Self-drive vehicles are a popular topic of discussion at the moment with many items posted on the internet. Self-Drive is likely to be another major technological change with significant social and economic impacts. This change isn’t solely about vehicle manufacturers but impacts many sectors. Illustrated below is a brief summary of the world of change that self-drive vehicles bring.
This article summarises the various aspects being discussed about self-drive vehicles and how different our lives could be.
Our lives (People):
First and foremost we have a strong our relationship with cars. It may seem to some unlikely that our love of driving will disappear (but love of driving is different from a desire of being mobile and to go places we want when we want). Vehicles themselves may still remain a key status symbol, providing great enjoyment and the ability to go do things.
We seem willing to adopt new technology at increasingly faster rates and surveys have shown a strong public interest in self-drive (or driver-less) cars.
Fears over safety, and the control, independence and freedom that people fear they are giving up with self-driving cars will be major challenges for adoption. But even now cars are assisting us more with features like self-parking, collision avoidance, lane and blind spot alerts etc. Driver Assistance and semi- autonomous vehicles will appear first. These driving assistance features grow, we will become more reliant on/accepting of these systems potentially losing some of the driving skills that older drivers have. With self-drive cars we would lose the skills to drive altogether. It leads to a world where there is no need to take a driving test, we are a passenger, and it is the self-drive system that needs to be qualified.
For a lot of us we spend a significant amount of time on the commute. In self-drive vehicles we no longer need to keep our eyes on the road and attention to driving (subject to legal challenges). Driverless vehicles would allow us to use our travel time more productively.
Individuals will increasingly use multiple modes of transportation to complete their journey; goods and services are delivered to, rather than fetched by consumers. In the future, people will want the flexibility to choose the best solution for a specific purpose, on demand and via their smartphones.
Self-drive vehicles can offer greater mobility for young, disabled and old. They would remove barriers the young have faced with high insurance premiums being a major issue for many new drivers. It also presents new challenges of supervision, would you allow a car to take your child to school by itself? Or can a child instruct a car to go to any destination, perhaps there needs to be some parental control over where young children can go or use such vehicles?
Legal & law:
Self-drive vehicles bring many challenges for the legal profession and ethical issues. This offers new challengers for the law and for car manufacturers. Currently many driving systems and manufacturers still make the driver responsible and thus avoiding liability. But while driving systems require driver attention we will not reap the time benefits that such vehicles could offer.
While safety statistics may be better for self-drive it does face ethical issues for unavoidable collision decisions.
There would be no need for driving licences, and a decline in driving instructors and driving test centres for the public sector. It could eventually become unlawful to drive manually.
Safety standards organisations will need to adapt to cover the new technology of self-drive cars and testing vehicle’s responses to driving scenarios.
Policing is impacted. Taking driving out of people’s hands is likely to result in less speed and other traffic violations, and drink driving issues, police manpower can be redirected to other crimes. But security remains a concern, those that illegally hack or modify self-drive systems, or use unregistered vehicles will be the focus for policing.
Fire and Ambulance services will change, emergency vehicles could be self-drive.
Jobs & industry:
Any driving related career is at risk, jobs such as Taxi, Bus or HGV driver is not a career with a long term future.
Whereas Taxi companies (and vehicle lease hire companies) could see large fleets of self-drive vehicles as ownership of a vehicle may decline and people chose to order car journeys or rental of self-drive cars from a fleet.
One of the early adopters for self-drive vehicles is likely to be buses and goods transportation vehicles. These will have known and regular routes/obstacles that will be easier to manage. Other industries impacted include:
- Farming – tractors auto operate in fields for harvesting, ploughing, spraying etc.
- Housing – real estate is expensive and we dedicate a percentage of our housing costs for storing vehicles, with transportation on demand approach, the future housing design will not require space for garages.
