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The night before my talk for the Texas Transportation forum in Austin, Texas, my wife and I were involved in a car accident. Since Uber and Lyft no longer operate in Austin, we were riding in the back of a Ride Austin vehicle.

With an oncoming car that erroneously turned in front of us at an intersection, and a few panic-filled seconds of stomping on brakes and bracing for impact, we ended up in a relatively low-impact head-on collision where no one was seriously injured.

It occurred to me later that a huge portion of today’s cars are designed around mitigating damage from accidents. Everything from seatbelts, to airbags, child car seats, headrests, bumpers, and headlights are all designed to improve safety and reduce the cost and liability of car accidents.

As a point of comparison, we don’t plan for accidents on elevators and escalators. There are no seat belts on elevators.

The logical next question is, how much of this goes away as we enter into the driverless car era?

Yes, it’ll be a messy transition period, and we will only see a relatively small amount of change while there are still human drivers on the roads. But once we develop fully automated transportation systems, will we still need all these safety features?

25 Shocking Predictions

Throughout this column I will be making a number of predictions about the coming driverless era, which will be followed by the age of fully autonomous vehicles.

Naturally this will require a level of trust in the technology that is still a ways off. However, the economic drivers behind rapid adoption are hard to ignore.

As with all predictions, there are a number of variables that could cause a far different outcome. For this reason, the true value of a prediction is in drawing your attention to the situation, and you reaching your own conclusions.

1.) Life expectancy of autonomous vehicles will be less than 1 year

I’ve been doing some math on driverless cars and came to the startling conclusion that autonomous cars will wear out in as little as 9-10 months.

Yes, car speeds will be slower in the beginning, but within ten years as speeds increase and cars begin to average 60-70 mph on open freeways, a single car could easily average 1,000 miles a day.

Over a 10-month period, a single car could travel as much as 300,000 miles.

Cars today are only in use 4% of the day, less than an hour a day. An electric autonomous vehicle could be operating as much as 20 hours a day or 21 times as much as the average car today.

For an electric autonomous vehicle operating 24/7, that still leaves plenty of time for recharging, cleaning, and maintenance.

It’s too early to know what the actual life expectancy of these vehicles will be, but it’s a pretty safe assumption that it will be far less than the 11.5 years cars are averaging today.

Electric vehicles will cause noise levels in cities will be cut in half

2.) One Autonomous Car will Replace 30 Traditional Cars

2028-2030 will be the years of peak messiness for the driverless car revolution. The number of autonomous vehicles will grow quickly but they will be intermingled with traditional driver-cars.

Drivers bring with them a hard-to-quantify human variable, and that’s what makes driving today such problem-riddled experience.

There are roughly 258 million registered cars in the U.S. and replacing them will be a long drawn out process. But here’s what most people don’t understand. One autonomous vehicle that we can be summoned from a local fleet will replace 30 traditional cars.

For a city of 2 million people, a fleet of 30,000 autonomous vehicles will displace 50% of peak commuter traffic.**

During off-peak times, 30,000 autonomous vehicles will handle virtually all other transportation needs. Peak traffic times that will be the hardest to manage.

3.) Less than 4 million autonomous cars will replace 50% of all commuter traffic in the U.S.

With roughly 250 million people in the U.S. living in urban communities, 3.75 million autonomous vehicles will handle 50% of peak commuter traffic in the country.

That means 4 million autonomous vehicles will replace our need for half of all cars, or roughly 129 million vehicles.

With a projected sale of 17-18 million new vehicles annually in the U.S., a fleet of even 1 million autonomous vehicles will make a serious dent in traditional car sales.

4.) Fleet owners will become the primary influencers on the design of new cars

The thinking of large fleet owners will dominate the autonomous car market. Their focus will be on vehicle costs, repair records, maintenance, cleaning expenses, and operational efficiencies.

In a competitive consumer marketplace they will also have to pay close attention to comfort, convenience, and the overall user experience.

AI-driven fleet management systems will be tasked with ensuring cars are in the right place at the right time to meet user demand. This type of fleet management software will take years of operational know-how to make it work efficiently.

5.) Driverless cars will be electric vehicles

As battery life improves and recharging stations become more automated, the demand for electric vehicles will jump exponentially. However, large fleet owners will only choose electric cars if they are easier to maintain, more reliable, and cost efficient.

