I remain amused at skepticism towards driverless cars and trucks. Most believe the idea is at least a decade off. Some think it will not happen in a significant way at all.
My position has been and remains, driverless vehicles will be widespread before the end of this decade.
Please consider Self-Driving Cars Will Be in 30 U.S. Cities by the End of Next Year.
Automated vehicle pilot projects will roll out in the U.K. and in six to 10 U.S. cities this year, with the first unveiling projected to be in Tampa, Fla. as soon as late spring. The following year, trial programs will launch in 12 to 20 more U.S. locations, which means driverless cars will be on roads in up to 30 U.S. cities by the end of 2016. The trials will be run by Comet LLC, a consulting firm focused on automated vehicle commercialization.
“We’re looking at college campuses, theme parks, airports, downtown areas—places like that,” Corey Clothier, a strategist for automated transportation systems who runs the firm told, The New York Observer.
He explained that they’re focusing on semi-controlled areas and that the driverless vehicles will serve a number of different purposes, both public and private. The vehicles themselves, which are all developed by Veeo Systems, will even vary from two-seaters to full-size buses that can transport 70 people. At some locations, the vehicles will drive on their own paths, occasionally crossing vehicle and pedestrian traffic, while at others, the vehicles will be completely integrated with existing cars.
Death of Cars?
If you think this will stop with college campuses, theme parks, and airports, then you probably believed the need for keypunch operators would not go away, that autofocus cameras would never be reliable, that the internet would not make mincemeat out of many travel agencies, and digital would not replace film.
I would not go as far as to say this is the death of cars. Rather, this is the beginning of the end of personal car ownership for millions of city drivers.
But, it is also the eventual (and sooner than you think) death of long-haul trucking jobs, taxi drivers, and various chauffeur jobs.
Question of Timeframe
I have heard countless arguments many times over about lawsuits, about inner-city traffic jams, about ice and snow, about computer malfunctions, about road work and changing road conditions, and about everything else including motherhood and apple pie.
I dismiss all those arguments just as I dismissed arguments that digital would not replace film. The only debate is how fast this happens.
Programmed cars can handle adverse road conditions better than all but the most skilled drivers, and certainly far better than those not used to driving in snow and ice. Liability issues will likely be settled by legislation in advance. An internet connected car can certainly pick alternate routes better than non-connected humans.
In 2006, had I said we would have driverless cars on the highways in 10 years in thirty cities you might have thought I was crazy. Well here we are. It’s just test-mode now, but test mode will not last long. The pace of improvement is guaranteed to happen in one direction only – faster.
Will test to approval take more than 10 years? Five? Three? Will trucks and cabs lead, or follow?
I believe most long haul truck driving jobs will vanish in ten years. Gone in five or six would not surprise me. The shorter timeframe would require a pretty fast ramp in truck hubs, assuming my truck hub model is the correct one, and it may not be. If the truck hubs I envision as necessary are not needed, then expect the jobs to vanish faster.
Taxi drivers? Who need em? They will be gone in 5-6 years, in many places.
Cost vs. Convenience
I will cling to my car. And so will millions of others, at first. That’s why the death of cars will not happen as fast as the death of paid driver positions.
Yet, millions of aging boomers with diminishing eyesight, slower reaction times, and poor night vision will welcome driverless taxis on demand. So will millennials and many inner-city drivers who never leave the city.
The cost of a car is high. But the convenience of having a car outweighs that cost for now, for most.
Ultimately it is convenience of having a car in your garage vs. the cost of having that car that will decide how quickly private car ownership goes away.
Convenience is also a two-way street. How many moms would love the convenience of not having to take their kids to and from soccer games or music lessons several times a week?
Pent-Up Demand to Dump Cars
Cars will be around for quite a long time. It’s ownership of the cars, and how many there are, and who will drive them (if anyone), that are in question.
Economists see a pent-up demand for millennials to buy cars. I see a pent-up demand for boomers to get rid of them. Demographics, technology, and changing social attitudes suggest I am on the right side of this debate.
For more on driverless vehicles, please see ….
- Never Has Arrived; The Last Mile
- Robot Truck Convoy Tests in Nevada; Driverless Trucks Before Cars, and Before the End of the Decade
- Driverless Cars Legally Hit Roads as California Issues Licenses; The Last Mile
- Self-Driving “Fully Automated” Vehicles on German Autobahn; Supply Chain Math; Uber and Khan Academy
- Driverless Cars on UK Public Streets Starting January; Transforming Personal Mobility; Taxi and Truck-Drivers Targeted
The heyday of car ownership is in its twilight years. The paid driving jobs will vanish much sooner.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock