Saturday, August 02, 2014

What else driverless cars will change

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.