Driverless Cars Are Emerging Fast

September 29, 2015

Get ready to take your hands off the wheel. Autonomous vehicles are expected to be in wide use in just three years, according to experts at the National Shared Mobility Summit in Chicago.

“The majority of people I talk to have no idea they’re coming so soon,” said Lauren Issac, manager of sustainable transportation for the engineering and planning firms Parsons Brinkerhoff.

Driverless cars are not only being touted for the convenience of allowing you to let your car drive you from Point A to Point B, but also for the potential to save up to a trillion dollars in curbing car accident rates and also save potentially a gigaton in carbon emissions.

Experts foresee autonomous vehicles first being adopted as robo-taxis and commuter services, where people can share a ride to get to where they want to go.

“What if the bar or the restaurant or Walmart or Target, they pay for your trip? because they’re essentially using these vehicles to bring customers to them. So you might actually see free robo-taxis in three years,” says Jonathan Walker of the Rocky Mountain Institute, an organization that has studied autonomous vehicles.

Autonomous vehicles are believed to hold a lot of promise. They cost about 15 cents per mile to operate, compared to 60 cents for personal cars. They’re less likely to get damaged or get into the 82 percent of accidents that occur because of driver error, according to a article. The insurance is expected to be cheaper too, and only should be about 10 percent what insurance costs motorists today, Walker said.

“Also, vehicles can be right-sized for their tasks: people can order a pickup truck for buying gardening supplies, a single-seater for the drive to work, a shuttle to go to the airport, a bus when they want to save money,” notes.

Still, there are some concerns, particularly if autonomous vehicles are set in the current transportation model with individually owned and gasoline powered cars. “Then some of the problems they might solve—parking, congestion, pollution—get worse,” Forbes notes.

Source: “Autonomous Vehicles Arrive in 3 Years, in 3 Stages,” (Sept. 28, 2015)