6.) Electric vehicle range will exceed 1,000 miles per charge by 2027

Battery range for electric vehicles is improving. Even though Elon Musk has predicted a 600-mile range for Tesla cars in 2017, their latest models only get about half of that.

So far the primary drivers for extending electric vehicle distance has been a form of “range anxiety” among individual consumers. Once autonomous vehicles come into play, the need for far greater distances will be driven by fleet owners who will view “range” as a primary purchase consideration.

For this reason, we will see electric vehicles routinely passing 1,000 miles on a single charge within ten years.

7.) Noise levels in cities will be cut in half

The shift to electric vehicles will dramatically change the sound of a city. This cannot be overstated. Rumbling engines, smelly exhaust clouds, and loud revving noises will all fade into distant memories.

8.) 80% of driverless cars will be one-passenger vehicles

Since 76% of cars on the road only have one person in them, and since one-person vehicles will be cheaper, over 80% of autonomous fleets will be designed around single passenger occupancy.

9.) 40% of sales tax will disappear

Roughly 40% of state and local sales tax comes from auto sales. With the current rules all cars in a fleet will be exempt from sales tax. Very likely new taxes will be created to replace these lost revenues.

10.) Over 10% of retail businesses will disappear

Over 10% of today’s retail businesses are connected with cars. As personal ownership of cars begins to shrink, we will see a rapid decline in gas stations, car washes, oil change businesses, detail shops, tire shops, brake shops, emissions testing, alignment shops, auto repair, body shops, tow trucks, glass repair, transmission repair, auto part stores, rental car agencies, and auto insurance offices. Dealerships themselves will also disappear.

11.) Police departments will shrink by 80%

In most U.S. cities, 80% of police departments are dedicated to traffic control. Without DUI fines, speeding tickets, and parking fees, most police departments will be trimmed to a bare minimum.

12.) U.S. will lose over $35 billion/year from gas taxes

In 2014, federal fuel taxes amounted to $35.2 billion. This number will undoubtedly increase over the coming years until we reach a point of peak gas usage somewhere in the mid-late 2020s.

13.) New York City will lose over $2 billion per year in traffic fines

The big apple collected a whopping $1.9 billion from traffic violations in 2015, and this number has been steadily increasing over time.

14.) 41% of airport revenues will disappear

According to the Airports Council International-North America, 41% of airport revenue in the U.S. comes from parking and ground transportation services. Virtually all of this will disappear over the coming years.

15.) Cities will lose over 50% of their revenue

When we combine the loss of sales tax, retail stores, income from traffic violations, gas tax, vehicle licensing, parking meters, and parking garages, the total loss of revenue to a city becomes a very large number.

Keep in mind, what I’m referring to is their current revenue streams. They will undoubtedly develop new ones but that will require considerable foresight and planning.

Autonomous vehicles will instantly know their surrounding situation

16.) Healthcare industry will lose over $500 billion per year

The National Safety Council estimates 38,300 people were killed and 4.4 million injured on U.S. roads in 2015.

Driverless cars have the potential to push those numbers nearly to zero. If we consider how low the accident/injury rate is for the airline industry, that’s roughly what we should expect for autonomous vehicles.

If we multiply the average cost of repairing a person after a traffic injury, say $10,000, times the number of injuries, 4.4 million, we end up with a potential drop of $440 billion in payments to hospitals and the healthcare industry.

For 2015, the CDC estimates that 38,300 people killed resulted in $62 billion in medical and work loss costs in addition to the immeasurable burden on the victims’ families and friends.

That’s over half a trillion dollars, in the U.S. alone, that simply goes away.

17.) There will be 700,000 fewer stolen vehicles per year

In 2015, 707,758 motor vehicles were reported stolen. Of that total, 24% were stolen in California, and over 14% were Hondas.

Autonomous cars will not be “stealable.”

18.) Auto insurance industry will lose over $150 billion a year

Total personal automobile insurance premiums in the U.S. stood at about $186 billion in 2014.

According to KPMG, accidents will decline 80% by 2040 due to safer cars and autonomous transportation. But if driverless adoption happens sooner, the 80% decline will come into play much earlier.

While the cost per accident may rise substantially because new cars and their parts are more expensive, once driverless tech hits it’s stride, the decline will be dramatic and result in sizable reductions in loss and premiums. More than 90% of accidents each year are caused by driver error.

19.) Location no longer matters

In the past, being in business was all about “location, location, location.” However, as the driverless world evolves, passengers will become much more involved in working, watching movies, and playing games throughout the commute.

