by Judith Curry
How driverless cars will change our lives.
Rutt Bridges has written a new book “Driverless Car Revolution,” an e-book available for $2.99 on Amazon. Rutt has written an op-ed for the Denver Post (originally published June 6), that I have his permission to reproduce in full here.
How driverless cars will change out lives
Some people say they would never trust their safety to a computer-controlled car just as some people said they would never ride in a horseless carriage. Yet we routinely ride in airplanes and “normal” cars that can’t function without computers.
“Self-driving” cars that require a driver to seize control in any emergency are already being tested on America’s highways. Only Google, however, seems to be focused on the direct path to truly driverless cars. After seven years and 1,800,000 miles of testing they have had 12 fender-benders, but no injuries. According to Google project manager Chris Urmson, “Not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.”
Google expects to have a finished product by 2020, though widespread adoption may take a decade or more. But driverless cars are coming, and they will change our lives.
Most people won’t choose to own these vehicles. A few button clicks on a smartphone will bring a driverless car to your door in minutes, a car with shared real-time traffic data to quickly get you where you’re going – all for less than 40 cents a mile.
If you are willing to share a ride you’ll pay half as much. The mobility service dispatch software will arrange everything. You can even request a rideshare with someone of the same gender or age group. Plus, your fellow traveller will be well known to and pre-screened by your mobility service.
Ridesharing also means you’ll have access to HOV lanes. Denver’s average of 1.07 commuters per vehicle will jump, and congestion will plummet. Why? Because ridesharing is hassle-free and half the cost. Ten miles for two bucks – just kick back and enjoy door-to-door service with no parking hassles.
By buying miles instead of metal you’ll save thousands of dollars a year – no insurance or car payments, no pumping gas, no parking tickets, none of the many hassles of owning a car. Instead of fighting rush-hour traffic, you’ll be able to read, watch the news, or catch up on emails. Just like a chauffeur-driven service, but for less than bus fare. Marketing wizards call that “a compelling value proposition.”
Here is a glimpse of what life in that driverless car future will look like:
Driverless cars will be far safer than any vehicle currently on the road. Unlike human drivers, they are immune to the distraction, fatigue, road rage, impatience, intoxication, and the mistakes that cause 93 percent of all accidents. In the U.S. alone most of the 250,000 injuries and 30,000 lives now lost every year in car crashes will be avoided.
Remember lining up at the DMV to get your license when you turned 16? According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, only half of today’s teenagers aged 16 to 19 have even bothered to get a drivers’ license. Many care more about having the latest smartphone than owning a car. Mobility services will drive them to school, sports and social activities, from dates to evenings out with groups of friends.
Parents will save thousands compared to buying and maintaining a car, a lesson not lost on their kids. Have you priced insurance for a 16-year-old lately? Over-scheduled carpooling parents will get their lives back. Politicians will be forced to stop talking about “soccer moms.”
Texting while driving will disappear as the leading cause of death for teenagers. Arrests – or worse – for drinking while driving will plummet. Families won’t be destroyed by a midnight phone call.
Passengers will safely use phones, laptops, or tablets. Some will shop online, socialize, or Facebook with friends. Without the distraction of driving, some humans may actually talk to each other.
People can use their commute to wrap up a report that’s due instead of working late at the office. No one will ever have to worry about parking, and then having to walk in sleet, snow, or rain. They will arrive at work and home free of the stress of rush-hour driving.
When seniors decide to give up their keys, they will not only keep their independence but save money as well. Instead of depending on their kids, they will have more freedom than ever to control their own lives. A lift to the grocery store, the golf course, or their grandkids’ soccer game will be a few button clicks away. And that means many more years of living independently in the home they love.
Disabled customers will enjoy on-call, door-to-door service in specialized vehicles. The working poor will at last have cheap, reliable transportation, making it possible to hold higher-paying jobs. Working single mothers will spend more time with their kids and less time waiting for bus transfers and getting to and from their first and last bus stops.
Driverless cars will provide far better transit service than local buses, and for less money. And by integrating driverless cars with light rail, we can eliminate mass transit’s “first mile/last mile” problem and drive ridership to far higher levels.
Those who drink alcohol will at least travel safely, without fear of the crushing financial and social damage of a DUI and without risking death or serious injuries to themselves or their innocent victims. Judges will be more likely to revoke the licenses of drunk drivers, knowing they aren’t imposing terrible economic hardships on their families.
Unless gasoline drops well below a dollar a gallon, for economic reasons these cars will mostly be electric. Burning less oil and using more electricity from renewables and from the new lower-emission natural gas generators will have a positive impact on Colorado’s air quality.
In his comprehensive analysis of the automotive industry, “The Great Race: The Global Quest for the Car of the Future,” Levi Tillemann observed, “The transition to electric and driverless cars will usher forth a step-change in both quality of life and economic productivity, and potentially be the most transformational social development since the World Wide Web. It will change the way we live and many of the fundamentals of the global economy.”
If you truly love cars, mobility services are definitely not for you. For many people, their car is an important expression of who they are. But if you just want inexpensive transportation to safely take you from here to there in the least time and with the least hassle, driverless car mobility services will be a godsend.
There is, however, a darker side to this disruptive technology. Since each shared mobility vehicle can replace at least five personal vehicles, there will be far fewer cars sold and maintained. While families will save thousands of dollars a year, the auto industry will see a major drop in sales. An oversupply of used cars will cause prices to fall as more people make the switch. The oil industry will be hard-hit, as will insurers, personal injury attorneys, and a few other employers.
But for most of us, driverless cars will mean lower stress, more disposable income, and a major improvement in our quality of life.
Rutt kindly sent me a copy of the book, which I very much enjoyed reading. The book has 12 reviews on amazon, all of them 5 stars. Some excerpts from the reviews:
“The Driverless Car Revolution: Buy Mobility, Not Metal consists of three basic parts. First, the book delves into the tech and economic drivers that make the shift to driverless “mobility services” seem almost inevitable. Second, a series of vignettes show how these changes will benefit seniors, teenagers, commuters, and pretty much everyone. (Besides automakers and a few others–those folks could be in serious trouble if they underestimate this trend.) And finally, the book provides detailed and extensive appendices with the data to back up every claim from the first two parts.
Throughout, The Driverless Car Revolution manages to convey the enormity of this “revolution” with humor and ease. The revolution is not only inevitable, but downright appealing. As is this book.”
“This book takes an extremely deep look into the impending and immensely disruptive technology of the driverless car. It sounds intimidating, however, the book remains very accessible to a layman such as myself. In fact, the majority of it is a very easy read. The book is thought provoking and I find that I am still thinking (and talking) about the upcoming Driverless Car Revolution.”
“Mr. Bridges provides a clear and concise overview of the impacts that technology will have in our lives. I particularly liked that he addresses both the challenges and benefits of driverless cars. He intersperses humor on what could easily be an arid subject, making the book enjoyable to read while educating me about how driverless cars will change mobility and our world.”
Rutt Bridges has previous contributed two posts to Climate Etc.
Also, I just spotted this news article: Two rival self-driving cars have close call in California.