When looking at the future of driverless cars, we need to take into account the different economic changes that will occur with this shift in technology. What job industries will suffer and will new ones arise? Will the actual price of the vehicle be affordable for the average family? Do the benefits outweigh the negatives? These are all important questions that should be addressed before autonomous vehicles are mass produced to make the transition easier.
Currently, vehicles form a big part of the economy whether you’re thinking of manufacturers, insurers, mechanics, dealers or even taxi drivers. For those businesses that don’t adjust in time, it is possible that they could lose “hundreds of billions of dollars” (Dallegro, 2014) and some would likely bankrupt. However at this point in time, many car manufacturers are wary of investing in autonomous vehicles because “anything that reduces the number of vehicles on the road, or reduces the overall cost of these vehicles, without providing a new revenue stream to compensate” (Stayton, 2015) is risky for companies and until the change becomes imminent, most manufacturers will stick to the status quo.
Even the government would lose revenue with a flip to autonomous cars since there would be no need for licensing fees and, since these vehicles follow the road rules at all time, there would no longer be fines for illegal driving habits like speeding and drinking under the influence. This all doesn’t cast the friendliest light for a shift towards driverless technology for companies who rely on the industry, but with the possibilities of safer roads and lower carbon emissions, autonomous vehicles are the way of the future. One industry that will certainly boom in the wake of driverless cars will be software development since the programs controlling the vehicles will have to be constantly updated to ensure safety in all situations and to stay on top of newly built roads. Although there may be some initial losses for the big boys, the future for the little people seems far brighter.
Anyone who has owned a car would be well aware of the ongoing cost to upkeep the vehicle. There’s ever-changing fuel prices, insurance, servicing, mechanics and that’s not even counting the initial purchase of the car which is a lot of money to drop whether it’s brand new or second hand. With self-driving cars, it would be possible to “rent them by the hour” (Ozimek, 2014) – a much cheaper system compared to a taxi. So for those who didn’t require a car on a daily basis or only for a short commute, rather than paying for insurance and other fees, they could rent cars based on their needs. This could help save the average family thousands of dollars a year which would make it much easier to save money in general whether that’s for a house deposit, a holiday or a little treat for yourself.
Robin Chase (2014), CEO of Buzzcar (a peer-to-peer car sharing service), provides a few statistics to help explain the benefits of self-driving cars for the average consumer. He mentions that 80% of people drive alone in their car and can spend roughly $9000 of their income every year for an asset that is used only 5% of the time. Although an important asset in this day and age, and quite a time saving one at that, autonomous vehicles would take a step further and increase the potential for car pooling (think of a company car that picks you up every morning and takes you home), save even more of your time by allowing you to work on tasks on-the-go and help you save some cash along the way. Also, for people who owned these self-driving cars, it could be an extra form of income. Rather than having our modern day taxi services, one person would be able to manage their own fleet of cars and simply work from home.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2015), Australia has 764 motor vehicles per 1000 people which places it in the top 10 list of countries by vehicles per capita. Google is aiming to increase car utilization from between 5-10% to 75% through sharing (Dallegro, 2014). So if Australia were to move towards self-driving cars, a decrease in the number of cars on the road would be likely to occur. However, this brings in the question of affordability. Right now, the autonomous technology that needs to be added to a base model can add several thousand dollars to the price tag; the systems needed for a driverless Infiniti Q50 “costs an additional $6600 above the base sticker price” (Tannert, 2014). If the prices remain high, it will be difficult to convince the consumers to invest in the technology. The costs will definitely decrease with enough demand, however there needs to be a market from the everyday person in the first place rather than having sparse celebrities buying the product.
With technology improving at a rapid rate and a constant emphasis on keeping roads safe, it’s a no-brainer to move towards autonomous technology. Even with the initial shock to the car industry, it is very possible that new jobs will arise from the very creation of this technology and with enough adjustment, the transition will easily fit in to our culture. On an individual scale, the benefits seem almost magical and will be a relief to commuters everywhere although it may be a bit more difficult to get those rev-heads to stop grinding those gears.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (2015), Motor Vehicle Census. Accessed at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/9309.0
- Dallegro, J. A. (2014), How Google’s Self-Driving Car Will Change Everything, Investopedia. Accessed at: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/052014/how-googles-selfdriving-car-will-change-everything.asp
- Ozimek, A. (2014), The Massive Economic Benefits of Self Driving Cars, Forbes. Accessed at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/modeledbehavior/2014/11/08/the-massive-economic-benefits-of-self-driving-cars/#3b8dbd5a68d9
- Stayton, E. (2015), Driverless Dreams: technological Narratives and the Shape of the Automated Car, Program in Comparative Media Studies/Writing. Accessed at: http://www.estayton.com/Stayton_DriverlessDreams_May5_2015.pdf
- Tannert, C. (2014), Will You Ever Be Able To Afford A Self-Driving Car?, Fast Company. Accessed at: http://www.fastcompany.com/3025722/will-you-ever-be-able-to-afford-a-self-driving-car