As a driver, we become very invested in the landmarks along the way, and understanding the context of our location. But once drivers transition to passengers, they will be paying far less attention to local landmarks. As a result, it will be far easier to just ask your car to take you to whatever store or business you want to go to, regardless of proximity to your current location.

Perhaps a better way of thinking about this is that location will still matter, but it will matter differently.

20.) Remodeling garages in people’s homes will soon become a thriving industry

As car ownership declines, garages will no longer be needed as a place to park your car.

A nicely remodeled garage, set up as a separate living unit, could add as much as $1,500-$2,000 a month in rent payments, as an AirBNB rental, to the average homeowner’s income.

21.) Over 5 million acres of parking lots will suddenly come available for redevelopment

14% of Los Angeles is currently used for parking.

We have an amazing amount of land dedicated to parking – over 5 million acres to be precise. Demand for parking will begin to dwindle over the coming decades and this property will be sold as prime real estate for redevelopment.

22.) Overall transportation costs will shrink by 50%

According to AAA 2015 study, the average person spends $8,698 a year on their car that averages 15,000 miles per year. That works out to $725 a month. For autonomous vehicles, projected annual spending on transportation will be far less – $4,200 (.28/mile * 15,000 miles) or $350/month.

Over time, the 28 cents per mile we used in our calculation will drop as fleet owners develop more efficient systems.

23.) Car ownership will soon become a very expensive hobby

Autonomous vehicles will cause car ownership to evolve from a necessity to a luxury.

As dealerships and gas stations begin to dwindle, the overall cost of owning and maintaining a car will begin to ratchet upwards. Once autonomous vehicles reach 50% of commuter traffic, the cost of traditional car ownership will skyrocket.

24.) Overcrowding will officially come to an end

One thing that symbolizes overcrowding more than anything else is traffic. Once traffic flows smoothly, people will begin to regain control of their lives and our sense of feeling overcrowded will begin to disappear.

25.) Driverless technologies will cause 1 in 4 jobs to disappear

Over the next 2-3 decades, driverless technologies will be either directly or indirectly responsible for the loss of 25% of all of today’s jobs.

But that’s only part of the story.

Virtually every aspect of society, in every country around the world, will be touched by driverless technologies, and the vast majority of it is destined to improve our global standard of living.

Job losses will be offset by job creation. Businesses that disappear will be replaced by innovative new businesses built around the ingenious new capabilities autonomous vehicles provide.

The driverless revolution is coming, there’s no turning back

Final Thoughts

In the future, our cars will know far more about us than we know about them. Each new vehicle will instantly know how to adjust the seats, what music we like, our favorite TV shows and where we left off in the latest series. It will also understand where we’re going, letting those we’re meeting with know when we will arrive.

As transportation becomes faster, cheaper, and easier, we will simply do more of it. We’re moving towards a very fluid society, and all this movement will seem natural and effortless.

It’s important to understand that driverless technology will not only be applied to cars, but also tractors, trucks, ships, lawnmowers, forklifts, water taxis, snowplows, submarines, drones, trains, and even airplanes. It will soon touch the lives of every person on planet earth.

Still, this is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Just as wealthy people today enjoy the status of driving a more expensive car, not all driverless vehicles will serve the same utilitarian function. Richer people will pay to “arrive in style,” and will expect to have premier access to buildings. In much the same way hotels often greet their elite guests with teams of people waiting on their arrival, retail stores will find unusual ways to greet their most prominent customers and make them feel welcome.

If technology progresses the way I’ve predicted, we are on the verge of an explosive transformation.

As always, please take a few moments to consider the implications of these changes and let me know your thoughts.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

Author of “Epiphany Z – 8 Radical Visions for Transforming Your Future

  • ** – 2 million population X 45% who commute to work = 900,000 total X 9.1% during peak times = 81,900 commuters between peak time of 7:30-7:59 am
  • ** – 81,900 commuters X 76% who travel alone = 62,244 vehicles
  • ** – 81,900 commuters X 24% who carpool = 19,656/2 = 9,828 carpoolers
  • ** – 62,244 + 9,828 = 72,072 commuting vehicles
  • ** – 72,072 commuting vehicles X 84% (average commute 25.4 minutes or 84% of the 30 minute timespan) = 60,540 cars on the road during peak commute

