The technology that will power the driverless cars of the future is already among us, and while true autonomous driving may still be some way off, tech writer Rilind Elezaj looks at how the driverless cars of the future will shape the world around us.
Transport as a service (TaaS) will ultimately do away with the need to own private vehicles. There will be fewer vehicle owners on the road. Instead, pay-as-you-go services like Uber will take over the transportation space. TaaS also has the potential to make a lot of businesses redundant. Car dealers, mechanics, car washes, auto spare shops, and gas stations will likely go the way of the dodo.
The design of vehicles will change radically. Firstly, the vehicles on the roads will have more character. You will be able to customise your vehicle of choice, meaning more vehicle shapes and models. Additional vehicle functions such as having connected pods and energy saving mechanisms will change the entire look of vehicles.
Since driverless cars do away with the human driver component, crash protection design will change, as will vehicle construction materials and technology. Self-driving cars will be entirely electric, meaning the bulky designs built for fossil fuels will no longer be necessary. Space requirements for a small rechargeable battery, compared to a fuel tank and all that comes with it differ greatly. Vehicles will, therefore, have more internal space.
Since the human component will have been replaced, vehicles will likely not have any use for headlights. Autonomous vehicles rely on infrared and radar technology to take stock of their environments. Unlike us they do not need bright lights to see.
Safer vehicles will vastly change how we design our roads. Fewer people will drive vehicles, therefore fewer cars will actually be driven on the roads making the need for wide multi-lane highways obsolete. Plus, driverless cars need much less space between them. So normal roads will be narrower. Infrastructure utilisation will, therefore, be more optimised.
Roads will also wear out at a much slower rate. This combined with smaller, less expensive roads will save governments money, which can be channelled to other development projects. Newer and better-designed roads will be needed, built with materials that drain better, last longer, and are more sustainable. These roads may also be used to generate power by reclaiming vehicle kinetic energy or by using solar energy.
There will be no more parking lots. Since very few people will actually own cars, and shared vehicles will be constantly be picking and dropping off passengers, parking lots will have no more practical use. The open spaces will likely be converted to parks to bring the natural environment back into the city.
Traffic policing will change. There will be no need for traffic lights, meaning traffic officers will also need to be reassigned to other departments.
Better and more human-friendly cities will develop. Cheaper transport and more open space in cities will cause rapid urbanisation in some areas. In other areas, such as those already developed in dense cities, people will likely move further away from the city. The cheap transportation, absence of traffic jams and stress-free commutes will make living one, two or three hours away from the city an appealing option. Similarly, more human-friendly cities will mean it is safer to walk or bike in the city. A healthier lifestyle will develop.
There will be better productivity among people. Knowing exactly when to leave a place and exactly when you will arrive, will mean fewer excuses for being late. Plus, the simple fact that driverless cars will curb pollution will make cities more conducive environments to work in, and this will offer a serious boost to overall productivity in the workplace. In addition, without having to actually drive the car in which you are travelling, will mean people can use their travelling time in a more productive way.
Driverless cars will also transform other industries. For instance, transportation trucks will be able to carry and transport more goods at a cheaper cost. Local transport and delivery of every product will also be cheaper, more efficient and safer.
New business models will develop. For example, you might be able to order a product, which will be delivered outside your home in a fully customised autonomous truck. After about an hour of use, the truck moves on to the next client. A lot of businesses will have to innovate and come up with solutions that help them take advantage of the opportunities that come with driverless cars. From hotels to innovative apps, to every service industry you can think of, driverless cars will transform every single aspect of these businesses.