The Impact of Self-Driving cars?

I am a lifetime student and learning from the community is so much fun. There is a lot of hype these days about Self-Driving cars. I feel the major impact of Self-Driving cars on humanity will be these:

  • Traveling the world: It will definitely become a lot cheaper considering new Self-Driving travel modes: cars, electric planes, buses, etc.) As a result of cheap travel, the prices of commodities will decrease tremendously.
  • Housing: I think that it is possible that expensive cities could be replaced as it expands further due to cheap travel as an effect of Self-Driving, VR, etc. There will be less need to be physically present at one place to get things done and more and more virtual teams will form in. In the near term due to self-driving cars, housing and cities will expand at least 10 folds and people will not mind traveling 2- 5 hours per day.
  • Car Ownership: I feel that even though travel costs will decrease and owning a car may not be a necessity anymore, we would still own a car and put it on the marketplace to cover our lease, which would effectively bring down the cost of owning to ~<10 % of original price. This is due to our emotional human tendency to own things and will be more prevalent in ‘developing-cities’.
  • Safety: Traffic risks/accidents could be mitigated by safe Self-Driving modes but it may present another huge problem. The self-Driving mode could cause security vulnerability related risks? What do you think? Will it be safer to travel in Self-Driving modes? I would argue that Self-Driving car mode could be more prone to hacking and this would actually make travel safety questionable and weak; unless we build Self-Driving networks with only one-way hashing security measures that cannot be easily reverse — engineered and hacked.
  • Self-propelling Engineering disruptions: Eventually as a result of AIs, a lot of humans will be unemployable(billion++ ?). I feel that eventually, not only AI will be able to perform basic work tasks(manual labor), but also may be able to do high-end work items, e.g., programming, memory intensive tasks, etc. I do believe that tech-startups/companies of tomorrow (5 + years) will be really hard to sustain as a human-workforce-only and working on something like Self-Driving cars may ensure that you will have strong foundations in technologies / algorithms of future that will continue to make a huge impact on mankind and the tech companies you work at in important fields(AI, ML, IoT, genomes, Big-Data, etc.,) Otherwise, you may be easily replaceable with AI.
  • Going to Mars: Now I feel that by the time we are ready to go to Mars(~decade), we will be closer to finding the perfect companion AI/robotics that could truly help humans scale easily in the new planet. As more trips are made to Mars with humans/AI/robotics batches, we would need strong domain-expert humans to control many outcomes in self-sustaining the planet Mars. All this will require many humans to have strong expertise in ML / AI so that they can control the outcomes and AI/robotics products. AI-controlling domain-expert humans-shortage could haunt the planet earth as well as planet Mars. We cannot give the control completely to AI or to only a few humans for better reasons :) Self-Driving/ML learnings will be easily translated to all the similar problems on earth and Mars. It will help specialized humans/community fight better with AI if things go wrong. Think of it as US army combat training mode for the community ;)

This is just the beginning and we would love Self-Driving/ML experts, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and institutions to share with the community and grow us stronger. Udacity has open-sourced the Self-Driving data. I hope other tech companies and institutions keep sharing with the community as much as possible.

Checkout: Qualcomm’s efforts into autonomous vehicles

Note: All views are my own and I am a current Qualcomm employee.

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