46 Responses to “25 Shocking Predictions about the Coming Driverless Car Era in the U.S.”

Comments List

  1. Paul Ortais

    May I suggest you to read the below link where the step after autonomous cars is depicted, a step that we could reach directly for the better. Most of your points keep valid:
    1) 50 years lifetime
    2) 3) agrees with you on the ratio
    4) maybe – but not important
    5) needless to say
    6) nope: unlimited
    7) nope: zeroed
    8) much more than one
    9) probably more
    10) yes and not only. Street building and signs..
    11) agree
    12) note that it will be a desert so, not important
    13) agree and way more
    14) agree
    15) disagree – short sighted view of a city
    16) agree but this is goood news
    17) way less in fact
    18) ok should they die
    19) still does as physics exists
    20) 21) agree
    22) much more
    23) 24) 25) agree
    The whole difference is we can cut congestion and pollution now, the autonomous car can’t. And doesn’t allow the sustainable city we dearly need before decades, just keep the old detrimental automotive-based model.
    Regards,

    Reply
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your analysis. Some very good points. The way I think about it, as autonomous vehicles improve flow, and this will take time, the average commuter will spend less time on their daily commute. When travel becomes easier and cheaper, we will do more of it.

      If we think of a city as an organic system, the nature of a city will change on some very profound levels. Each level of change in transportation will cause a number of responses that are still hard for us to imagine. As transportation changes, so will building designs, traffic patterns, daily schedules, plant and animal life, the very nature of work, and so much more.

      Futurist Thomas Frey

      Reply
    • Betty

      Given man’s love the machine i do not agree with any of these predication. people will buy their own driver less cars. old people who cant drive will buy their own ( some may call on others) but the idea that these people will in effect use a driver less taxi service is incorrect. they want autonomy. there iwll be more cars on the road not less. Most people dontt want to share ; they want their own

      Reply
      • Gav

        Agree 100%. People want thier own stuff – they always have and always will. I can’t see car ownership declining because of the autonomy that’s coming, just the opposite.

        I like driving cars, but would add an autonomous vehicle to my garage for the work commute.

        Reply
        • Gale Teschendorf

          Car ownership and the percentage of people with driver’s licenses are already dropping. People my age see the car as a freedom. Younger people is cars as an expense.

          Reply
    • MG

      On your #7 rebuttal, remember that vehicular noise is only in small part a component of the engine. The majority of the noise from traffic is from the tires on the pavement. There have been many advances in tire technology and pavement design but as long as transportation rides on tires there will be a noise problem. The main reason the noise will be reduced is the reduction in the numbers of vehicles on the roadway.

      Reply
      • FuturistSpeaker

        Yes MG, there will be noise from tires, but with less braking and less reasons to stop, even that will start to decline.

        Futurist Thomas Frey

        Reply
        • Gale Teschendorf

          And driverless cars will drive slower than the average driver. How much reduction from driving 5 mph slower on the interstate or even city roads like Lakeshore Drive in Chicago?

          Reply
          • FuturistSpeaker

            Hi Gale,

            Yes, initially the driverless cars will go slower, but after we develop a strong level of trust in the technology, they will go much faster than human drivers.

            Futurist Thomas Frey

      • Gale Teschendorf

        Most of the noise is from taxis honking because they forget that the break pedal is not on the steering wheel.

        Reply
    • Niston Cloud

      So called “Futurists” of the 70s promised us colonies on the moon… Where are those now? I remain sceptical about this sort of crystal-balling.

      Reply
  2. Timothy E Dolan

    You appear to have missed the supply of transplant organs drying up as vehicular death victims are a primary source of organs.

    Reply
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Hi Timothy, good point. But any business model that counts on tragedy to survive is destined to be disrupted sooner or later. Also, keep in mind that it will take several years for this to unfold, even decades, and this should give us time to perfect other ways of developing 3D printed organs, artificial organs, and other approaches to dealing with this shortfall.

