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Published On: Thu, Feb 22nd, 2018

What Impact Will Self-Driving Cars Have on Our Economy and Society?

The self-driving car has been a fantasy for decades, but is gradually becoming a reality.

Major brands like Tesla, Google, and more are performing exhaustive testing on their own vehicles in their shared quest to bring driverless cars to the mainstream market. Millions of drivers across the globe are doubtless excited at the prospect of being driven from A to B by a virtual chauffeur – but what impact will these revolutionary vehicles have on the economy and society?

photo/ Gerd Altmann via pixabay

What Economic Changes can We Expect?

One of the biggest changes autonomous vehicles are set to make is saving lives. It’s believed that self-driving cars could save as many as 300,000 lives each year in America alone. This does not take the millions of other drivers worldwide switching to autonomous vehicles into account, which would obviously boost that number far higher.

So, what does this have to do with the economy? Reducing the number of vehicular crashes and accidents in America would lead to an economic saving of around $99 billion every single year. However, this figure varies dependent on the driving habits of each vehicle, distance traveled, and the activities people undertake while sitting behind the wheel.

It’s possible than the economic benefit of autonomous cars could eventually rise as high as more than $600 billion per year. The money saved through safer driving conditions could be used elsewhere, such as improving public services, producing cleaner energy and covering losses suffered elsewhere.

A wider adoption of electric cars, when combined with autonomous technology, would affect fuel demand, which would further impact the economy, with fewer drivers spending money on oil. Driverless vehicles will drive more efficiently too, taking more direct routes and wasting less fuel, making a full tank go further.

However, the charging technology utilized by electric cars is continuing to create new opportunities for willing entrepreneurs.

Less need for drivers in such areas as taxis, buses, delivery trucks, and more is problematic, leaving people whose only job experience is on the roads to consider their own value. A mass adoption of self-driving vehicles could rob thousands upon thousands of people of work, leading to increased strain on the welfare system.

What Social Changes can We Expect?

Improved safety is perhaps the biggest social change autonomous cars will instigate. The emotional cost of being involved in a vehicular accident, or losing someone in such circumstances, can be incredibly traumatic.

With less risk of collisions with other vehicles, railings, or other obstacles, drivers will be able to hit the road with more self-assurance. Fewer injuries and deaths will equate to fewer days missed from work, less money paid for recovering drivers without work being produced, and reduced compensation being paid out to bereaved families.

“Accidents will still happen,” an executive from San Jose’s B.B Auto Tow said, “as not every car on the road will be autonomous for a long, long time. Drivers in full control of their vehicle will still collide with others, and even the best on-board computer may be prone to glitches or mistakes.”

A significant fear is that people will lose their driving jobs and be rendered unemployable. However, this will create opportunities in other sectors, allowing them to retrain or apply their experience to more diverse roles. New retraining schemes and programs will be created in time to help professionals losing out in shifting conditions.

However, all of this assumes that driverless cars will become the standard overnight. Adoption is likely to take decades, with companies having to invest staggering amounts of money into computerized fleets. There will be motivation to cut costs by eliminating the need to pay drivers, but this is extremely unlikely to outweigh the price of restructuring their entire business in all but the wealthiest enterprises.

Autonomous cars will bring changes, but none of these will be instant. The economy and society will have more time to adjust than some of us may imagine.

Author: Anderson Lele

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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