Autonomous vehicles could save Canada over $65 billion a year

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Driverless cars are going to save the world a lot of money in the long run. They’ll cut back on accidents, reduce fuel usage and potentially mean that most of us don’t need to even own a car – but that’s years away. Still, it’s interesting to do the maths and some Canadian analysts have, projecting that the Northern territory could save as much as $65 billion a year if all of its cars were changed to piloted ones overnight.

This figure wasn’t just pulled out of thin air, but was added by by an independent think tank called the Van Horne Institute, in collaboration with the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence. It also looked at things that a lot of people wouldn’t necessarily consider; beyond the usual efficiency and other economic improvements of automated cars. For example, what about all of that land that’s currently used by car parks? Most of that won’t be required if cars can leave the city and go and park themselves far away from the city centre. That means more businesses can open up and it will cut congestion massively, as nobody will be driving around looking for a parking space either.

Car ownership could almost disappear entirely, cutting the number of cars in use on the roads, saving upwards of $5 billion a year, caused by congestion.

However the biggest effect came from the suggestion that it will end over 2,000 fatalities on Canadian roads every year. By getting rid of these and a majority of other road collisions, it’s expected that it could save Canadians as much as $37.4 billion a year.

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This isn’t just something that government would notice though, but individuals too. According to lead author of the report, Vijay Gill, by not requiring a car of their own and instead using car shares and automated taxi services, each family could save upwards of $2,700 (£1,500) a year.

Of course, it is worth considering the knock-on effects of all this change however. If indeed, owning cars becomes a thing of the past, that’s a lot of road tax and insurance costs that don’t need to be paid. That’s great for the consumer, but perhaps a little less ideal for governments and certainly not something insurers want to hear. How will that industry, among many others that rely on personal car ownership, cope with the change?

However, it’s expected that the creation of a new and flourishing automated car industry will lead to all sorts of new jobs opening up. Maintenance for vehicles will be much more complicated than it was before, though standard upkeep like tyres, brakes and other aspects of driving will still be necessary, even if not on the same scale. Similarly so, a lot of jobs will be created in maintaining the electreonics of such a vehicle, tweaking the AI and improving its efficiency or practices to make it more dynamic and personalised.

Whatever the side effects of automated vehicles however, governments and people need to plan ahead as they are coming. Give it two decades and there will be a lot of driverless cars on the road.

Image source: Ted Eytan, Google

[Thanks CBC]

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Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.