I came across an insightful blog on self driving cars from Peter Diamandis (entrepreneur, principle creator of X-Prize movement, etc.) He agrees that self driving cars are coming sooner than originally thought, and goes on to list several major implications…
- Reduced deaths, reduced accidents: In the U.S. alone, there were over 33,000 automobile deaths in 2013. For those aged 5 to 34 in the United States, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death, claiming the lives of 18,266 Americans each year.
- Saving LOTS of Money and Time: It’s estimated that AVs could save over 2.7 billion unproductive hours commuting to work. This in turn translates to an annual savings of $447.1 billion per year in the U.S. alone (assuming 90% AV penetration). This number was calculated by taking into account crash cost savings, congestion benefits, reduced travel times, fuel savings, parking savings, changes in total number of vehicles, and other factors.
- Massive Fuel Savings: Today, a 4,000-lb. SUV spends less than 4% of its energy moving a 150-lb. driver around. Imagine if a car could be significantly lighter (because they don’t crash), getting four times the mpg?
- No New Roads, Less Traffic: Autonomous vehicles packed with sensors can drive fast and efficiently at 8 times the packing density of today’s human-driven cars. This means no traffic jams and no need to build new roads. Plus, when they pack closely together, the reduction in wind drag alone could reduce fuel use up to 20 – 30 percent.
- No Ownership – Just “On-Demand” Usage: Today your car is an unused asset 95% of the day. Why own a car when you can have access to whatever car you want, whenever you want it? On-demand car usage will change the future. (Who wins? You do. Who loses? Detroit). It is estimated that at 90% AV penetration, we could actually reduce the number of cars on the road by 42.6%.
- No Garages, No Driveways, No Parking: In his book, Eran Ben-Joseph notes, “In some U.S. cities, parking lots cover more than 1/3 of the land area.” But what if you never need to park your car? What if it just drops you off and goes and does something useful? No need for parking garages, parking lots, driveways… Plus, one MIT study found that 40 percent of total gasoline use in cars in urban areas is spent while drivers look for parking.
- No Mandatory Car Insurance: Self driving cars won’t crash and will disrupt the $200 billion auto insurance industry.
Check out this video of another entrant in the self driving car derby – this time Audi setting a speed record with a driverless vehicle – about 147 mph on a race track. Very cool.
To learn more about autonomous vehicles and the future, attend the MIT Enterprise Forum in Seattle on October 29, 2014, 5:30-8:30 PM. Information and registration here.