Driverless vehicles will be the most disruptive technology in all history. There may be more disruptive technologies on the horizon, but it is hard to imagine anything that will add more changes to our daily lives faster than this one.

It will even be more disruptive than past innovations like the wheel, fire, electricity, filtered water, and sanitation systems because it will happen to more people in a shorter period of time.

As I step you through some of the following scenarios, you’ll begin to get a sense as to how massive this disruption will truly be.

If you’re still on the fence about unmanned vehicles, still love your car, and think driverless cars are doomed to failure, please read on.

The economics of driverless cars are so compelling; they create their own force of nature, pushing society for greater adoption every step of the way.

This is particularly true for cities. Most cities are destined to lose over 50% of their current revenue streams.

Over the next 2-3 decades, cities will have to deal with a number of looming crises that are currently not on their radar.

Driverless vehicles will be the catalyst that changes nearly every line item in a city’s budget. This means virtually every revenue stream; expense, long-term obligation, and planning process will be altered in some way.

City employment in most areas will plummet. The way we think about property values, land use, zoning, transportation, taxes, and public safety will begin to morph and shift in ways we never imagined.

With so many moving parts it will be impossible to determine the “new normal” for cities, counties, and states anytime soon.

Watching the Transition Unfold

As driverless technologies progress, there will be less and less need for human oversight. Eventually we will achieve fully autonomous cars where we can summon a car whenever we need it and car ownership becomes a thing of the past.

First generation vehicles will come with a variety of regulator issues and technical problems few can anticipate. But as with all early stage technologies, each of these problems will be dealt with as they arise.

Realistically though, in 2015 there were 257.9 million registered vehicles in the U.S. at an average age of 11.4 years. So how long will it take to replace this many cars and what happens to all the old cars?

In 2015, automakers sold 17.5 million new cars and light trucks. With estimates that one driverless car will likely replace 15-20 traditional cars, then 1 million driverless cars could offset the sale of 17.5 million other vehicles.

Since traditional cars are only used 4% of every day, driverless cars will transition us from a just-in-case mindset where we have a car in our garage just-in-case we need to go somewhere, to a just-in-time mindset where we can summon a vehicle any time we need one.

Every problem creates an opportunity and we will find thousands of new opportunities as we step into this brave new driverless world.

Large Fleet Ownership

The first big change will involve large fleet ownership of driverless vehicles, perhaps as large as 5-10 million vehicles with 20,000 in one city and 50,000 in the next.

Fleets may be owned by large companies like Hertz or Avis, General Motors or Ford, or Uber or Lyft. Along with fleet ownership will come the responsibility of cleaning, upkeep, and repair, but these companies will also wield a huge amount of clout when it comes to car design and efficiency.

The Shift to Electric Vehicles

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

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.

One-Passenger Vehicles

Over time, driverless cars will queue up for people coming and going from a building. Since most trips will involve only one passenger, the majority of driverless cars will be one-passenger vehicles.

These mono-vehicles will come equipped with all the tools necessary to be productive – Wi-Fi, computer table, window-dimmers – as well as features to make it a fun and relaxing space – video games, movies, music, and VR.

Larger vehicles can be summoned for families, couples, and groups. Some will request upscale vehicles to match their need for status and luxury.

This means that rental cars will eventually disappear. So will the taxis, limos, shuttles, valet services, and parking lots.

Entertaining passengers will become a whole new industry
Entertaining passengers will soon become a whole new industry

Eight Examples of Disruption

As we enter the driverless car era, and quickly transition into an autonomous vehicle era, all other forms of transportation will begin to fade into the background.

Consider the following examples developed with my “situational futuring” technique.

1.) Retail Sales Tax Loss

Roughly 40% of State and local sales tax comes from auto sales.

In addition, over 10% of today’s retail businesses are car-related. As ownership goes away, people will be less invested in their car’s maintenance and efficiency. This means 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.

The declining sales tax revenues from all these businesses should not be underestimated.

No need for traffic tickets in a driverless world
No need for traffic tickets in a driverless world

2.) Traffic Courts

A significant number of cities in the U.S. rely heavily on traffic tickets, court fines and fees for balancing the local budget, often accounting for as high as 30% of their total revenue. In many cases, the courts only keep between 5-10% of the fees they collect.

In 2015, New York City collected a record $1.9 billion in fees and fines for motor vehicle violations.

