When, in the near future, robots can reliably move people and stuff, our lives will change in more ways than just the obvious “Now I don’t have to drive”. Here’s my partial list of some other ways the world will be different:
- Employment: many occupations will cease to exist (cab drivers, truck drivers)
- Car ownership: why bother owning a car if you can reliably summon one to/from wherever you want to be
- Mass transit: big transportation projects (light rail, monorail, high speed rail) won’t make as much sense.
- underground tunnels can turn into highways.
- Why build that big rail project, when caravans of cars can be more efficient?
- Parking: why waste space — the car can drive away when you don’t need it.
- Garages: if you don’t own car (or as many of them), then why waste space that way?
- Cities can be even more dense. Even a place like Manhattan, which is already pretty compact, can lose its area devoted to parking.
- Robot cars can stack themselves to be even more efficient at parking
- Fewer fatalities: the number of driving deaths will plummet, becoming an insignificant cause of death.
- Car design changes
- If there are fewer collisions, then why not let up on some of the safety features? (e.g. why make people face forward in the car instead of facing each other?)
- Do we need seat belts?
- Do we need cars made of metal exteriors? Can we make a wider view, perhaps lots more glass
This is just the beginning. Unfortunately, the most substantive changes will take at least a generation to work themselves through the system, so it will be my grandchildren who really get the brunt of this.