Driverless cars are dangerous.
Only new drivers would buy them.
Bad publicity aside, an estimated 10 million driverless cars are expected be on the road by 2020. With media coverage focused on self-driving passenger vehicles, it’s easy to imagine that—once the technology is commercially viable—teenagers will be the earliest adopters: they’re quick to try new technologies, and they don’t have driving habits to unlearn.
Then again, older adults are beginning to face the difficult choice about when, or whether, to stop driving. Impaired vision, memory loss, and slow reaction time can make it impossible to drive safely. In fact, an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) study revealed that fatal crash rates are highest among drivers aged 85 or older. Since giving up the car keys often means loss of independence, older people may be among the earliest adopters of driverless vehicles.
Other candidates include long-haul truckers who, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, drive 5.6% of all vehicle miles. Resting while the truck drives the route would make the trip more efficient and help justify the cost of the self-driving technology.
They are cool. But they don’t deserve so much hype.
Driverless cars will save the United States approximately US$1.3 trillion annually in fuel, accident, traffic congestion, and productivity costs, says Morgan Stanley. That’s a whopping 8% of the U.S. GDP. And that’s not all. The impact of this technology will eventually cascade throughout the economy.
Consider auto insurance. Current policies are based on driver histories, but this will have to change if people aren’t driving. Among the impacts, according to industry analyst Brad Templeton, fewer accidents could lower payouts, or the cost of each repair might skyrocket as the technology becomes
Media, content, and electronics companies could enjoy $5 billion in new revenue from audio, video, and apps for the cars and from the gear needed to run them. Meanwhile, as shipping and ride-hailing services adopt autonomous technology, the streetscape could be altered. Cars could drop off shoppers and move on to their next destination rather than sit idle in a store’s parking lot, leaving real estate free for both buildings and green space. D!
Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.