Self Driving Cars

How is this for timing?  Just as we Depression babies are realizing that it may be time to let our driver’s licenses expire, along comes a new technology that could save us from losing our mobility and sense of independence!

Some experts are saying that within 13 years, self-driving vehicles will dominate the roads, representing 95 percent of all miles driven. This rapid adaption curve will be driven largely by market forces….not our realization that we are becoming a menace on the highway.  Individual auto ownership may well be on its way out. The model of the future looks like it will be Uber and Lyft…without the drivers, of course. This mode of transportation will relieve us of the responsibilities of getting the car into the shop for maintenance and filling up at the service station.  In fact, most of the cars won’t need anyone to “fill them up.” They will instead need to teach themselves how to get plugged in for the battery charge.  Maybe it’s time to unload that Chevron stock?

Around 2020, the auto industry will be disrupted.  You won’t want to drive a car anymore. You call for a car and it will show up to take you to your destination. You will only pay for the miles driven and you can safely text, talk to friends or read a book while enjoying the ride.

Why is this happening?  There are two reasons: 1) The technology is here and 2) It will save you and me a good deal of money. Compared to owning your car, the savings are projected to amount to $5,600 a year.  If that seems high, think of the cost of that last 30,000 mile tune-up you had and what your car insurance bill was when you last paid it. Self-driving electric vehicles will enjoy a 90 percent decrease in financing costs, 80 percent decrease in maintenance costs, a 90 percent decrease in insurance costs and a 70 percent decrease in fuel costs.

Car subscription services will increase utilization of a vehicle from 10,000 to 15,000 miles per year now to 100,000 miles or more. This will free up parking lots to become parks and help clean up the air, since these new vehicles will certainly be mostly electric.  Another positive outcome is that the cars can be re-charged at night when other demand for electricity is much lower.

Drive Me, the world’s most ambitious and advanced public autonomous driving experiment, starts today

Self-driving cars may well disrupt the labor markets.  There will be lots of people put out of work: taxi drivers, car salesmen, auto mechanics, filling station owners, auto insurance sales people, truck and bus drivers and folks who work in car manufacturing plants. This change will be painful for many, but not something new. One-hundred years ago, 90 percent of us were engaged in agriculture.  Today, that figure is less than 5 percent. Maybe it is time for us to look at a guaranteed national minimum income.  The world of the future clearly won’t need to have every able-bodied person holding a job. Men and women in the future will have to find ways to get their feeling of self-worth, other than through holding a job. Community service, hobbies, sports, life-long learning and family time should be able to fill the gap. It is rumored that engineers for Ford and Volkswagen are in panic mode, while those at Tesla, Google and Apple are enjoying the ride.

Our great grandkids will likely never own a car and never get a driver’s license.

Oh, yes….one other thing. Self-driving cars will save a million lives a year.  We now have one accident every 60,000 miles.  Autonomous driving will cut that to one accident in six million miles.  I’m ready to give up the steering wheel.

This article first appeared in the July 5, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Auther Bob Hanson can be emailed at doctorindoors@comcast. net.

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