One can only imagine what the local farrier thought when the first motor cars chugged their way through town. I’m sure there were many in the horse industry who maintained, some of them to the bitter end, that cars would never completely replace horses. They were wrong and, not only that, but the transition took place in less than a generation. Cars were simply better than horses and the change was, in many ways, inevitable.
Computers revolutionized the office and the internet revolutionized computers. Cellular technology has gone from virtually nonexistent in my lifetime to a ubiquitous service that has all but replaced wired telephones. I had people tell me in 2004 that digital imaging would not replace film in our lifetimes, yet today, barely a decade later, digital dominates both filmmaking and still photography. Technology marches on and trying to hold on to the past is like trying to stop the tide.
One of those technologies that auto industry execs expect to see fully implemented in the next 15 years will be self-driving cars. Sure, there are technical challenges remaining; driverless cars perform poorly in the rain and there are still situations that confuse them. Yet the last mile in technical hurdles are relatively paltry in comparison to the technical challenges that have already been overcome. Before you decide that you’ll never let go of the steering wheel consider these four reasons that self-driving cars are the future.
Autonomous Cars Are Safer
My nephew is working to become an airline pilot and today pilots have become, in many ways, babysitters for the technology. Avionics have an excellent safety record on the flight deck of airliners and that’s because human error accounts for so many accidents. Computers don’t get tired, don’t get confused, don’t get in a hurry, don’t drink and aren’t trying to text and drive at the same time. Making driverless cars perfect will indeed be difficult. Getting self-driving cars to the point they’re better than human drivers is already at hand. Self-driving technology will get so good in just the next few years that people insisting on steering their own cars will be a hazard on the roads.
We Will Save Billions In Infrastructure Costs
Next time you drive somewhere in town, look around at how many cars are sitting idle at stoplights. Multiply that small amount of gas by hundreds of thousands of cars all across the country. Driverless cars don’t need traffic lights, they don’t need signs, stripes, reflectors or any of the billions in infrastructure that we spend to accommodate human drivers. When self-driving cars can talk to one another they can adjust their speed to avoid collisions at intersections without lights or lane markers.
They Will Radically Transform Transportation
Driverless cars will transform the notion that everyone needs a car. Services like Uber and Lyft are already challenging the idea that you need your own car. Many young people in big cities aren’t even bothering with a drivers license anymore. When the day dawns you can summon a driverless car with a swipe of your smartphone that will be the day millions start asking why they need their own car. Imagine being able to all but do away with parking lots. Driverless cars won’t need to sit and wait near your office; they can roll off and give someone else a ride. They don’t have to park down the street, they could just as easily navigate themselves to one big parking lot outside town and then zip back in town to pick you up. Driverless technology will turn everything we know about transportation, from cabs and buses to trains and subways upside down.
Self-Driving Cars Will Make You More Productive
Just as an exercise, keep track of how much time you spend walking back and forth to your car on an average day and then add that on top of your actual drive times. You’ll be amazed at how much of your life you spend just sitting and staring straight ahead. It’s so monotonous that many young people think they can text and drive at the same time. There has been a huge spike in full-speed rear end collisions when the driver doesn’t even slow down because they’re not looking. With driverless cars that potential hazard becomes time you can work, make phone calls and answer texts without becoming a danger to other drivers. When cars can do the driving, you’ll reclaim a huge chunk of productive time. If you don’t think so, ask yourself why so many wealthy people have a chauffeur.
It’s inevitable that the switch to driverless cars will be rocky and not without controversy. Yet the transition brings with it huge savings in cost and generational improvements in convenience. In the age old tug of war between convenience and nostalgia, always bet on convenience.