As we make this transition to driverless cars, there will be no more speeding tickets, failure to stop at stoplights, DUIs, and road rage. Courtrooms, judges, lawyers, DAs, driver’s education, sobriety checkpoints, and anger management schools all fade away. This will translate into dwindling revenues and far fewer staff positions in these areas.

3.) Airports

In 2013, 41% of airport revenue came from parking and ground transportation, according to Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA).

It’s amazing how sophisticated airports have become. Since I’m personally in and out of airports several dozen times a year, this is a topic I’ve become very attuned to.

Airports have evolved into a massive intersection of people-in-transition. The number of vehicles being staged at most large airports has grown from hundreds, to thousands, to tens of thousands.

Rental cars, buses, taxis, shuttles, Ubers, limos, vans, trucks, scooters, and trains all play a role in the continuous waves of people going to and from an airport. All that is about to disappear.

In addition to airports, parking lots throughout cities begin to lose revenue and staff. Meter maids, parking meters, parking tickets, valet services, and handicap parking all go away.

4.) Queuing Stations and the Great Retail Store Rework

The success of virtually all retail businesses has long centered around three words – location, location, location – and that location was often defined by the relationship between parking and store access. As our need for parking declines, a new usability metric to watch will stem from the design and construction of queuing stations in front of stores, offices, and businesses.

Planning entrances where driverless cars can quickly pull up, allow passengers to exit, and move on, will soon go through far deeper scrutiny over less understood features like the “arrival experience” and the “frictionless entry.”

Queuing stations will be complex additions to most buildings. Over time the notion of a simple drive through lane for people to enter and exit vehicles will be replaced with multiple lanes, including handicap lanes, and specialty lanes for various classes of vehicles.

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.

Having enclosed porticos around entrances for climate-controlled ingress and egress is only part of the equation. Since driverless cars won’t allow you to store a trunk full of shopping from one store to the next, having storage lockers near every entrance will be common.

Because group shopping is never equally rewarding for all members, having waiting areas that serve coffee, tea, and other refreshments near the entrance will also be part and parcel to the arrival-departure experience.

Driverless vehicles will be far safer than cars today
Driverless vehicles will be far safer than cars today

5.) Hospitals

The National Safety Council estimates 38,300 people were killed and 4.4 million injured on U.S. roads in 2015, which saw the largest one-year percentage increase in half a century.

Driverless cars have the potential to drive those numbers to zero.

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 cost to society, in the U.S. alone, that simply goes away.

6.) Gas Taxes, Car Licensing, and Registration

In researching this topic, I wasn’t able to find the amount of money car owners pay today for gas taxes, car licensing and registration, but rest assured, it amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars every year.

States may still require that all driverless vehicles be registered, but for large fleet owners, car licensing and registration will be handled in a much more automated fashion requiring far fewer employees.

With alternative forms of power generation, and the wholesale shift towards electric vehicles, and large-scale mass energy storage networks that will likely involve these vehicles, our overall dependence upon petroleum products will plummet.

7.) The Coming Municipal Bond Crisis

Most municipal bonds are issued with a long-term repayment plan, often extended over a 30-year period, issued with the assumption that the flow of money will stay relatively consistent during that period of time.

As an example, cities that issue bonds to add toll lanes for high occupancy vehicles and those willing to pay the toll, will soon discover that driverless cars can travel just as fast without using the toll lanes, and anticipated revenues will plummet.

For another example, a city that builds a large parking structure with bonds that are to be repaid with parking fees will soon be left with an empty parking structure and no revenue. Most of these giant parking structures will eventually be torn down, but the debt will still remain.

When it comes to building power plants, which often come with a $4-$8 billion price tag, many are structuring their repayment plans around the additional revenue collected from peak demand pricing. However, once most homeowners have battery packs installed in their basements, the demand for “peak power” will crater, undermining the whole repayment plan.

With declining revenues, virtually every debt taken on by cities, counties, and states will receive extensive scrutiny to make sure there is a viable plan for repayment.

8.) City Pension Crisis

Numerous cities have made overly generous long-term commitments to fund staff pensions, a commitment that will be especially hard to manage when revenues begin to drop. With increased longevity, most pension funds were never adequately funded in the first place.

This is particularly true for the California Public Employees Retirement System, CalPERS, which presently only has 65 cents for every dollar that it needs to provide pension benefits for its two million members.

Many in California are just now coming to grips with the insane amounts of money needed to fund these pensions in the future. Los Angeles already spends 20% of its general fund on retirement costs.