- Media & Advertising – With the increasing introduction of other media and internet access in vehicles, we can watch TV, read articles, write reports, hold conferences etc. Our eyes and attention is not on the roads means that roadside billboard advertising is likely to be less effective. Currently a large number of road users listen to radio while driving. Audience numbers for this media may decline but we also rely on radio for traffic incident reporting. Cars may send and receive traffic updates themselves as a service and automatically reroute.
- Motor sports – Rally, stock cars, formula, touring cars etc… Watching driver-less cars race may seem no fun, but we may still marvel at the skills of a human driver? If car manufacturers are chasing a new market for self-driving vehicles, will they still be interested in using motor racing to promote their products? The manufacturers backing/sponsorship of championships or race teams could be threatened. http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2015/05/03/will-driverless-cars-make-motor-racing-irrelevant/
- Mobile/Software providers – there is already a demand for greater connectivity for vehicles and even connectivity between vehicles to consider. There will be downloads of vehicle software upgrades and we could see more digital products aimed at car owners/passengers with the ability to customise your vehicle interface etc.
All businesses would have to consider the impact on working lives revising the policy on parking arrangements and working within your vehicle which could be classed as working hours requiring less time spent in the office.
Other industries impacted include Car washes, Garages, Recovery and breakdown services. What other new jobs and opportunities will appear?
Finance & Insurance:
Insurance will need to change, with the insurance based on the car’s systems not on the driver and as risks fall, the premiums will drop significantly. Good news for youngsters who currently struggle to afford the high rates of insurance for young drivers.
New business models for mobility solutions will also impact the finance sector rather than purchasing or leasing vehicles in the way we do now, there will be new funding schemes and different ways of financing a mobility package. Such as an investment model where you purchase a vehicle and allow its use by others when not in use, that can bring in extra income. Or perhaps like mobile phone we will have pay as you go or monthly mobility contracts that allow you to choose a vehicle category (or specific model) you want with a mileage allowance package and the supplier manages all the vehicles running costs such as maintenance, storage, Tax/licence, and charging costs for you.
Car manufacturers are already considering the change to this new world, the challenges will be the speed of change and who gets it right. Manufacturers will be challenged by the change in a business model from selling cars for purchase to becoming on-demand mobility solution provider to meet the new needs of consumers. Manufacturers have announced future dates for self-drive vehicles or semi-autonomous vehicles. Design of the cars will change, particularly the interior that has been driven by the needs of the driver and visibility needs.
The Motor cycle industry is less likely to see self-drive motor bikes soon but road safety will be improved for all cyclists.
Infrastructure & Cities:
Automobiles have significantly shaped our society, the way cities and towns are structured are influenced by vehicles, the car has been king for a long time.
Around 15% percent of city land is given to parking, Office parking will be replaced by offsite/underground parking, where a car can be sent away and called back. Large Parking structures become hubs with Garages, car wash, charging points positioned at hubs.
Currently there has been a separation of pedestrians and vehicles, the future city scape will dedicate more pedestrian zones and with increase safety of self-drive vehicles less separation.
Road and Traffic control systems: The road side clutter of signs and traffics signals can be removed, more fluid vehicle lanes adapting to demands etc.
Most vehicles in the future will be electric as well as driver-less. There will be a decline in the need for oil (a falling oil price crisis) and petrol stations replaced by charging stations. Utility companies will see an increase and different power demand profile due to vehicle re-charging.
Solar power may also play a part in the future; advances may allow solar energy to recharge batteries and could lead to minimal demand from electricity networks for vehicles.
The points given in this article have already been written about or considered (I’ve only referred to a few links on various subjects, also find more at http://www.driverless-future.com/). While such claims mentioned in this paper may seem almost a Utopian vision of the future, Self-Drive is a major technological that will change society, but society’s acceptance will also shape the technological change. There will many challenges in the transition when both manual and self-drive coexist and different rates of change. Self-drive brings a change challenge for every organisation in some way. How will your organisation be impacted and what’s your plan to deal with the changes?