Autonomous Cars and the 7 surprising ways they will change your world.

Tyson Grubb (CEO, Instrument Choice) has written an interesting piece on autonomous cars.

PDA’s NSW Associate Director, Peter Simpson, believes that this technological advancement will leave wheelchair users out in the cold in the same way that wheelchair accessible taxis has done.

Thank you to Tyson Grubb for allowing us to share this article.

I’m a bit of a thinker, often I get side tracked considering how the future is shaped by the decisions and technologies that are coming about today.  

In 2016 I was fortunate to get access to see Googles autonomous vehicle test track in California, watching these cars go about their business with no drivers on board made it clear to me that the future of human drivers was limited.  When we consider the exponential growth in computing power (check out Moore’s law), the reliability and likelihood of this technology becoming mainstream grows exponentially.

Autonomous cars will likely be commonplace at the start of next decade.  This will change the way we travel, the way we own cars and is predicted to bring traffic accidents close to zero.  You might have heard about some of the effects of self-driving cars, like the loss of jobs of truck drivers or the reduction in accidents once most cars are autonomous.  There are other knock on effects of technology you may not have thought of, there may be other factors that could affect these outcomes, but these are my predictions based on what could happen (without considering other unknowns such as world economic changes or government regulations etc).

1. Regional house prices will grow faster than in the city
Many people dream of a tree change, but their work commute stops them from making the leap.  Now with work from home increasing (because of the pandemic), regional prices have pushed up, this trend will continue when you can do other things instead of driving (while your car whisks you to work), you can sleep, work, have breakfast, have a meeting or catch up on more Netflix, you won’t think twice about a longer commute.  And with regional property supply being restricted while demand increases, the price of country living will go up.

2. Will you own a car?
Probably not.  You see, once the cost of the driver is eliminated then the cost of a ‘taxi’ or ‘Uber’ type service will shrink significantly, and for most people it will be much cheaper to use a short-term car hire service than to own a car (forget dealing with the maintenance costs and issues that comes with car ownership).  You may miss your own car at first, but when you can press a button on an app and a car arrives to your location within minutes and can take you anywhere for a small fee, why would you bother having your own car.  The question then will be, what will you use your garage for, a games room, home office or the ultimate man-cave or she-shed?

3. Car parks will die
So, cars will pick you up from wherever you are and drop you off where you want to go.  But what does the car do in-between?  It picks someone else up, it keeps working, it keeps transporting people and so does not need to park anywhere.  Of course, it will need to refuel or recharge its batteries (as they will be electric or possibly hydrogen powered), but this will be a much shorter period than if you were to park your car for meetings, shopping, entertainment etc.  And the carparks for charging will probably exist in cheaper real-estate on the outskirts of cities (pushing up the prices of the land on the edges of cities a little too).

4. The car insurance industry will collapse
With only companies owning the cars (this is Uber’s plan by the way), and no accidents, what will the car insurance industry be able to charge for?  Not much, car insurance will be a thing of the past for the general consumer and the companies that own the cars will pay a much smaller amount as accidents reduce to next to nothing.

5. Bus routes will become more nuanced
Buses will be smaller and the number of routes will increase, buses can take you closer to where you want to go.  Think of them more as a larger car pooling service where you are sharing with a group of people based on where you all want to go at that point in time.

6. Package delivery costs will shrink
With the drivers not needed for long haul cross road transport, safety rules not requiring breaks then the cost of trucking goods will decrease.  For cross town transport, the autonomous truck will rock up at your house or work, and a drone will do the last 20m of delivery, dropping the parcel safely at your door.

7. Police will need to raise revenue from somewhere other than traffic violations
Autonomous cars will be programmed not to break the law and so won’t.  In 2017 Australian speeding fines totalled $1.1 billion, without considering all other traffic violations and that this number would likely to have increased in the last 5 years.  This is a lot of cash the government will not be receiving, but then perhaps less police will be needed as they won’t be spending their days monitoring traffic. Will there be less police, or will police be moved to where they are needed?

I am sure there are more knock-on effects, and over the next 8-10 years a lot will change too.  

How do you think autonomous cars will change the world?  Is it good, bad, or just is what it is?  Would love to hear your thoughts.

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