Steering into the Future: Evaluating the Impact of Self-Driving Cars

The concept of self-driving cars had been knocking around the Automotive industry for decades until Tesla’s foray into the industry.

The deployment of self-driving cars first came onto the scene in 2004, and it started with the Defense Advanced Research Projects challenging anyone to develop a self-driven car that can navigate 142 miles of the Mojave Desert for prize money of a million dollars. Although no developer was successful in 2004, it paved the way for a community dedicated to delivering self-driven vehicles to the masses.

Also, the commercial success of Tesla’s models inspired the rush to automate the personal automobile, and this week saw Chevrolet announce its first self-driving utility van, which adds another major player to this niche industry. While these milestones are admirable, they also raise questions about the future of the automobile industry and the impact of self-driving cars on society.

The short answer to these questions is the age-old parable about ‘no one having the ability to predict the future accurately’.

As for the longer answer, a more nuanced approach that considers today’s statistics and predictions for the future is needed. In this post, our perspective on the impact of self-driving cars on society will be divided into three sections. These sections will consider its economic, social, and technological impact on society.

The Economic Impact of Self-Driving Cars

Statistics from Gartner paint a bright future for self-driving or autonomous-ready vehicles. Its study states that approximately 740,000 autonomous vehicles will be added to the market by 2023. From an economic perspective, the acceptance of self-driving cars will lead to revenue growth for third-party original equipment manufacturers.

Hardware and software developers like LIDAR technologies can expect more business from major automotive stakeholders. The economic impact will also positively affect interrelated technologies automated processes rely on. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Digital Twin are some examples of emerging technology fields that will be impacted by self-driving cars.

The market for self-driving cars is also expected to hit $60 billion by 2030. This means a broader acceptance of its use by government policymakers and the general public. Thus, self-driving cars will positively impact the global economy, create more jobs, and accelerate growth for interrelated technologies that support its ecosystem.

The Social Impact of Self-Driving Cars

In many cases, life imitates art, and the drive to design functional self-driving vehicles is one such case. The movie ‘The Fifth Element’ sparked the public’s interest in autonomous vehicles, and today, self-driving cars are a reality. However, challenges to its widespread acceptance across different social demographics exist.

The accident stories involving self-driving cars still cause a stir today, raising questions about how safe these vehicles have to be to be accepted by society at large. The benchmark is the 518,000 crashes per month set by manually-driven vehicles.

If autonomous vehicles can do better than this, which we believe they will, then wider social acceptance will definitely occur with time.

Now, moving to a not-too-distant future where self-driving vehicles have been accepted, what will its social impact on society be? First and foremost, I see it changing how overworked parents carpool when taking kids to school. The choice of simply trusting a vehicle to know and do what’s best will assist parents with reducing the amount of time they spend on the road handling school runs.

Commuting to and from work also creates avenues for exploring self-driving cars. One such example is the work being done by the Boring Company. Here, underground high-speed tunnels provide traffic-free road networks for individuals to travel through.

And those who think this idea is not scalable may have another company. Imagine the hundreds of thousands of upper-middle-class wealthy individuals who would prefer a safer, more private mode of transportation compared to regular helicopter flights and the chaos in trains.

The success of the first Boring tunnels may be needed to set the pace, but if successful, the future will be defined by high-speed underground self-driving cars avoiding daily traffic and chaos.

The next impact is simplifying logistics chain management. Today, businesses like Uber Eats are already exploring using autonomous vehicles to deliver food and other items to customers. When this scales to trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles, we will see entire logistics chains run through autonomous vehicles.

Since the days of Enzo Ferrari, race cars and racing have become a major part of our everyday lives. So, it is not far-fetched to expect a future where self-driven cars give their day on the tracks. This will also provide automobile enterprises with opportunities to sell their wares and highlight how their autonomous technology is superior to the competitors’.

Although self-driving car regulations are still being created, a successful regulation policy will accelerate the acceptance of self-driving cars. Once this is achieved, more manufacturers will partake in building self-driving vehicles which will lead to rapid innovation.

The Technology Impact of Self-Driving Cars

As stated earlier, the technological impact of self-driving vehicles will lead to further innovations in interrelated technologies. Its effect will also be witnessed across other industries, such as healthcare, search and rescue, and road repairs.

For example, when mapping out damaged road surfaces, self-driving cars can be used to cover a large expanse of roads. These vehicles will also have surveying cameras and 3D visualization technologies to capture damaged road sections.

We also expect self-driving cars to enhance 3D visualization technology, IoT, and data analytics in diverse ways. This will lead to further innovations within this industry to enhance the performance of these vehicles and the technologies that support them.

Final Thought

Statistics show that the future of self-driving cars is one to look out for. Its impact on society will likely revolutionize how humans commute, conduct business, and apply technology.

What Will The Car Of The Future Be Like?

We asked a group of experts to report their opinions on what they think the car of the future will be like.

The car of the future will be fully connected with its surroundings. 5G will open up an array of opportunities to connect cars to the outside world in a much more dynamic way, pulling in information regarding traffic, weather, service stations, electric charge points, and parking amongst others. Then you have the in-car aspect, where cars will be able to monitor their own condition and diagnose problems, with passengers being connected to an array of online services – Wi-Fi, media and entertainment services. Expect in-car Alexa-style personal assistants to become the norm.

When incorporated within autonomous vehicles we’ll see a real paradigm shift in what people do in cars, transforming into connected pods where passengers can utilise Wi-Fi, respond to emails and stream TV shows.

Charles Cridland.

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