Self-driving cars are all but upon us. Most of the latest luxury models can already do some of the driving for you, and Uber has even started testing a self-driving fleet. It’s an exciting change, and it has made now the best time to buy a car in history so far, with an even more promising future right around the corner. Here are the basics on how self-driving cars can change an industry and how it may impact the rest of the world.
The general consensus is that automated driving will eventually surpass human drivers in terms of safety. A fully connected network of self-driving cars can access more information about traffic, road conditions and other safety features than any person could process, enabling them to flow harmoniously with all of the other vehicles. Many experts predict that when the vast majority of driving is done by the cars, manufacturers will be able to rethink every aspect of design, de-emphasizing safety and improving efficiency. Here are just a few of the most radical changes.
- Reinforcement. Heavy, reinforced materials can be replaced by lighter, more efficient options.
- Control. Pedals, steering wheels and other driver input devices can be cut entirely.
- Crash protection. Airbags, seat belts and other safety devices can be stripped, cutting the weight of the car.
In the early stages of implementation, automated shipping fleets can reduce emissions by taking more efficient routes and traveling in smarter ways. Since computerized vehicles don’t need sleep, many current trucking routes can be improved by ignoring the parts of the routes designed for drivers’ rest. The other interesting technique shipping fleets can use involves drafting. Because automated trucks can respond to traffic and other factors in unison, they can travel in a caravan style where larger groups draft behind each other, improving overall efficiency by impressive margins.
When it comes to commuting and city traffic, automation could potentially be more efficient when they handle all of the driving. Here are long-term possibilities:
- No more traffic stops. When all of the vehicles can sync and travel harmoniously, traffic lights and stop signs become obsolete. Instead vehicles can seamlessly merge and turn even in dense traffic. Currently, the world burns roughly 2 billion gallons of fuel in traffic jams every year. Eliminating them saves money and emissions.
- Faster parking. In the city, one of the great challenges is finding a good parking spot. A connect driving system can actively monitor parking options and route directly to the best available spot, saving countless driving hours across the country every day.
- No more wrecks. Circling back to the impact of congested traffic, one of the major contributors to these jams is traffic accidents. When they disappear, even the worst parts of rush hour see a substantial improvement traffic.
The potential for self-driving cars is likely to change the world. Whether that change is positive or negative will depend mostly on how the industry is regulated. Since automated vehicles will be able to completely change the face of car design, manufacturers will need incentive to choose efficiency over other options. Experts predict that this is what will determine whether these cars cut emissions by 90 percent or inflate them by up to 200 percent.