The idea of autonomous vehicles has got more than a few people on edge these days, and for good reason really. There are some downsides to be considered before we can really cut that technology loose in our everyday lives. Safety is certainly a consideration, and cost is yet another- of updating our infrastructure to support vehicles that drive themselves. Today, though, I’d like to address some of the advantages that not everyone is thinking about, or at least, the advantages that the smart people around us haven’t gotten around to making publicly, widely known yet. By themselves, they represent a great reason to let the technology in our lives, but amassed together, they could redefine one of the most important aspects of being human- our freedom of movement.
Let us first address the largest issue, the safety issue, and then we’ll go from there. In the last ten years, the average fatal accident rate in the U.S. was between 32,000 and 37,000 per year. Fortunately, that represents a relatively tiny percentage of the driving public compared to the 1920’s and 1930’s, when the percentages of fatal crashes were much higher. Increasing safety systems in vehicles have gone a long way toward that reduction in percentage, in addition to better driver education and licensing, (and the actual existence of traffic laws and speed limits) but some would still say that it’s too high. I don’t think that there’s a parent out there who doesn’t remember what they were like as a teen and fret about putting their kids behind the wheel of a one-ton “death machine.” Autonomous vehicles, when fully implemented, could bring that fatal crash rate down to nil. Will it happen in our lifetimes? Probably not, but there’s already evidence piling up that today’s new generation of drivers are actually putting off purchasing cars until well into their twenties, and many who live in cities don’t drive at all.
Their values have changed, as ours did mid-way through this century, so when you say “I’m not giving up my freedom to drive,” keep in mind that in the 1980s, no one really needed to carry around a smartphone, in the 1970s, no one needed a personal computer. Our values changed. In the 1930s, not everyone had a car. In the 1920s, not everyone had an indoor bathroom, and in the 1910s, not everyone had electric lights. Who are you to say what the values of your great-grandchildren will be?
On the financial side, having autonomous vehicles opens the doorway to a whole new world of saving money. When these vehicles are on the road, chances are good not everyone will even own a car. We will be more likely to subscribe to vehicle subscription services similar to Uber, but without the whole “taxi” mentality. Imagine for a moment having an economy car to zip back and forth to work, a truck to haul stuff around on the weekend, an SUV to take your boat and your kids to the lake, a luxury car for vacation trips, and a sports car for the track. In essence, it is possible to “own” any car you might want or need with a subscription service, and you won’t have to actually “own” any of them. Gone will be the days of deflation, vehicle maintenance, dealerships, and, dare I say it, Insurance.
In the next post, we’ll go over some of the other benefits of autonomous vehicles, so stay tuned next week, when we’ll look at how autonomous vehicles could improve your mood, your health, and your personal fulfillment, too!