      Futurist Thomas Frey

      Reply
  3. Bern Grush

    Here is my calculation for 2030 for 27% of PKT (from assumptions made by Roland Berger 2016) for urban robo taxi from upcoming article in Thinking Highways (“Public fleets of automated vehicles and how to manage them”):
    1. Target a region with a population of five million — 27 percent is 1.35 million users.
    2. Each person in the population averages 15,000 km — 20.25 billion km per annum.
    3. Let fleet vehicles carry two, four, six and 12 passengers; have these comprise 50, 25, 20 and five percent of the fleet, respectively.
    4. Assume vehicles are 50 percent occupied on average, including deadheading. This provides a highly achievable 1.9 weighted-average fleet occupancy rate.
    5. Assume vehicles have an average daily duty cycle of 16 hours runtime (excludes charging, parking when not in use, but includes deadheading and waiting for riders).
    6. Assume vehicles average 24 kph (top vehicle speed is the posted speed, but most actual travel is in-city, stops, pickups, waiting, heavy traffic, lights, etc); this means daily distance (if trip assignment is optimized) is 16 x 24 = 384 km/day (140,000 km annually; NYC taxi averages 112,000 km). This implies we need 144,500 vehicles.
    7. Assume we require a 20% buffer due to imperfect ride matching and machine downtime. This increases the vehicle requirement to 173,400.
    8. In the event 20% (of the 27%) of the population is on the road at peak hour (non-uniform demand), the fleet would need to serve 5.4% of the population concurrently. This requires 142,000 vehicles, hence 173,400 is sufficient.
    9. Assume fleet operations (management, payment systems, security, police and emergency, maintenance (repairs and cleaning), oversight, stewards on the minibuses, map maintenance, roadway watchdogs) requires 1 FTE per 5 vehicles.
    10. Average staff salary and overhead per FTE is $80,000 per annum, or $16,000 staff expense per vehicle (34,700 jobs).
    11. Assume Capex and Opex (exclusive of staff costs) for a vehicle is $100,000 per annum. That means total cost per vehicle is $116,000 per annum or a total annual fleet cost of $16.5 billion or $0.81 per service km.

    Reply
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Hi Bern, thanks for your comments. I’ve heard rumors of several startups working on autonomous business models where passengers ride for free. While that may only represent a small percentage of ridership, since many will opt for a slightly more expensive model than the low end free one, it does bring into question your estimates higher for ride sharing. If the cost is low enough, the only ride sharing will happen with families and friends.

      While it’s not possible at this stage to understand all of the costs for this type of service, I’ve seen some pretty detailed calculations that put the number at 28 cents per mile, a number that still allows 30% profit for the fleet owner.

      Futurist Thomas Frey

      Reply
  4. Simon J. Anderson

    Another possibility to consider: each self-driving “taxi” is its own fully autonomous corporation. A city or other entity determines that it needs better transportation options. It purchases and registers x number of autonomous vehicles as separate corporations. Each corp is connected to a platform (like an Uber just for autonomous corporation owned vehicles) and uses its fares to repay the initial loan. It drives itself to charging and cleaning stations, and knows when it needs maintanance and repairs. It would also have its own insurance should a malfunction cause an accident or injury. At the end of its useful life it salvages itself to pay off its remaining loan balance. With lots of data, fares could be set (and adjusted in almost real time) so that the salvage value is exactly equal to its remaining loan balance. With no employee costs or need for profit, and with the “fuel” and repair cost savings inherent to electric vehicles, fares could be extremely low relative to other transportation options. Blockchain technology could be applied to further lower costs with smart contracts and low transaction fee payments.

    Reply
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Hi Simon, this is a fascinating idea but I’m not sure you’ve crafted a compelling case for it yet. I understand how it would function, but why would that be a better business model than fleet ownership? Risks should go down with self-driving cars, and risks are the reasons corporations were invented in the first place.

      However, if it were set up so people owned one or more of these corporations, they could earn an income from each one they owned.

      Futurist Thomas Frey

      Reply
      • Simon J. Anderson

        Thomas, I appreciate your reply. The benefit would be that the “profit” would be distributed among its riders in the form of lower fares since there would be no person or entity that needs to make any money off of the vehicle. It also allows a community or city to increase transportation options without huge capital expenditures and maybe even some additional tax revenue to offset some of the many losses you outline in your excellent article. These autonomous corporation vehicles could even be charged a higher tax rate and still offer relatively low fares since there is no need to make a profit for an owner or shareholder. You make a great point about fleets, though. There really isn’t a reason that each car needs to be its own corporation. In fact, there could be a large autonomous corporation with hundreds or thousands of cars that could slightly raise the fares until it had enough to purchase its own vehicles without initial capital or loan fees and interest, ultimately driving per miles charges even lower. In my view, the largest barrier to this happening is not technology, but the reaction of competing for-profit services.

        Reply
        • FuturistSpeaker

          Hi Simon,

          Keep in mind, the operational costs of these vehicles will be significant – cleaning, maintenance, washing windows, power, taxes, etc – and some corporation or entity needs to cover those costs. Taxes will already be significant because they’ll need to maintain and improve roads, and pay for all the changes a driverless system will require.

