In 2015, only seven companies were licensed to test prototypes for autonomous vehicles on California roads. Today, that number has more than doubled, with 27 companies now licensed.
Brands are competing to reach the mass market with safe and reliable models, so the development of self-driving vehicles is advancing rapidly. It’s a fascinating technology, to be sure — but what impact might it actually have on the way we interact with our cars?
When vehicles that are fully and safely autonomous become widely available, your car can start to pay for itself while you’re at work. Similar to leasing a space with Airbnb, the vehicle could be used to transport others while you aren’t using it, to generate extra income.
On the flip side, you could become a passenger and do away with vehicle ownership altogether. Services that allow you to pay a monthly fee to borrow a car for an allotted amount of time have already popped up in major cities worldwide, allowing tourists and tired pedestrians to get where they need to go quickly and without the hassle of searching for a parking spot.
The autonomous vehicle can take this service to the next level, learning your behaviors and preferences so that a car is always available to pick you up wherever you are and take you wherever you need to go. People with similar routines and destinations could be matched up to share rides, maximizing resources and reducing traffic congestion to benefit the environment.
Money could be saved on fuel, maintenance, parking, insurance, and taxes. Local government can even benefit — with fewer vehicles on the road and safe, driverless systems guiding the majority that are, accidents and traffic infractions could fall greatly.
The rise of autonomous vehicles and ride sharing also has some fun implications. The ability to share high-performance vehicles could lead to democratization of the auto market, making such vehicles more available to more people. Car enthusiasts could enjoy a leisurely Sunday drive with a different premium car every weekend. It could even be easier to get that truck or van you always need during moving.
Whether heading to the corner store or taking a trip across the country, autonomous vehicles will drive major changes in the way we travel. For many, ownership of a vehicle would become an option rather than a necessity, offering more freedom and cutting down significantly on carbon emissions. The good news is that the biggest change coming from driverless cars looks to be a simplified daily commute that saves you time and money.
Rob Martens is a futurist and VP of strategy and partnerships for Allegion/Schlage.