The Driverless Revolution
A couple of months ago I was travelling back from a business meeting when I visited the airport lounge for a beer and a snack before my flight. I found a free copy of Fortune magazine on the magazine rack and started to flick through the copy.
A few pages in and I found an article that fascinated me. The article by Brian Dumaine (The Driverless Revolution, Fortune, 12/11/12, pp.15-16) spoke about how there is technology available today that would mean that people didn’t need to drive cars, that they could drive themselves!
Now, we have all seen the Jetsons and other sci-fi TVB shows in our youth and I never thought that we would see a day when vehicles could use technology to drive themselves. But it is available and almost at a price point where it can be commercialised.
In the US today California, Nevada and Florida have made driverless electric vehicles legal. Nissan hope to release the ‘Leaf’ in 2015 as a driverless vehicle and in the next 10-15 years we will see more of this.
In Western Australia at one of Rio Tinto’s mines a driverless giant truck is now moving iron ore, saving the miner $100,000 per annum per vehicle.
So as we move from the world of Sci-fi, into big business and on the horizon affordable domestic vehicles, what does this mean to businesses and individuals?
What Does This Mean?
Well, driverless vehicles rarely crash, so this will have an immediate impact on the crash repair industry and motor insurance companies. Less accidents mean less income for these industries. But for hospitals it will mean less traumatic road injuries as vehicle travel will be much safer.
Dumaine provides four additional ways that self-driving vehicles may change business:
- Trucks could travel 30cms apart in platoons to reduce drag. This could save fuel by up to 20%
- Commuters spend 250 hours a year on the road. If the car is doing the driving this time could be spent working or on leisure pursuits
- Because self-driving cars will be safer they won’t need heavy safety cages…bad news for the steel industry
- Insurers will have to figure out who is liable in an accident – the car maker, the software designer or the GPS provider!
The Ultimate Beer Holder!?
My Future Car
A fun way to think about the impact on a self-driving car on you own life is to think how would you have the car fitted out?
If we don’t need to drive, your new car in 2020 could be an office suite, a lounge room complete with TV and fridge, the options are endless.
Overnight trips could include a pull out bed, children’s play area to stop the ‘are we there yet’ question, or the playstation car for those teenagers!
For me my future car will have a reclining chair and lamp so that I can read the paper in the morning or a book in the afternoon with a wide screen TV for game day and of course the mandatory beer holder and fridge for those post-work beverages!
Have some fun in the comments area and tell me what your car would be like!
Would you feel safe in a driverless car?
If sci-fi does become reality and driverless cars become available it will revolutionise mobility and transportation. While we will become safer and more productive it will reshape some industries forever.