventually overtake those being driven by a human, you can expect that driving yourself will come at a premium.

That premium, coupled with the fact that you won’t have to be sober when your car is doing all of the driving, means that taxi services could also fall on seriously tough times as the number of fully-autonomous vehicle owners increases.

Food Might Be Cheaper

While guidance systems are already being used within agriculture, fully autonomous vehicles could significantly reduce farming costs.

One farmer could harvest crops from multiple fields, simultaneously, without the need to employ the seasonal workers they often rely on.

This reduces the cost of farming, and either puts money in the farmers’ pockets, or yours — both of which are a good thing.

Prices could fall even further when you consider that:

Shipping Costs Could Be Reduced

As we saw in Tesla’s unveiling of the new Semi, electric trucks will be cheaper than diesel. That alone could have a huge impact on the cost, and environmental impact, of shipping and logistics.

But there’s another hidden saving.

Restrictions by the EU and FMCSA mean that truck drivers in Europe and the US can’t drive for more than 9 or 11 hours, respectively.

That means that when items are being transported long distance, almost 50% of each day is spent at a stand still.

The impact of a self-driving truck could be huge, even just by enabling a truck to continue it’s journey while the driver rests!

A New Advertising Platform Will Emerge

“Where do you want to go for dinner?”

A fairly innocuous question.

But self-driving cars could completely revolutionise the experience of going out.

You could get in your car, and then choose where you want to eat, much like you do right now on when you order out.

The restaurant could see your expected arrival time so there could be options for a drink on arrival, you could pre-order food if you’re running late, or you could let the restaurant know that you have a dietary requirement ahead of time.

But there’s also a huge opportunity for a new advertising platform to emerge.

Paying to have your business appear at the top of a result, within a certain radius, could be very valuable; and I believe PPC marketing for restaurants, bars and venues could shift to this kind of platform.

Imagine having someone who’s all dressed up, sat in their car, ready to pay for a meal see the advert for your restaurant when they search for somewhere nearby to eat.

Or having a family, whose car needs charging during their road-trip, see that your indoor play area has a charging spot they can use while the kids tire themselves out for an hour.

That kind of targeting is something PPC advertisers can only dream of right now!

Ride Sharing & Air Pollution

In his Master Plan, Part Deux Elon Musk has already mentioned a plan to let cars join a fleet of vehicles as a taxi while the owner is at work, but it could have a huge impact on the whole economy within a city.

As the master plan explains, owners would earn a small income which means that the cost of owning a self-driving car is lowered, and more people should be able to afford them.

However, it could have a much more profound impact in larger cities.

Many people in cities like London and New York don’t own cars, and instead rely on public transport or, more increasingly, ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft.

Tesla’s ride sharing approach could split the market straight down the middle into Owners and Riders.

In theory, you wouldn’t ever need to own any car, as long as there are enough self-driving cars in the fleet to service the demand.

This could have a huge impact on public transportation and taxis (again), but also on air pollution.

If every bus and taxi in London was replaced by a fully-autonomous electric vehicle, the roads would be less congested (less accidents and errors causing delays) and the air quality would make it much healthier to spend an extended period of time there — which could affect house prices, underground train prices, and I’m sure a whole host of other things.

What does it all mean?

It’s impossible to know what the true impact of self-driving cars will be, but it’s safe to assume that it’s going to be much more than just being driven around by robot cars.

For political reasons, I still think fully autonomous driving is a few years off; but I am going to be watching with eager anticipation as the whole story unfolds.

I’d love to hear what impact you think self driving cars could have — leave me a comment down below!