Disclaimer: This is an article I originally wrote back in 02/2015, which I post again to make it available to my Medium followers. Consider it as a small time-travel into the past. Although some facts may have changed, the core idea still holds. Enjoy!
Classic cars have an expiration date. Self-driving cars have the possibility to disrupt the whole transportation system. Unlike electric cars, which mostly have the advantage of not relying on fuel to operate, self-driving cars have many more opportunities.
What is so wrong about the cars we use today? After all, you can get from your home to nearly any other place in a pretty comfortable manner. It gives you the freedom to get anywhere you want — anytime.
But driving a car today comes at a price. You have to pay 100% of the costs, even if you only use it 5% of the time. These costs include the actual price of the car, but also parking fees, repair, taxes, fuel, violation fees and much more. Also you pay hidden costs: because you have to drive the car you are unable to use that time for work. Stuck in a traffic jam? You pay in form of your stress factor. You need half an hour to find a parking lot? Pay again.
Classical cars also have a safety problem that is bigger than we want to admit: The humans. They text while driving, drink alcohol, drive aggressively or get sleepy. Statistics show that more than 90% of crashes are caused by human error.
We can do better than that.
Self-driving cars never sleep. They do not consume drugs or get distracted. The self-driving cars at Google already managed to drive 700,000 miles, and this will improve a lot in the future. Self-driving cars will soon be much safer than cars operated by human drivers — and more comfortable, too. Imagine working on a project while commuting to work, or watching a movie. What about having a great party without needing to worry about how you get home, or how much you drink?
Let us dream further. If we don’t need to operate the cars — why don’t we allow them to search for parking lots on their own? Or picking us up whenever we need them? Imagine you have a young daughter which you need to pick up from school, but at the same time you have to attend an important meeting at your company. She could take a self-driving car home.
If we don’t need to operate the cars, why don’t we give up ownership entirely? Instead of using the car for 5% and paying the full price, we could rent the cars only for the time we need them. Today’s car sharing models already work that way, but they still need parking lots and you still have to pick them up. In a self-driving world, cars pick you up. And instead of looking for a parking lot, they can drive to the next customer nearby.
In a world where most people share cars, we don’t need the full amount of cars we have today. We could get rid of 9 out of 10 cars. Did you know that one third of land area in cities is used as parking area today? Why not repurpose this and solve the housing shortage on the way? Oh, and the material to build these cars is only 10% compared to before, so we help the environment, too.
Now let’s get even more crazy. Self-driving cars can drive closely together to save energy consumed by wind resistance. Driving that close also improves the usage of space on streets, which can reduce traffic congestion. So does the ability of self-driving cars to avoid traffic by finding the best route themselves, combined with the decreased chance of crashes. If we move to cars as a service, they might even switch to the newest technology faster than before. Who knows: Maybe we will have cars operated on hydrogen or on cold fusion.
Sure there are obstacles on the way, for example existing regulations and fear of new technology. One of the biggest obstacles is one you wouldn’t expect: Why should existing car manufacturers support self-driving cars when this might lead to a major decrease in car sales? Will they be able to reinvent themselves?
The future looks brighter than ever. Self-driving cars will be cheaper, more secure and more comfortable than the cars we use today. They have the chance to improve the environment, housing shortage and will enable people to use cars who could not afford one before.
Self-driving cars will soon be ready to improve your everyday life.
The question is: Are you ready?
If you like self-driving cars like I do please give this article a ❤!