10 Ways Self-Driving Cars Will Change the World

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Autonomous cars used to only be found in science fiction, but over the past few years a number of companies, including Google and Mercedes-Benz, have been developing cars that will drive themselves. It’s believed that the first autonomous cars will be ready for the public by the year 2025, and by the year 2040 most cars on the road should be self-driving. Obviously that will have a profound impact on our roads, but society will change in more surprising ways, too.

10. More Internet Commerce

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On average, Americans spend about 50.8 minutes driving to and from work. That’s a lot of time spent focusing on the road when other things could be done. Economists believe that once cars drive themselves a lot of passengers will spend their time on the Internet, which will drive a new consumer revolution. One projection believes that if people spend half their time in the car online, $140 billion will be generated every year in digital revenue.

9. Fewer Police Officers

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A major part of policing is officers looking for people committing infractions while driving, and responding to accidents involving vehicles. In 2011, more than 26 million people were stopped because of something they had done while driving. If you look at all the people who have contacted the police, more than half the time it’s an issue involving vehicles.

Autonomous cars will simply be programmed to obey the rules of the road. Yes, there will still be accidents, but a majority of cars will be safe. As a result, cities may need half the police officers they currently do. While this would save an incredible amount of money, it would also put a lot of people in law enforcement out of a job.

8. Less Road Rage

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Canadians are famous for their polite and apologetic demeanor, yet 80 percent of Canadian drivers have admitted to feeling something that would be considered “road rage.” Of course, Canadians aren’t the only ones — it’s a major problem around the world. It leads to seriously dangerous behavior including speeding, cutting people off and weaving in and out of traffic. That’s not to mention how many times it can escalate to violence. In the United States, 1,500 deaths stem from road rage incidents every year.

With driver-less cars, much of this will be eliminated. Most road rage stems from people either acting inappropriately or perceiving that another person is acting irresponsibly or has wronged them in some way. Being cut off, not being allowed to pass and fighting over parking spots are some of the most common reasons people feel road rage. Self-driving cars simply drive as efficiently and as safely as possible, removing a lot of emotion from driving.

7. No More Drunk Driving

Glass of whiskey and car keys on wooden table.

Putting an end to drinking and driving has been a long struggle. Despite multiple campaigns and it being a well-known fact that it’s an incredibly dangerous and very illegal act, there are still many people who do it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 people are killed every day in alcohol related crashes. It accounts for 31 percent of all deaths caused by auto accidents in the United States, while other intoxicants, like drugs, account for a further 18 percent. While there’s some debate as to whether someone should be allowed to be in control of a driver-less car when intoxicated, either way crashes caused by drugs or alcohol will not be the problem it is today.

6. Fewer Cars

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Autonomous cars may lead to people buying fewer cars, because cars will be easier to share. People who have their own cars drive it somewhere and it stays there. Which, in effect, leaves a car unused 90-95 percent of the time. With autonomous cars, someone could take one and then have the car drive itself somewhere else to be used by a friend or family member.

In the United States, the average number of vehicles owned by one household is 2.1, but that could drop to 1.2. The reason 43 percent of households have two cars is because they have two or more people with overlapping trips, but with self-driving cars that number would dwindle to just 15 percent.

5. Fewer Traffic Jams

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Traffic jams are one of the banes of modern life. For some people, it’s so bad that three weeks per year are spent sitting in traffic. There are a number of factors that cause traffic to build up, like accidents, stalled cars and the sheer number of cars on the road. But have you ever been driving on a highway only to be stuck for no apparent reason? This happens when one driver hits the brakes — the other drivers behind him have to hit their brakes as well. This stoppage causes a chain reaction, and there are more cars joining the back of the traffic jam than there are cars leaving the cluster, because it takes more time for people to accelerate than it does to stop.

Autonomous cars would help cut down on traffic jams. While construction and stalled cars will still be a problem, there will be fewer accidents and fewer cars in general. Self-driving cars will drive smoother, merge better and maintain a regular speed, all of which will keep traffic flowing.

4. More Environmentally Friendly

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One self-driving car may be making more trips, but there would be fewer total cars on the roads. This will cut down on emissions. And by making traffic flow better, there will be considerably fewer cars idling away in traffic jams. Finally, they’ll help with parking. Studies have found that 30 percent of congestion in cities is from people trying to find a curbside parking spot. When it comes to just looking for a spot, people will spend an average of six minutes and 45 seconds driving around. In a major metropolis like London, it can take up to 20 minutes. That means the average person will spend 106 days of their life looking for a spot. According to another study, 40 percent of someone’s fuel is used while looking for parking. That’s a lot of wasted fuel and a lot of emissions.

Self-driving cars will simply drop off passengers — where it parks doesn’t matter. It will just go to the next available spot and the owner can have it pick them up later. This will save a tremendous amount of time and fuel.

3. Greater Independence for Senior Citizens

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Senior citizens can be a major hazard on the roadway, because many seniors simply don’t have the reaction time and sharp senses of younger people. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, people over the age of 65 are responsible for 12.5 percent of the accidents in the United States. That’s only going to get worse, as many countries are having problems with aging populations. Seniors will account for anywhere from a quarter to half of the population in the United States, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere. Self-driving cars will allow seniors to maintain their independence and keep the roads safer.

It will also be a huge benefit to people with disabilities. For the first time in history, people who are blind, quadriplegic or otherwise incapable of driving will be able to be in control of their own car. More adults, regardless of their disabilities, would be able to live better, more independent lives.

2. Fewer Age Restrictions for Drivers

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Learning to drive and getting a license is a right of passage for teenagers around the world. It’s a symbol of responsibility and independence. Unfortunately, many teenagers make for poor drivers. Driving, like any other skill, develops with time and practice. Add in the fact that teenagers are more reckless when driving and it can make for some dangerous situations on our roads. Motor vehicle accidents are actually the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 12 and 19. In fact, accidents account for one-third of all teenage deaths. With self-driving cars, the dangers of teenage drivers would vanish. People younger than 16 or 17 may even be able to control cars themselves, effectively making driver’s licenses a thing of the past.

1. Safer Roadways

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Horrendous car accidents have just been one of the downsides people have had to put up with if they want to drive. Since there are so many vehicles on the road and accidents can happen at any time, they’re a massive problem. According to the American Automobile Association, every year automobile accidents cost the economy $164.2 billion. That’s over $1,000 per American! The expenses come from police and rescue services, healthcare, property damage, loss of productivity and change in quality of life. Then there are the lives lost — about 30,000 every year in the United States alone.

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With self-driving cars the number of accidents is expected to plummet, because 90 percent are due to human error. In the tests for Google’s self-driving car, they’ve logged 700,000 miles and only suffered a single accident — a minor fender-bender caused by a person.

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3 Comments

  1. Sure, makes sense, but I also see pedestrians and other vehicles bullying the autonomous vehicles. Why not just dart in front of one when you need to cross the street or when you need to change lanes. They’re supposed to stop or avoid a collision. If they don’t, I smell a lawsuit.

  2. There is much more! Also, cars will be networked with each other so they know exactly where every other vehicle is. Imagine the traffic cartoon depiction on “The Jetsons”. Timed entry and exit at intersections and highway merges. We no longer need road signs or traffic lights. Center dividing lines are unnecessary. Speeds can be much higher, with little slowing or stopping. Mind-boggling!

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