CalPERS pension debt is now roughly $164 billion, a debt that will continue to grow over the coming years. In a radical move to help correct the situation, CalPERS has announced they are cutting pension benefits across the board, by as much as 60% for many recipients.

With driverless technologies zapping many of our city’s existing revenue streams, the challenges we’re facing today will transition into a full-blown, rioting-in-the-streets pension crisis in the future. There will be no easy solutions for bailing out these super expensive pension plans.

Tomorrow’s opportunities will only be limited by our own imagination
Tomorrow’s opportunities will only be limited by our own imagination

Final Thoughts

Even though I’m sure there are thousands of details that I’ve over looked, and few things ever turn out 100% the way we predict, the level of disruption coming with driverless technologies is staggering.

They will not only change the way we get from point A to point B, but also how we think about shopping, entertainment, dining out, as well as the design of our buildings, houses, hospitals, churches, and shopping centers.

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, and the overall size of government will begin to shrink.

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

At the same time, the path to progress is strewn with countless road mines and pitfalls. Many things will go wrong and the journey is never smooth.

As you read through this, I encourage you to mention the thoughts going through your head. What have I missed, overlooked, or simply gotten wrong?

Many of my friends already know that for me, my dream car is no car at all. Personally I can’t wait until I can, once again, look forward to my daily commute. It simply doesn’t need to be this painful.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

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

53 Responses to “Driverless Tech – 8 scenarios that show it to be the most disruptive technology in all history”

Comments List

    • FuturistSpeaker

      AJ, this is a great question, one that I had not considered until now. But very likely people won't be paying as much attention to roadside signs as before. At the same time, driverless vehicles will open the doors for a wide variety of other commuter vehicles that haven't been viable with traditional cars. Things like electric bikes and trikes, Segways and Segway knock-offs, turbo skateboards, hoverboards, etc. These vehicles will put people more in tune with their surroundings,so maybe it will balance out. Thomas Frey
  1. <a href='' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Frederick Scanlin</a>

    Unless the following few of many 'problems', in their many direct, indirect and 'ripple-down' forms and guises, are properly/successfully addressed soon, the idyllic type 'driverless' society that you predict for the future of mankind will never become reality, but will instead evolve into a 'mad max' type of society that most people wouldn't really like to live in: 1)the evil scourge of the power of national/global 'politics' must be 'neutralized'. 2)the basic premise/reasoning for the necessity of implementing the vast majority of the laws,rules,regulations that govern virtually everything that we are allowed to do, must be based on 'PROVEN' facts, figures and other relevant data, AS OPPOSED TOO facts/figures/data that are simply made up 'out of thin air' by one or both sides of any given subject to add credence to their side of the argument!! 3)the actual 'wording' of the vast majority of the laws,rules,regulations that govern virtually everything that we are allowed to do must no longer be 'sublet'/'farmed-out' to 'unelected'/unqualified bureaucrats!!! 4)the absolutely awesome things that could benefit all sectors of society from the maximum utilization of the wisdom/talent/intellect that exists in the hearts, minds and imaginations of multiplied millions of average,'everyday' people in not only this country but all around the world as well, must be 'unleashed' upon the world, and no longer be squandered as it has always been in the past and right up to the present time!!! 5)with virtually all new technology(including that which is at the heart of the 'driverless' society)being based on the basic premise of that which powers all sectors of modern technology, some thought should be given to what(if any)precautions can be put in place in case of a massive solar flare of some kind or from the detonation of a 'high altitude' nuclear device above/over the middle part of our country, which could result in possibly setting back society a hundred years or more!!! 6)An end must come to the virtually unlimited amounts of time/effort/money that are being spent in the form of a frantic and madcap quest for technological advancement in certain areas of it, while many other much more important sectors of it--many upon which our country's/the world's very economic survival depends--are being neglected or completely ignored altogether, as they continue to deteriorate a little bit more with every passing year!!! 7)No nation/country can provide it's citizens with a perpetually safe, secure and bountiful existence unless it has a rock solid, SELF SUSTAINING economic 'foundation' upon which it can depend on in order to be able to both promise their citizen's a quality life, as well as to otherwise be able to function in a proper manner.
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Frederick, you're right. There are any number of ways these scenarios can go sideways. We're messing with a lot of protected turf, and those who are making money from it will not be happy. But we can only hold back progress for so long. As I said, it may be 2-3 decades for these changes to occur. Thomas Frey
  2. <a href='' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>David Brussat</a>

