Even though driverless cars are among the most exciting technological advancements currently in development, the enthusiasm for them is not very widespread. More than three out of five Americans have concerns about sharing the road with driverless cars. And while the politics surrounding driverless cars is heating up, the question about what exactly we can expect from them still remains.
Cars Without Drivers?
"Driverless cars" implies that people will always be passengers in the cars, without the ability to take control of them. However, given the public opinion and the fact that cars and driving attract a lot of passion, it is more likely that driverless cars will not be completely driverless. At least not right away.
Bar from any governmental policy that makes fully driverless cars mandatory, we are likely to see cars that operate in two modes. There will be a driverless mode, which would allow you to sit back and enjoy the ride without having to do anything. There will also be a driver or co-driver mode that will give you some control over the vehicle.
The safety of driverless cars is another hot topic of debate. Those who believe that driverless cars will bring about safer roads often point to the statics saying that in the majority of car accidents, human error was a contributing factor. And "the majority" means 90%.
90% of all car accidents probably do not have human errors as the main cause. However, people exhibit some worrying behaviors while driving a car. Those behaviors make driverless cars seem like our best chance for a future without car crashes. Humans are prone to road rage, which can diminish their capacity to think and react. They are also prone to texting while driving, which is an incredibly dangerous thing to do. And humans also get behind the wheel drunk.
Cars, on the other hand, do not any of these things. All the technologies used in driverless cars are developed with the goal to mimic and surpass human capabilities behind the wheel. So if we say that driverless cars will give us better-than-human sensing, reaction times, and communication, while removing the dangerous human behaviors, we can see that the roads of the future will probably be safer.
Fewer Cars, and a Change in Ownership Models
There are studies that project that, in as little as fifteen years from now, only one in five Americans will own a car. We already know that if you live in a big, crowded city, it makes much more sense to use public transportation or car-hailing apps than own your own car.
These effects of living in a big city will only be magnified by the introduction of driverless cars. Ride-sharing might become the norm in big cities, not in the least because of the lower cost of a possible ride-subscription model. The fact that there will be a real network of cars driving on the network of roads will harmonize traffic, leading to less time spent in a car. Driverless cars that need no drivers would be available and on the job 24/7, without the need to park or stop, except to recharge. Of course, the urban sprawl and rural living will still be impossible without car ownership. But for the city-dwellers, a driverless car service will be everything they need.
We have heard about the great capabilities of technologies that are used to create driverless cars. Some of them are already in cars, making it easier for us to drive them. And while no one can say with complete certainty how driverless cars will affect us, we know they will be a source of disruption. As every disruption in history, it will likely see some pushback. However, their widespread adoption is inevitable. And if the companies who are working on their development are to be believed, it might be for the better.