          Everything I’m talking about is just a best guess on my part.

          There are any number of other variables that may come into play as well. Group rides may become our new social outlets. Coworking may morph into co-riding and co-living. Since 2-person vehicles can accommodate luggage and baggage easier maybe the smallest cars will get is 2-person cars.

          Or the majority of people may just opt to pay a few more cents per mile because they like larger cars.

          Someone may invent speed dating for driverless cars so you drive around with a random person for 5 minutes before you both exit.

          Very likely the fleet owners will mount cameras, sensors, and antennae to their cars to make additional money from capturing data. As people find out about this there may be giant backlash against driverless cars and people stop using them.

          It’s still too early to know for sure, but it’ll be fascinating to watch the industry unfold.

          Futurist Thomas Frey

          Reply
  5. Richard Bradshaw

    Tom

    A thought provoking post.

    The new businesses and business model that will emerge to care for the autonomous vehicle (and a fleet of vehicles) fascinates me. I can see a new industry emerging to advertise services (e.g. cleaning, charging), settle transactions the car requested, etc.

    Living in London, I can see the roadside car charging points popping up becoming as redundant as the iconic red telephone boxes in a very short time frame. A point any infrastructure providers should be considering before they deploy new tech based on old models.

    Richard

    Reply
  6. Mike

    Thanks for the thought provoking article. I’m just hoping to be able to play with my phone while my car drives; I didn’t realize the huge benefits available. Hopefully excessive regulation won’t ruin this industry.

    Reply
  7. Kevin Cooke

    To Thomas Frey and community: Thank you for insightful ideas. My old GM 2054 idea – a Global Marble service platform rewarding travel with destination deals. 2. How about exercise options during my travel time to assist the grid (peddle or prone to avoid sitting). 3. Comfy connections to new mall overnight stays linked to event listings. I may travel 100 miles in a 1 seater to meet up with 7 others in a larger camper for a 3 day weekend.

    Reply
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Thanks Kevin,

      You bring up some great points.

      Yes, there will be tons of brilliant and not-so-brilliant business models that come out of driverless cars, and exercise will be a hot one. Maybe mystery travel where you know very little when get in, and end up 10-12 hours later at some mysterious place hanging out with like-minded people.

      I also like the speed dating idea for driverless cars, where you drive around with a random person for 5 minutes before you both exit. (I have no idea what a nookie car would look like. 🙂

      Futurist Thomas Frey

      Reply
  8. Bayleyuf

    I don’t see anything about car manufacturers. Why would one car manufacturer be preferred over the other? They can’t differentiate based on safety, performance, or luxury. I can’t see a reason why someone would care that their autonomous ride would be made by GM or Ford or BMW.

    Reply
  9. Christian E

    What about security aspects? No computer today is safe from being hacked and taken control over. Why would anybody assume that the self driving cars, trucks, ships, planes of the future would be? What about the aspect of an entity knowing eveything about everybody using these autonomous vehicles? Locations, spending habits, social aspects … yes, we have cell phones today, but you can turn them off… use cash instead of credit cards etc. Also, how about availability and cost of operation in middle of nowhere regions where there is no demand for 1,000 miles a day or more?

    Reply
  10. David

    There is one perspective you don’t mention: the motorcyclist – maybe they are not as common in the USA as they are here in Australia.
    Anyway, I predict that driverless cars will be a huge boon for motorcycling and motorcyclists, at least in the medium term, for two reasons:
    First will be the increased safety, as the cars will see motorcyclists far more reliably that car drivers currently do. I can speak from personal experience that the most frequent excuse from the car driver is ‘I didn’t see you’. A corollary is that some motorcyclists will learn that they can ‘bluff’ a driverless car and force right-of-way in a situation where it is not legally theirs, simply because the driverless car will have to avoid the collision at all costs. A reversal of the current situation where the car or truck will take advantage of their size to assert priority.
    Second: motorcycling will be seen as a way to enjoy/keep alive the lost skills of controlling a motor vehicle, and enjoy the feeling of freedom and the responsiveness that comes from a fast machine that can change direction almost as easily as thinking about it. This will be less a scenario for the cities but more for the backroads and country lanes, sort of akin to riding a horse through the woods but at a higher velocity. Motorcycles will thus be seen as ‘escape machines’ for those with the means, and the time, to enjoy them (and they are cheaper to maintain than a horse).

