Autonomous driving. Image: By Metamorworks Shutterstock
I suppose that, initially, you will not agree very much with the title of this article, but I will try to explain it to you as best I can.
More and more technology analysts, people who analyze market trends, new technologies, people’s needs, ultimately where the world is moving, who predict that in less than 20 years, we will all have ceased to be owners of a car and also the internal combustion engine will be history.
Something that is hard to believe, and you will be absolutely right if you are skeptical while you read it, so am I, but the argument that there is going to be a unique convergence of new technologies in relation to mobility that will revolutionize transport takes on more weight. as we know it today.
The idea is quite simple: autonomous electric vehicles organized through an “Uber” -style network will be able to offer transportation so cheap and effective that very soon (they estimate that in a decade) we will have decided that we will not need to buy a car for our private use never again.
If you think it is too optimistic to think that this will happen so soon, just remember how quickly cars replaced horses. Take a look at this picture of New York’s 5th Avenue in 1900. Can you see any cars?
Now look at this photo from 1913. Exactly. This time, where are the horses?
United States Library of Congress
In 1908, the first Model T Ford rolled off its production line; By 1930, the equestrian era, for all intents and purposes, was over. All this thanks to the disruptive power of an early technological innovation: the internal combustion engine.
How will this new transportation revolution be?
The driverless Uber model.
First, think about how Uber and other online taxi companies have already changed the way we get around. In most major cities, a driver from Uber or any rival company is usually only a couple of minutes away and charges less than conventional taxis, say about $10.
The exponential growth of the company is evidence of how powerful Uber’s business model is.
Now remove the conductor. You have probably reduced costs by at least 50%.
So if we are trying to figure out when this revolution will start, the key date will be defined when the technology for autonomous cars is available and more importantly, when it has the legal backing.
This could happen sooner than you think. The UK announced that it will authorize the first fully autonomous cars from 2021.
Autonomy enthusiasts say it will only take a single city to prove that this technology is safe and useful, for the rest of the world to hurry up and catch up immediately.
So autonomous vehicles can cut our trips from $10 to $5.
The switch to electric motors.
Now imagine that the current taxi fleet, mostly dependent on fossil fuels, can be replaced with electric cars.
Today electric vehicles are more expensive than similar models with internal combustion engines, but offer significantly lower lifetime costs.
For starters, they are more reliable. The typical electric car has about 20 moving parts compared to about 2,000 for an internal combustion engine.
As a result, electric vehicles also tend to last much longer. Most electric car manufacturers expect their vehicles to have a useful life of at least 500,000 miles.
These factors are not that important to most consumers, after all, the average driver does less than 10,000 miles a year and our cars are parked 95% of the time.
Add to that the low cost of recharging batteries compared to diesel or gasoline, and you get another drastic reduction in costs.
It’s worth noting that the cost of electric vehicles is likely to continue to decline rapidly. As these vehicles become a trend, manufacturing costs will be reduced. That’s the logic behind Tesla’s $5 billion battery plant, known as the ” Gigafactory.”
How does this affect our $10 trip?
It results in another major reduction. Fully autonomous electric taxi networks could offer rides at 10% of current rates.
At least that’s what technical prophet Tony Seba tells us. He and his team at the RethinkX think tank have worked harder than anyone thinking about how this revolution could affect the personal transportation market.
Transport as a service.
We have now reduced our fee from $10 to just $1.
Seba calls this idea of robot-taxi networks “transportation as a service” and estimates that it could save the average American up to $6,000 a year. That’s the equivalent of a 10% salary increase.
Image: By Metamorworks Shutterstock
Remember, when the revolution comes, you will not be behind the wheel, because from that moment on you will be working or relaxing while they take you. Another great benefit.
Do you still think it is worth having a car parked outside your house?
Furthermore, once this new transportation model is definitively established, its benefits are likely to be even greater. The more vehicles there are on the network, the better the service offered to consumers. The more kilometers the cars go, the more efficient and safe they will be. The more electric vehicles that are made, the more affordable they will be.
Don’t worry if you think rural areas will be left out of this revolution. A vehicle could be parked in each village waiting for your order to arrive.
Anxiety about autonomy and the fear of running out of electricity will not be a problem either. In case the battery runs out, the network will automatically send a fully charged car to look for you so you can continue your journey.
You’ve probably seen headlines about accidents involving autonomous cars, but the truth is that they will be much safer than the ones that you or I drive, because they would not get the legal regulatory approval if they do not become totally safe. That means tens of thousands of lives, perhaps hundreds of thousands, will be saved as the accident rate decreases.
This will generate additional savings for the robot taxi fleets. Your insurance prices will go down, while, at the same time, your traditional car insurance will go up.
Human drivers will be prohibited.
According to expert forecasts, it won’t be long before the entire market is irreversibly shifting away from individual car ownership, as well as the internal combustion engine.
RethinkX, for example, estimates that 10 years after having autonomous cars with legal regulation, 95% of the kilometers will be traveled in these electric robot-taxis.
Logically, the next step will be to prohibit human beings from driving, because they would represent a high risk for other users on the road.
Take a moment to think about the long-term effects this revolution will achieve, in addition to having already completely changed the way we move. There will be downsides: millions of auto workers and taxi drivers will have to find new jobs, for example.
But think of the hundreds of billions of euros that consumers will save, which would now be available to spend on other things.
Meanwhile, the number of cars will plummet. RethinkX estimates that the number of vehicles on the roads of the United States will drop from nearly 250 million to just 45 million over a 10-year period. This will free up enormous amounts of space in our towns and cities, something similar to what Pontevedra has experienced in Spain, by prohibiting the circulation of cars through the city center.
Realize this: we have not yet talked about the huge and incalculable environmental benefits of reducing the fleet of cars globally, and also that they are all electric.
But don’t think technology is driven by pollution or global warming concerns, but rather by money.