    I don't see that you have addressed the top issue of whether the computer software and hardware for driverless cars will be reliable enough for drivers to assume they don't need to pay attention to the road. If one driverless car malfunctions on a stretch of road with 100 other driverless cars, chaos could result, with possible injury. It seems to me that for a driverless car system to work, it needs to work almost perfectly, and almost at once. That is not going to happen. This article seems like the latest in a cascading series of articles on this subject that takes a more and more all-consuming look at the impact of driverless cars - without addressing that central question of computer reliability.
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Hi David, Keep in mind, this will unfold over the next 2-3 decades. There will most assuredly be things that go wrong. Many edge cases, and some fatal accidents. But collision avoidance systems are a big part of the package. Also, the cars will be designed to err on the side of caution so in most cases, if something goes wrong, cars will simply pull over, allowing time to reboot, or signal for repairs. Admittedly, getting to a six sigma level of reliability will take time. However, the upside for consumers will far outweigh the downside, so consumer demand will be a huge driving force. Thomas Frey
    • FuturistSpeaker

      David, yes things will go wrong. Most people never thought we'd get to phone service without switchboard operators. Or automated gas pumps without the need for attendants. Or ATM machines that would circumvent the need for people to drive to their bank. Driverless cars will continually evolve over the next 2-3 decades, with each of the changes happening just one baby step at a time. Thomas Frey
    • Marco Illuminati

      In my view this will become viable as soon as the reliability is well above that of a human driver. So it doesn't need to be 100% flawless. If accidents and fatality levels are reduced by let's say 50% compared to what it is now, this is still a major step forward. The question is if people will want to relinquish that control and trust to a computer. Today there is a huge number of accidentes attributable to human error, and people are still driving. But if a driverless vehicle runs over someone's dog, all hell will break loose to ban unsafe computers from the streets.
  3. Philip Rahrig

    With cars on demand for the homeowner, house design will no longer need the garage and garage door. Houses may either get smaller without really decreasing actual living space or the space dedicated to garages today will be used as additional living space. In any event, the millions of homes no longer needing the garage will cause a spike in demand for remodeling contractors and building materials, in particular insulation and flooring products.
  4. mark

    Dr. Tom - this the best insight i've seen on this topic, so thanks for articulating. I read it over quickly, but i believe it will also dramatically impact the auto insurance (fleets will need insurance, but i won't :), so insurance companies will be impacted; also, the reduction in the loss of life will affect live expectancies and actuarial metrics impacting life insurances.
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Auto insurance will begin to fade away. Driverless cars will still need insurance, but will come with far less risk. But insurance companies will thrive in the flying drone era where risks begin to skyrocket. Thomas Frey
  5. Jerry

    Tom: You have omitted a major change--at home. Families no longer need to allocate precious real estate *at home* to vehicle storage. That adds a lot of usable space to an existing house (easily 1-2 bedrooms). This would increase the value of the house--and the real estate taxes paid. Each house would still need a drop-off/pickup area for the autonomous vehicles that would come to that address, but that is far different than a 2-3 car garage or similar secure parking facility. Your analysis is similar to mine in most respects. I simply dropped ALL the costs of owning and operating additional vehicles after the first one (to go where there is no vehicle control--i.e. where autonomous vehicles can NOT go).
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Jerry, you're right. I failed to talk about the redesign of individual homes. No garage means a smaller footprint. Cost of housing will decline along with the cost of transportation. Thomas Frey
    • Bill

      The changes associated with 'financing' costs of car ownership may change banking profits and planning as well. I also appreciate the references to home batteries for overall cheaper energy.
  6. <a href='' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Jim Masters</a>

    What about the 1.7 million truck drivers earning an average of $42,500 a year? How will they make a living? What about the auto sales people, taxi drivers, insurance sales people, ambulance drivers, auto body repar people whose numbrs will be reduced. Do Uber and Google stockholders get all the profits? Are we ready for universal basic income?
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Keep in mind that 100 years ago we had an estimated 65,000 elevator operators. At the time, none of those elevator operators thought it would be possible to automate their jobs out of existence. Thomas Frey
  7. <a href='' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Allen Johnson</a>

