Elon Musk said that by 2019, we’ll be able to fall asleep while our cars drive us around. And although others say we’ll have to wait a few more years, one thing is for sure. Autonomous cars are coming. And here’s how they will change the world.
1) Fewer Road Accidents
Each year, 1.3 million people die from road accidents worldwide, with over 20 million left injured or disabled. And most of these accidents happen due to human error such as speeding, drink-driving and not paying attention. As driverless cars don’t make human errors, they could prevent 90% of all road accidents, making them as effective as vaccines at saving lives.
2) Time and Money
Autonomous cars could give commuters 50 minutes more free time per day. Rather than spending time driving, they could relax, work or use entertainment. Globally, they could save 1 billion hours per day. And this has great financial benefits. If commuters would spend their time working, productivity would soar. Combined with savings from fuel efficiency and fewer accidents, Morgan Stanley estimated financial savings of $5.6 trillion worldwide.
Drivers are the obvious losers here. From taxi drivers to pizza delivery people to lorry drivers, these jobs will likely disappear, leaving many unemployed. To get some perspective, this puts the US’s 4.4 million drivers at risk. Despite this though, there will be more jobs available in other fields, in hi-tech mechanics and software development for example. But these jobs may not make up for losses.
4) Less Car Ownership
Car sharing and e-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft have been growing rapidly. And they’re making huge investments into driverless cars. Uber for example is already testing out self-driving Volvos. And with your cost per mile in an autonomous car estimated to be 80% cheaper than driving your own vehicle, it’s no wonder that car ownership should decline by 43% when self-driving cars are adopted.
5) No More Parking and More Living Space
Self-driving cars will mean that you’ll never have to spend time finding a parking space again. You’ll simply be dropped off and either the car will go for another job or park itself.
And this should have a big impact on cities. Parking spaces currently accounts for around 31% of urban land. And so, as fewer people own cars and the need for parking spaces declines, land now used for car parks could be converted to living spaces. And this is great news given that urban populations are expected to increase by 66%, or by 2.5 billion people by 2050.