Having realized that I have not written anything on the topic of our (us guys) favourite toy—the car—(or has the smartphone already overtaken that position?) I feel quite a drive to change that.
Having said that, do you recall that it was only about 10 years back that self-driving cars were brand-marked as Utopia?
Nevertheless, by today, many manufacturers have not only proven that they work (drive), but that they are also extremely safe (with the occasional accident thrown in to give the media something to report about (only bad news is good news for them)).
I am convinced that this single innovation would create a slew of benefits, and here are some that I have picked up:
1) All of a sudden, we would only have good drivers. There would be no more accidents and large crash-safe cars would no longer be required; thus weight would be saved, as well as humongous amounts of fuel.
2) Self-driving cars could “platoon” and increase the gas mileage by 30 – 40% through drafting.
3) Fewer roads would be required. Instead of 40 – 50 cars per mile, self-driving cars would be able to accommodate 320 cars per lane per mile at highway speed. That’s the equivalent of making a four-lane highway into a thirty-two-lane super freeway. We would be able to stop building new roads or even convert some lanes to cycling lanes lined with trees.
4) These cars would also reduce accidents, saving 30,000 lives in the U.S. alone. More than 2 million people in the U.S. would not have to go to emergency rooms due to traffic accidents, and $260 billion would be saved.
5) People would also gain ten additional “days” per year, the time that is now wasted in traffic congestions. Moreover, they would also be able to make productive use of the time inside the car, for work or play, instead of blankly staring at the road ahead.
No more need for ItCanWait-you-and-all-others-are-worth-it-stay-safe-campaigns
But until we get there #ItCanWait!
6) These cars would obey all laws and governments would require fewer police officers on the road, as well as less jail space, if only drunk drivers would no longer be an issue.
7) They would be managed as a network, offering transportation services (who needs a car that is parked somewhere, in average, 22 hours a day anyway?), and all existing car-parks could be converted to better usage.
8) Electric motors are 95% efficient, compared to the 40% efficiency reached by the most advanced internal combustion engine. Hence, there would be huge energy savings when all cars someday become electric and are powered by solar. Free energy that is generously delivered by the sun in abundance (11,000 times more energy than we consume). We just need to harvest it.
9) You don’t like batteries because of whatever reasons? What about carbon-neutral e-diesel, then? Just recently, Audi produced the first batches of such carbon-neutral e-diesel by heating water into steam, which was then broken down into hydrogen and oxygen by high-temperature electrolysis. The hydrogen thereafter reacted with carbon dioxide sourced from biogas in synthesis reactors, and the reaction resultant was a liquid made from long-chain hydrocarbon compounds known as blue crude. The efficiency of this overall process, from renewable power to liquid hydrocarbon, is approximately 70%. Human ingenuity will find innovations for all problems. Give it some time.
10) “Yeah, but all of this is very expensive!” Incidentally, the first Google self-driven car is the work of just a dozen engineers and cost Google some $50 million; thus innovation can be quite inexpensive – at the beginning and then prices will drop with mass-adoption as they always have in the past.
11) Transportation would be a lot cheaper in the future. Ok, perhaps, all those electronics and batteries would be more costly than the traditional car components right now; nevertheless, the price trajectory would be steeply inclined downwards. Just imagine a car (though not yours, since you would only be purchasing the service of being transported from point A to point B) that would run 12 hours per day instead of the current average of 2 hours per day. And that alone would reduce the cost per kilometer tremendously.
So, how do you feel about those prospects of progress? Would you embrace this beneficial technology or would you opt for the riskier option of driving yourself?
Lastly, it might be a wise decision not to encourage your child’s dream of becoming a taxi or truck driver. Slight chance of obsolescence in the foreseeable future!