    We live in a very rural, sparsely populated area. Some roads are gravel or dirt, one-lane, etc. And farmers often need to drive their trucks into their fields for chores. So my first question relates to rural living. Would driverless cars work? Second question. I like driving a motorcycle, as do many others. It would be difficult to imagine a driverless motorcycle. Would motorcycles mesh well with driverless cars? Or would they be banned, which would be a political battle? A third question involves trucking.
    • FuturistSpeaker

      In rural areas, many people will still own their own vehicles which can be driverless most of the time. We will still have a need for specialty vehicles. But we will see driverless motorcycles and driverless trucks. In fact, the driverless truck industry will catch on quicker than driverless cars. Trucking companies will save a boatload on driver wages, first with platooning schemes and later fully autonomous trucks. Thomas Frey
      • Paula

        As regards rural areas, automated machinery has existed for some years now... and I live in Argentina, a place where we usually get the tech once it has been tried over and over around the world. Harvesting trucks are GPS operated and the driver just sits there to accommodate the fears of the traditionally minded people that hire these services. So, rest assured, these driverless machines will be taking over really soon.
  8. Art Mander

    If the employers continue with the 8 to 5 workday, then all those employees still need to commute to/from work during the same rush-hour duration. So if there is only one person per vehicle (which is the vast majority today) then the total quantity of vehicles required will stay about the same. Yes, the self-drive vehicles will be safer, faster, more efficient, etc. but we’ll still have needless traffic jams. The solution is to use the AI computer resource to build up ride-sharing. We still need to pack 2, 3 or even more people into each AI vehicle in order to really reduce traffic congestion and optimize the “people flow”. So the AI needs to extend out to include neighborhood and adjacent work place carpooling. People may need to walk a block or two to meet their carpools, but so what – might be good to be outdoors and have a short walk!
    • FuturistSpeaker

      AI controlled vehicles will be far more efficient on many levels. Without traffic jams and without gaps between vehicles, our current highway system will be able to accommodate at least 10 time the traffic we have today, while still in individual vehicles. Since people will spend less time on the road there will be time for many other activities. Thomas Frey
  9. Paul

    Earlier this year Budweiser had a driverless tuck deliver product from Fort Collins, CO to Pueblo, CO. This required going through or around Denver. Driverless vehicles could have a dramatic affect on the trucking/delivery industry. That is a lot of jobs.
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Paul, keep in mind that it will require many levels of automation, and perhaps 2-3 decades of improvement before jobs are totally gone. At the same time there will be countless new jobs created in countless new industries. Thomas Frey
  10. Michael Cushman

    Great article! Psychologically there's a difference between ownership and a service. Cars today are psychological extensions of the owner, and there's an expectation of privacy. With Cars as a service, a person's whereabouts and travels are always knowable. It will be psychologically easier to dynamically tax vehicles based on road usage. (The fuel sales tax goes away). Taxes that pay for roads will vary based on peak/off peak loads, and what government or private entity owns the road. Along with shortest route or fastest route, total cost of a trip will be an option for riders. Driverless cars are great for the handicap, who no longer will depend on expensive services or public buses. Will there still be demand for public buses? Trains? In most cases, the costs and convenience of driverless cars will be more attractive than public transit, true?
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Thanks Michael, great comments. Undoubtedly, governments will find new ways to replace the taxes they lose. At the same time, the cost of government should drop significantly because it will require fewer people to manage a city. I like the idea of a variable tax based on peak and off-peak travel, but with significant road capacity improvements, we may eliminate peak traffic altogether. Handicap people, senior citizens, foreign residents, and those who are chronically poor drivers will find vast amounts of new freedom. My sense is that public transportation will go away. Or rather, it will be virtually all public transportation. There will still be a percentage who still want to own their own car, maybe status symbol, rural living, or for privacy, but that will be only a fraction of today's car owners. Thomas Frey
  11. Jake Kyser

    Great, thought provoking article. How do you see road design and construction changing with this scenario? Also, what are you thoughts on the impact to the airline industry? Especially short, commuter flights.
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Good questions Jake. My sense is that additional coating could be applied to roads on a daily basis by driverless repair vehicles, but that's only speculation at this point. If all traffic is driverless, we won't need road signs, guard rails, flashing warning lights, stoplights, and even stripes on the highway. This will eventually impact most of the short haul flights where drive times are less than 10-12 hours. Airlines will find themselves competing with a hassle-free, stretch-out-and-be-comfortable driverless industry that can offer trips 24/7 without waiting until the next scheduled flight. Airports will be hit hard with loss of parking and ancillary services in addition to loss of short haul traffic. Thomas Frey
  12. David Marberry