    Reply
    • Eclipse Now

      Hi David,
      consider this: Telstra’s chief technology adviser has insisted that *human* driving per se should be banned by 2030. That’s only 13 years away, and not limited to cars! You’ll probably be able to drive out on a farm paddock or club, but just as it is not legal to ride a horse down a highway, it will soon be *illegal* for human driving on most public roads.

      Reply
      • John McBain

        Its also possible your bike riding experience will be available thru another rapidly developing field of VR. VR could in fact eliminate lots of things such as inter-continental travel, going to a sports game or a restaurant and going to school or uni or work.
        Maybe not so relevant to bike riding is the tech development of robots. Maybe robots will end up doing all work and we will laze around in a VR world doing whatever we like whilst the robots get our very whim to us by 3D printer. You probably won’t even have to ask for a vegan burger – the robot will know telepathically what you want. Be careful what you wish for!

        Reply
      • Peter

        Eclipse, No western government would get this legislation through. Far greater chance of US citizens relinquishing their right to bear arms!

        Reply
  11. John McBain

    There is also the rapid advances in technology that are occurring in other fields that will come into play at the same time.
    This makes the overall context which driver-less cars will happen challenging to foresee.
    Maybe cars and larger vehicles will replace offices, business locations, schools, prisons, bars,restaurants, etc etc.
    Larger vehicles may even start replacing houses.
    Combined with one of the next stages of driverless vehicles (the driverless ‘flying’ vehicle : moving from the Flintstones to the Jetsons), societal land use is going to be radically reshaped over time.
    Initially this could involve new uses for existing roads, freeways and car parking (public and private).
    I often look at the highway I presently live on :
    Being black bitumen, it could function with minor changes as a heat collector supplying hot water to houses and businesses (we don’t get snow, yet!)
    Being a sealed base, cambered and drained – perfect for use in agriculture for growing food : vastly reduced food miles.
    They could also be collectors of rain water (to underground storage) as there would be far less pollution on them without fossil fuel powered machines requiring oil to make the moving parts work.
    Being gov’t owned (we don’t have many toll roads here, yet!) they could become a form of ‘common property’ subject to land uses decided by surrounding residents – may involve remodelling existing games and activities to suit different size and surface of ‘pitch’.
    Perhaps we will move to a new corporate era where rather than being established to cater for risk, they cater for sustainability and fun.
    This could lead to reduced wars and conflicts meaning allocation of wealth expenditure would go to real things rather than those who profit from war.
    As governments look at measures to reduce the cash economy, maybe we can get rid of electronic money as well to reduce or eliminate the impact of profit seekers in our lives.
    We could transition to a big brother society where big brother is benevolent and not authoritarian.
    Of course, we can also use all of the technological progress to allow a greedy, manipulative big brother.
    The basis of Indigenous cultures around the world was you only took what you needed, there was no ‘cost’ and you shared.
    Imagine, as John Lennon said, if human ingenuity and technology combined with those (idealistic?) Indigenous values created a world where love ruled.

    Reply
  12. Darren Koch

    Dear futurist,

    I wonder if the advent of driverless cars will also lead to somewhere between doubling and a tripling of road traffic.

    For every trip currently undertaken in a self drive car, there would be a trip as the driverless car goes from the depot to pick up its passenger, the trip required by the passenger and then another trip as the driverless car returns to the depot again.

    This explosion of traffic will lead to enormous pressure on our already overstretched road system.

    Is my reasoning flawed in some way. I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts.

    Reply
    • John McBain

      Depends how the system(s) are designed.
      If they had a depot each car returns to after trip completion you would be correct.
      You also assume there is not sufficient demand that they would finish 1 trip and then do another.
      However, I imagine (love that word) the system would have auto design features such as minimising the mileage covered, so if there was not a trip to do at completion of one, the car would park itself and wait.

      Reply
    • the_future_me

      The driverless car wouldn’t necessarily go back to the depot. It would pickup it’s next passenger closest to that destination. It would likely only return to the depot when it needs a recharge, or some other maintenance. It might be on the road for 8 or 12, or 24 hours.

      The system would be vastly more planned and efficient than the taxis of today, especially if they know everything about their clientele!

      So I would imagine a lot less traffic.

      Reply
    • Gale Teschendorf

      Lanes could be narrowed. 2 lanes could turn into 3 lanes. Because the price of a ride would decrease, you are right, more traffic probably will occur.

