The future is now!
Such are the times we live in that we are making strides and leaps in technology, moving from abstract ideas to reality. From replacing manual gears with automated transmissions to Global Positioning Systems (GPS) installed in cars for navigation we are now are talking about fully autonomous vehicles. What is an autonomous vehicle? Also known as driverless vehicles is where the art of driving is controlled by computers.
This kind of vehicle is already a concrete reality. In April 2016 a platoon of wireless linked self driving trucks completed a European cross border trip. Earlier this year Uber announced that it ordered 24,000 self driving Volvos. Autonomous vehicles are yet to be adopted on a larger scale however the growing trend of transportation as a service rather than a commodity projects a shorter time frame, as private companies and industries are becoming interested thus investing. This technology is looking to solve some major road safety issues by eliminating human error, which is the main cause of accidents. Beyond this, driverless vehicles will have a profound impact on society and the world as we know it.
A driverless future will have people not owning cars of their own. Instead transport will be a service delivered by companies that own fleets of self driving cars. Facilities such as parking lots and garages will recede to a point of obsolescence in. Traffic will change in distribution as driverless cars operate 24/7. Based on the technology and design of driverless cars there will be a stupendous transfer of wealth to the few who own the patents. This refers to the owners of the software of autonomous vehicles, the hardware like batteries with their charging stations and infrastructure maintenance.
Initially vehicles were built to survive crashes however this changes with autonomous vehicles. Seeing as they are electric and have no controls for a driver, these cars will require fewer parts for manufacturing thus will be produced faster and will less labour. In addition, the design of vehicles will change. As chances of accidents will be eliminated, the materials used for vehicle construction such as carbon fibre will allow diversity in design. Autonomous vehicles will come in different sizes and shapes, possibly the ability to attach to each other for certain situations.
As private car owners recede driver’s licenses will slowly disappear as well along with the government department that issues them. The nature of policing will change as well. As traffic flow becomes automated by driverless cars, traffic policing will become unnecessary. Traffic lights and signs will be redundant. The relationship between pedestrians and vehicles will be affected as well. Walking and cycling will become practical in places that aren’t today.
The shift to autonomous vehicles will have many geopolitical implications as electric cars replace fuel powered vehicles traditional petroleum products become less valuable. Petroleum may still have value in making plastic and other derived materials however it will not be burned for energy. This will greatly address the implication of climate change.
Here is a YouTube video by Waymo, which started as Google’s self driving project in 2009, that helps to illustrate these points.
What stands between us and this future is only a matter of time.
This is only a short introduction to autonomous vehicles and we would love to hear your thoughts on this subject, so please do leave your comments below.