    Another potential change driverless transport will impact is senior citizen mobility. Perhaps kids will not have to face that sometimes difficult decision to take away the car keys! This new reality could potentially enhance the quality of senior life and generate new recreation and other business opportunity for services geared to this population.
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Hi David. The early adopters will be the senior citizens and baby boomers who don't want to lose their freedom, and the young people just turning driving age that don't want to be bothered with drivers licenses, car payments, and insurance hassles. This will definitely improve the quality of life for aging people everywhere. Thomas Frey
      • <a href='' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Greg</a>

        Will there be a minimum age limited for driverless cars? If you do not require a license to drive, how young could one be to call, use and pay for a driverless car?
  13. <a href='' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>John Moetteli</a>

    Hi Tom! Great article! I suspect that autonomous autos will be widely used for the handicapped, and maybe by certain well-known businesses like mobility, but not by Uber or the taxi biz. There's a real trust issue when you climb in a car and allow someone else to drive. It's one thing to trust a car with a human driver, who risks to lose his life if he makes a critical mistake on the road, and another to trust your own life to a machine that just pulls up and offers you a ride at a price, but has nothing itself to lose if the accelerator suddenly floors or the steering wheel swerves the car off the road and over a cliff. I suspect then that autonomous cars will continue to have override systems and that drivers will be required to not fall asleep at the wheel. We'll see! Personally, i do my best thinking when I'm in control of a car, driving down the road. I suspect it's the same for you! Best, John (Da Vinci), from Switzerland
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Hi John. I appreciate your comments and yes, trust is a significant issue to overcome. However, there was a similar issue with elevators less than a hundred years ago. Can we trust these elevators to stop at all the right places and not lose control. Many elevator operators never thought their jobs would go away. I think we'll get there but it'll take time to reach a six sigma level of confidence. Thomas Frey
  14. David Marberry

    Why does it follow that the shift to AI vehicles will result in the disappearance of individual ownership? I might own an AI vehicle for the same reasons I own an existing early 21st century technology vehicle. Another point; how will nearly 80,000 people leave a Broncos game in orderly fashion if 35,000 AI vehicles are summoned at nearly the same time? How will this massive order be fulfilled?
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Hi David, Great questions. There will still be individual ownership of driverless cars, but it will be far less than today. Perhaps less than 10% of people will own their own cars. Handling large crowds from football games, concerts, or other large gatherings will be challenging. That's one we'll have to invent solutions for. Thomas Frey
  15. Brian Abe

    Hi Thomas, I really enjoyed reading this article. The only place where I'd put money on a different outcome is on the direction of retail stores. With companies like Amazon establishing same day delivery in major cities, and Walmart taking online orders for customers to drive by and pick up, I expect that retail outlets will first morph into showrooms where customers can go to get hands-on experience with items. Many online shoppers already use retail outlets in this fashion. Instead of customers picking items up from a shelf and taking them to checkout, only one of every item that the store carries will be on display. Purchased items will be picked up from the warehouse in back, or delivered from a warehouse, same-day. Then, as augmented reality and virtual reality improves, the retail showrooms will begin to shrink and eventually disappear. What do you think?
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Hi Brian, Great comments. Yes, retail is going through a dramatic transition and the showrooming idea is a very likely path for many stores. What I didn't talk much about in the column is ground-based driverless delivery services which will carry the bulk of what's being shipped. If I can see something in a store and have it delivered in 1-2 hours, that's a vastly different experience than lugging bags to may car and from there into my house. Indeed, VR shopping may replace showrooms altogether, but people still need a reason to leave their homes. Perhaps we'll invent more reasons to leave the house, but replacing the shopping experience in its entirety will be hard to do. Thomas Frey
  16. <a href='' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Terry Gold</a>