      Reply
      • FuturistSpeaker

        Hi Gale,

        Yes, we can probably turn a 2-lane road into 3 lanes, but if traffic is flowing smoothly, our existing highway systems will be able to accommodate far more vehicles, perhaps even 10 times as much traffic they handle today.

        Futurist Thomas Frey

        Reply
  13. Darren Koch

    Oops… grammar mistake. That should read…. “For every trip currently undertaken, in a self drive car there would be…” [then the list of three trips.]

    Sorry about that.

    Reply
  14. Margaret Hurle

    What, no more bumper stickers? A car has become much more than transport; it’s an expression of who you are and how you want to be seen. Hence the multitude of models. It will be interesting to see what replaces them in our psyche.
    Mine also carries a collection of handy things that I don’t want to carry on my person; band aids, tissues, sunglasses, spare jacket…. Am I going to need a backpack?

    Reply
  15. Wil Mette

    1) Electric motors last longer than mechanical engines or so I am told. Semi engines last 700K to 1M miles, not 300,000. Most are rebuilt at least once. Fleet owners will insist on replaceable motors. The vast majority of vehicles will be idle most of the time from midnight to 6am due to lack of passengers unless they can switch to package delivery.

    Reply
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Good point Wil, and I thought about that, but with people constantly getting in and out of the vehicles and constant cleaning of the vehicles, the interiors will tend to wear out.

      There may indeed be workarounds, and fleet owners would love to have the low costs associated with a 1M mile vehicle, but at least initially, I see the need for rapid design changes being an overarching consideration. Also, even a 1M mile car will wear out in 3-4 years 🙂

      Futurist Thomas Frey

      Reply
  16. Mal Kelly

    Very good article and inspires thought and of course, creates discussion!
    Most of the points are well made and the only key variable will be “when”.
    However, point 17 about “fewer stolen cars” needs to be viewed differently. Cars will be defined by the shape, mechanics AND software.
    Continuing the point made by Christian E above, THE biggest threat to adoption to autonomous ANYTHING (cars, planes, drones ..) is software that can be broken. There is no such thing as safe software today and likely to remain so in the future. “Stealing” a car will be defined as “re-purposing” the software – even changing some fundamental identities.
    For all the very clever programmers and system designers (human and/or robotic) out there who will define, create and build, there are 100’s time more working on finding vulnerabilities and exploiting them. They have the most important weapon – time.
    So, then, all of the 25 points perhaps need to be seen in this light as well.

    Reply
  17. MBHardwick

    Unfortunately, more people on organ transplant waiting lists will die as the supply of organs predominantly comes from vehicle accidents.

    The question will be where will the new organs come from?

    Reply
    • FuturistSpeaker

      To MBHardwick,

      I find it ironic that so many people think we’d be better off with more people dying in car accidents so we could harvest their organs.

      My assumption is that car accidents today, and all the internal injuries they cause, are one of the leading reasons why we need so many organ transplants.

      Without car accidents, we have far fewer injured people and far less demand for organs.

      I may be wrong, and both cloned and 3D printed organs may not be ready for prime time, but we will figure it out.

      Futurist Thomas Frey

      Reply
  18. Michael D. Setty

    As someone who has worked in transportation for nearly 40 years, I can say with almost complete assurance that almost every one of your predictions is dead wrong.
    For a real analysis of the flaws in the idea of autonomous cars, see http://www.calrailnews.net/self-driving-cars-not-worth-the-trouble-wont-replace-transit/ and for good measure, two take-downs of HypedLoop: http://www.calrailnews.net/hyperloop-may-work-but-not-as-hyped/ and https://pedestrianobservations.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/loopy-ideas-are-fine-if-youre-an-entrepreneur/

    Reply
  19. John Murphy

    This is an awesome article.

    One other big point – not only do we need fewer cops, we need fewer Lawyers, Judges, and related court employees – a lot of high paying jobs just going poof. That’s the biggest disruption here – a lot of high paying jobs of privilege that thought they were immune to automation suddenly under a wave of attack. What’s a Conservative Judge to do when he’s laid off and needs food stamps?

    One industry I expect to thrive is bicycling. The biggest barrier to cycling is fear of getting hit by a car. Remove that, and you can have a boon in cycling. And if you consider that people won’t own their own vehicles and each trip is properly priced, the bike’s inherent attractiveness becomes more apparent.

    Reply

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