In part two of our series of thought-exercises on the benefits of autonomous vehicles, we’re going to look at the health aspects of letting your car drive you to work. It’s a relatively little-considered aspect of letting someone (or something) else drive for you, but it’s one worth noting just the same.
Think about your commute to and from work every day- the stress of getting into traffic if you’re one of the millions of Americans who are part of the rat race. It’s tedious, usually a waste of time that could be spent in more worthwhile pursuits. As a society, we bemoan the loss of family time, of recreational time, time to play games or take naps, to read books, and seriously, who really reads the newspaper cover-to-cover these days? That’s right, no one. There’s just no time for it. Commuting is a source of what is commonly considered “friction” in our society. It’s something we have to do in order to be able to do other things, and it drags on the efficiency of those “other things.” Think of it this way: Using a credit card is a friction in this sense- you have to take it out of your wallet, swipe it, punch in a bunch of numbers, collect a receipt, and so forth. You could think of it as lazy, but in the larger sense, that two minutes you spend is multiplied out over 300 million people pretty much every day. Two minutes times 300 million = 416,666 days lost swiping a credit card. Want to play with the numbers further? Multiply 300 million by the average annual commute time of 25.4 minutes, and take into consideration that that happens at least six days per week, and the loss of living that occurs is mind-boggling.
So, what would you do with your extra time every day? Many people might do little more than play games on their smartphone, but there are also people out there who might use that time to mentally prepare themselves for the coming workday, pay bills, talk to their parents, or nap.
Let’s address the nap situation, because there’s a lot there to think about. First off, one benefit of a fully autonomous vehicle would be the ability to grab an extra hour of so of sleep every day, an hour that many health professionals would say could use to be added into our lives. Extra sleep is known to reduce stress, improve mood and overall health, and boost energy levels through the day. It can also aid in recovering more quickly from illnesses, so don’t knock it!
You’ve got stress reduction on the list? It should be on top of the list, because there’s a lot to like about not having to deal with driving. As was previously mentioned, autonomous cars would pave the way for vehicle subscription services, which might reduce stress by taking the idea of “vehicle maintenance” out of your vocabulary entirely. You would never have to deal with having to have an oil change done, replace a transmission, and you’d essentially be driving in a new car every day. You’d never have to buy a new car again, so no dealerships, monthly payments to huge vehicle loans, or other expenses would have to be dealt with. Just pay the subscription cost, and you’re good to go, stress-free.
Autonomous cars have got a way to go before they catch on, but in the end, it’s a pretty good bet that cars as we know them today will one day be a remnant of a long-dead past much like the horse and buggy is today. We may see them in museums, but on the road? People in the future may well rail against non-autonomous vehicles as being unsafe to use on the roads of the future.