    Hi Thomas, After reading Ephipany Z, and now this article, I am convinced you are right. This will be a massive disruption, with great opportunity and I'm afraid a lot of pain along the way for those that can't or won't adapt. I'm sure some of those elevator operators never worked again. But I'm optimistic still that the world will be a better place. And you have convinced me it is happening much faster than most people realize. I was thinking today about the follow-on opportunities and new businesses that will exist with driverless cars. Now that we don't need a driver, and don't need to pay attention to the road, what kinds of services and distractions might be offered during the ride? Maybe I can call a BarberCar and get a haircut on my way to work. It may be the end of drink driving as they call it here in Australia, but maybe it is the beginning of drink-riding. A CoorsCar maybe. Car fleets will need to differentiate themselves, and entrepreneurs will go after this new captive market of passive riders. Who knows what new (or old) services will be offered during my ride in the new private driverless cars. Thanks for the great article! Terry Gold
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Some great ideas Terry. Keep in mind how many industries the smartphone has disrupted - SLR cameras, video cameras, GPS, fax machines, newspapers, etc. You're right, this will become a competitive space rather quickly. Very likely it will disrupt many things that are only tangentially related to driving. One that I've been toying with is the idea of ordering fast food and having it delivered by a flying drone that will dock with your car (while driving) and you can retrieve your food, and the drone flies off again. Thomas Frey
  17. Edward Kierklo

    Very thought provoking. An additional adjunct possibility is the function of police departments. Currently a significant portion is dedicated to traffic control. This may mean either a reduction or redeployment into other areas. Not sure how this transitions. Case could be made for staff reductions as budgets get strained. Alternatively new opportunities may arise in some fashion.
  18. <a href='' rel='external nofollow' class='url'>Allen Taylor</a>

    Great article, Thomas. Thanks for doing the legwork. Which of the many dominoes that you mention will fall first? It will be the canary in the coal mine, warning of the impending cataclysm.
  19. pilight

    The effect on roadside restaurants and convenience stores will likely be significant as well. People won't need to stop as often for food or leg stretching. The likelihood is that a fully driverless system would result in cars moving much faster than what we see on highways today, resulting in shorter travel times that would further damage the airline industry.
  20. Alwyn Mitchell

    Might there not also be "pedestrian anarchy" since vehicles will always be programmed to slow or halt for a person walking? Reminiscent of photos of city life in the early 20th century where people walked everywhere among the few horseless carriages at the time, perhaps? Early horseless carriages initially had a man walking ahead with a red flag to warn pedestrians; how might this translate for roadways and walkways of the future?
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Hi Alwyn, Great question but my assumptions that with transportation becoming more automated and more fluid, we will do even less walking. I'm certainly not advocating it but that would seem like a logical response. That said, there will still be plenty of pedestrian issues that crop up. It will be up to the city planners of the future to solve all those issues. Futurist Thomas Frey
  21. Philip Lieberman

    This was very thought-provoking, especially the reader comments. The question I didn't see is: where are the power plants going to be built to generate all the electricity for these vehicles, and what fuel would be used - nuclear? Buses and trains are still more energy efficient, if their load factor is decent.
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Hi Philip. I'm in the process of writing a column on the world's first graphene superconductor power grid. Hopefully that will answer all your questions related to generating enough power. I still doubt nuclear will become the dominant power source. It should also help you understand why buses and trains will likely go away. Futurist Thomas Frey
  22. Rowan Gontier

    Thanks Tom. Tesla said that their cars will probably go a million miles before needing major attention (except batteries). So greater longevity of electric cars vs ICE. Despite higher populations and % of people using cars, will car sales come under pressure once electric vehicles have reached mass adoption, and autonomy has reduced accident rates? A bit like people not replacing iPads quickly.
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Hi Rowan, Over the next couple decades cars sales will take a major hit. In fact, most car sales will be part of a large fleet and the fleet owners will likely bypass the dealerships and go directly to the manufacturers for the best deals. Most dealerships will not survive. Fleet owners will demand vehicles with higher levels of reliability and extended life expectancy - maybe even a million miles. Car ownership will soon be relegated to a very expensive hobby. Futurist Thomas Frey
  23. Amy Caughlin

    I loved this article as it got me thinking, in particular, about reclaimed spaces. If parking is no longer needed, what can we do with all the parking lots? Could parking garages be re-purposed for urban vertical farming?
    • FuturistSpeaker

      Hi Amy, Great idea. My sense is that anyone who can figure out what to do with all of the unused parking lots will have a rich future ahead. Futurist Thomas Frey
  24. Thomas Cook

    I think that vehicles of the future won't look like Tesla's. because our egos won't be involved and it won't matter to us what they drive like they will be anonymous looking pods that are bought by fleet managers on the basis of cost and reliability (as you have said). They will be tools or commodities and the passenger inside won't care who made it, much as we don't care whether we are flying in a Boeing or an Airbus as long as it gets us there and it is cheap. Which makes me wonder what the future is for the "Grande Marques" ?

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