A lot of people are excited by the idea of driverless cars, because it means they’ll be able to switch off during commutes, or when in traffic jams, potentially catching up on something important like the news, a movie they wanted to watch or even just a few extra minutes of sleep. However, is the future of driverless cars just like our world now, only we have our hands off of the wheel? Or will cars be made mostly redundant by the new technology, meaning that we hire them when we need them and don’t have one otherwise.
Is the age of car ownership coming to an end?
The car has always been seen as a symbol of freedom. For young adults learning to drive it can often be the first time they make an effort to break away from the family home and it really becomes the first time they can go anywhere without their parents’ knowledge. Of course thanks to telematics and sky rocketing insurance prices, that traditional coming of age event is harder and harder to come by, but when driverless cars arrive, we may not need it anymore anyway, since anyone – potentially with some age limits – could hire a driverless car to take them anywhere, for far cheaper than a taxi costs because there’s no driver that needs to be paid.
This is the future that researchers from Texas think we’re heading towards, one where driverless car technology is combined with a service like Uber, which makes it easy for anyone to hire a car (and driver, currently) to take them wherever they want to go and back again if needed. What makes the package efficient, is that the driver and car can do something while you’re completing whatever task you drove somewhere to do, returning only when you need a pick up. A driverless car hire network like that could work the same, only without the need for a driver.
The fact that the car hire network could keep operating between jobs is what would make it so revolutionary. Currently, most cars spend most of their time waiting for us to use them. Unless its a taxi, lorry or some other professional vehicle, most of us leave our cars on the drive at night and at work during the day. With a world full of driverless cars though, we could get dropped off and picked up from work without the need to pay for all of that time the car is just sitting there doing nothing, as it is now.
Of course, a system like this isn’t suited to everywhere. It’s a model that works very well in a city, where lots of cars are available all the time for fast pick ups, making the waiting time of a few minutes worth it compared to having to own your own car – something a lot of people don’t do in cities anyway. However, it becomes far less useful if you’re out in rural areas, where you might have to wait a while for a car to arrive. As an ongoing contract it might work, but it certainly wouldn’t be as cost efficient doing longer journeys.
Fortunately, we have plenty of time to figure all of this out, as driverless cars aren’t expected to really take off until we enter the 2020s, but we’re taking baby steps towards that future every day. It’s going to be interesting to see how it turns out.
Image source: Uber