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As more self-driving cars are being built and tested, and more manufacturers are getting into the race, it is interesting to consider a future with self-driving cars.
I’m not talking a futuristic look like a Jetson’s cartoon or a sci-fi movie where the cars are not only automated but also flying. No, I’m talking about a near future kind of future and the real-life implications this change may bring.
Robots may be taking over
When people thought of a future of robots replacing people in jobs, the robotic life form was always very humanistic in nature. I don’t know that anyone ever predicted that among the people jobs to be replaced, cars would top the list. Think I’m wrong? Think of all the jobs that are considered part of the transportation industry. From cabs to couriers, delivery vehicles to long-haul drivers, there are people who rely on their ability to drive to provide income.
Trying to break down statistics on how many people could potentially lose their jobs gets confusing because truck drivers get broken down into classes of trucks and then cabs include those working for companies and those operating Ubers, and then you get into professional delivery people and others who may work more part-time for food service or other similar industries and then… Well, you get the point. There are a lot of people who drive something or another for a living and a lot of people potentially impacted by self-driving vehicles.
Infrastructure over people
From a city, state and federal spending perspective, in order to be functional, self-driving vehicles are going to need a whole lot of infrastructure to support their sensors and computer-related functions. Where is the money going to come from? In northern states burdened every year by snow removal and road repair budgets, or in areas regularly impacted by natural disasters such as severe storms or flooding, where does the extra money come from, how is it prioritized if things break down or if massive repairs are needed?
If a disaster were to hit now, in theory, the people get first financial support, the first focus when it comes to aid. When cities rely on self-driving vehicles to deliver that aid, to address emergency situations, to get things rebuilt, who then gets the priority? The people or the infrastructure needs?
Of course, self-driving cars won’t be all bad. Properly established, self-driving cars should be safer because, in theory, they won’t make the same mistakes that humans make and that can cause accidents. They may of course, still break down occasionally though so my friends who provide towing services at Iron Towing should be ok. Of course, the mechanics they might tow to now will need a whole new training program to be able to deal with the computer automated technology, but that’s back to the bad again so we won’t linger here.
Yes, fewer accidents should mean fewer driving-related injuries and fatalities so there should be cost benefits on the insurance side and in terms of healthcare costs. Of course, self-driving vehicles will likely be more expensive to fix if something does go wrong, and more costly to buy, so what little insurance savings there are may simply be reallocated there, but again, that’s more on the negative side, isn’t it?
There is the talk of other theoretical advantages as well including suggestions about the time that is freed up when we release control of the driving function. Instead of my 30-minute commute focused on the road, I’m supposed to be able to use that 30 minutes of leisurely reading I suppose or browsing the web on my phone. Maybe.
There is talk about the efficiency of the cars freeing up land space because the vehicles will be able to drop you at your destination and then go park themselves somewhere in a much more compact space, in part because the passengers will already have disembarked so door opening space won’t be required, and in part because they will park more efficiently and reduce the instances we see now of one vehicle blocking more than one space because of the way it is parked.
Will it or won’t it
With mainstream self-driving cars still at least a bit away, all of this is theoretical of course. But it should give you something to discuss with co-workers and friends the next time there is a lull in the conversation, or the next time you come across some fancy truck parked across two parking spots, or the next time someone cuts you off in traffic. You, know (insert driver mistake) won’t happen once self-driving cars take over the world…”. Will it or won’t it? I guess only time will tell.