The Impact of Self-Driving Cars


Copyright Ed and Eddie (Creative Commons)

While many of us would like self-driving cars to relieve us of the hassles and complaints about driving, have you thought about what impact self-driving cars would have on society?

Here are just a few of the things that could theoretically come out of wide spread adoption of self-driving cars:

  • Loss of city revenue.  Many larger cities rely upon traffic tickets to bolster city coffers.  There is a small town in the US where over 90% of its revenue is as a result of traffic tickets for people that speed through its jurisdiction.  Self-driving cars could drive at the speed limit and take away that revenue.
  • Fewer automotive repair shops.  If self-driving cars are safer, and there is no reason to think that they wouldn’t be, there would be fewer accidents.  With fewer accidents there would be fewer repair shops around to fix the accidents.
  • Fewer large automobile manufacturers.  If self-driving cars don’t get into accidents there would be fewer reasons to buy a new car.  You thought the automotive manufacturers were having a problem a number of years ago?  Just wait as boutique car manufacturers become all the rage.  If you are going to own a single car for a decade you want it to be what you want so the mass produced car will fade away as boutique manufacturers build custom ordered cars.
  • Automobile cooperatives.  Uber, but for families and other groups.  If my car will self-drive, it could drop me off at work and go home to take my wife shopping.  Or perhaps a group of people share the expense of a car and they book time with their own vehicle using a tool like Uber.
  • Taxi companies go under.  If you have a self-driving car, why not just add it to the CarPool and other people can use it while you are at work, or sleeping.  Much like Uber, but completely automated.
  • Long haul truckers go under. The companies that do long haul trucking will not go under, but who needs a human that has to rest every ten hours when you can automate the driving and get goods delivered faster and cheaper.

If you think about it a self-driving car is just more than an automobile that doesn’t require a human to go from point A to point B, it is a fundamental shift in how North American society has oriented itself around the car.  It is theoretically, one of the biggest shifts in society that we have ever experienced, or will ever experience.

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