Published: August 8, 2013
I was driving from San Francisco airport today to Palo Alto because of my meetings in the morning, and I have to say after 15 hours of flight and a total of 20 hours of flying, its not easy to sit in the car and drive for an hour, making me think even deeper about self-driving cars, especially since this is the place the Google one is being born. I admire that Google and other players have gotten so extensively involved with self-driving cars. In fact, I would adore self-driving cars. Even though I love driving for the sport itself, its a complete waste of time. If I look at the number of hours in my life that I have spent in my car, at the end of my life, it could be up at maybe a few years in a car? Thats horrible, especially if you are the driver and constantly have to watch the road.
An average american spends under 2 hours in a car every day. Its an average, so with 250 million driving americans, we are looking at quite some time change. You can say that not all are drivers, but even if one is just riding and not driving, he has to have some level of eyes on the road. Quick look at the highway today, over half the cars were only with the driver (including mine). Still, 50 000 years a day is a huge saving, even though the number might be a heavy estimate, and it could be more like 20 – 30 000 years. Hell, thats not bad.
If all drivers in the world (lets say 1 billion) drive self-driving cars for say 1 hour per day (not to mention efficiencies if there are 100% of them), over 1 billion people-years would be saved in the next 100 years. Now don’t get me wrong, but thats a LOT of time saved, possibly the biggest time saver you can find in the world.
This is why I am a huge advocate of self-driving cars, and I really want them to come as soon as possible. Just imagine the savings.
Where would the savings go? I am pretty sure a majority of regular work commuters would spend it working more efficiently. The minority would then probably spend it as they are now, lowering our overall efficiency savings one last time.
1 huge obstacle of self-driving cars
The biggest obstacle I can see with self-driving cars other than technologically completing them (although they seem pretty good to me) is safety. Not for the first few drivers, but when there is a big amount of them on the road. And not because of the self-driving cars, but because of other cars. Of course, in the long-run, when 100% of people use self-driving cars, the road becomes a much safer place (almost 100% safe). The problem of course is different, its the other drivers that don’t have self-driving cars. I could easily find “auto hackers”, that might want to get your insurance by knowing how to trick the self-driving car to bumping you just a tiny bit so it has to pay for insurance, or even worse, really do something bad to you. You would think who would do that? If self-driving cars get quite advanced, I can see this happening very easily. Of course, a self-driving car can’t have bugs, as you rely on these bugs many times with your life and the life of your children. I think there is a technological & mental barrier that needs to be taken down.
The number of backup systems that needs to be in place for people to trust it well is huge, and when the car fails, it needs to have some sort of module to do something. I think this will come down to the engineering and actual building of the cars when you work on them. The other thing is crazy situation where the human driver (at least for now) might be better equipped (natural disasters, etc. – where a humans instinct might not be replaceable at least for now).
1 huge downside of self-driving cars
The biggest downside of self-driving cars other than security is the fact that there are quite a lot of drivers in the world. These drivers of taxis, delivery services, transportation basically will not be needed anymore (or at some very basic level). If the entire world is running on self-driving cars, all of these people’s jobs are practically gone once this happens, and this is not the thing of tomorrow. If blind people can drive self-driving cars from Google (see YouTube video), then everyone really can.
We are talking about taxis (like 100 000 jobs), truck drivers (3 million in US), postal services (USPS alone had 212 000 vehicles in 2012, and thats not even ), possibly more drivers), and many more. We are probably talking about 15 – 20% of jobs immediately at threat with self-driving cars. Vehicle transportation is the first industry really heavily endangered by self-driving cars. I didn’t do enough research to look into what people started doing after the industrial revolution, but I have to certainly look into it. Because this is surely coming.
If you are a say on the board member of DHL, and your competitors are just talking to self-driving car companies, wouldn’t you be the first company to innovate? These moves of these companies and the competitive aspect when they save hundreds of thousands on jobs – this could go in billions of dollars in savings for such huge companies.
How would a taxi work? Well, similarly to how Uber works. You would call a cab, it would have a set place, park in it, you’d get in and punch the destination. Very easy. With buses its a bit harder. The bus driver can act as a hostess and operating mechanic in one in this case.
When we are finished – and 100% of the world is self-driving
We will really save 50 000 years of car time only in the U.S., and where we can take our eyes off the road. Accidents will be practically gone.
Maybe we can use that time to finally solve some of the deeper real-world problems, rather than chasing for short-term issues.