The NMA Foundation presents the Car of the Future weekly feature:
Many of the major automakers have recently declared that their companies plan to begin selling autonomous vehicles by 2021. The car inventory replaces itself just about every 12 years. If driverless cars are introduced systematically by automakers beginning in 2021 and then double the inventory rate to give time for autonomous vehicle adoption, the country should be nearly automated by the year 2046. That is not a very long evolution cycle—are we ready for this?
Today, 0.756 vehicles are registered per person in America and motorists drive on average 8,648 miles per year. Obviously, our need for personal transportation options will not be going away anytime soon. Folks will still need to get from point A to point B and back to point A again.
The auto industry, which has recently renamed itself the “Mobility” Industry, is making a long bet that in the next 30 years, motorists will no longer even own a car. Instead, former motorists will probably subscribe to a driverless fleet service for all transportation needs or perhaps participate in an extended ridesharing system that allows a person to pay as he or she rides based either on time or distance.
The idea of the in-between time when drivers are still driving and cars are driving themselves, suggests that we as a society need to figure out how to get along in the interim. Limiting the driverless car rollout could perhaps ease the transition. The Governors Highway Safety Administration released this month a report called Autonomous Vehicles meet Human Drivers: Traffic Safety Issues for States, which delves into the safety implications that a mix of driven cars and autonomous cars will bring according to report author James Hedland.
Ward’s Auto featured an editorial recently that had a bit of an Orwellian title–self-driving cars will save lives but require reprogramming nation. Author Michal Stencl postulates that the emergence of the driverless car will transform the auto industry, redefine millions of jobs, and directly impact the economy. Disruption will be the norm and there will be all kinds of questions for automakers on driverless car standards both here at home and abroad. Stencl says this is indeed uncharted territory.
This transportation evolution or perhaps revolution everyone speaks about is perhaps similar to the evolution of the in-between time with the horse drawn carriage and the automobile. Cars and horses had to get along and share the streets. During the industrial revolution, when people started moving into large cities for work, they brought their horses with them. The biggest problem right before cars took off had to do with the fact that there was too much horse manure in the streets—both a health and esthetic hazard.
Luckily we no longer have to contend with horse manure but what we will have to contend with instead is “an-us-versus-it” mentality which might be a bit tougher to clean up after the fact.
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