The Benefits of Going Driverless
In the second of this two-part series exploring both sides of the autonomous vehicle movement, we assess the benefits of driverless vehicles.
The driverless car has broad implications for society, for the economy and for individual businesses. In the US alone, it is projected that driverless cars one day will generate approximately $2 trillion a year in revenue. On top of that, they will create business opportunities for the transportation industry, reduce traffic accidents and cause less harm to the environment. Let’s take a look at some of these benefits in more detail.
The trucking industry has been suffering from a driver shortage for some time, and some are touting driverless trucks as the solution. Recently, driverless trucks were brought in at iron ore mines in Australia, to alleviate safety concerns for drivers while also increasing efficiency. While those trucks operate on dirt mining roads and not city streets, it is just a matter of time before this changes.
Not only could driverless trucks combat the driver shortage, they could deliver a number of other tangible benefits, such as:
- Driverless trucks could operate around the clock, overcoming the limitations that current regulations place on driver hours.
- Safety concerns related to fatigued drivers would no longer exist.
- Freight turnover would increase due to shorter transit times. The resulting savings and increased revenues could be invested in other areas, for instance hiring more labour to speed up the loading/unloading process.
Many experts claim that the long-haul trucking industry has the most to gain from driverless vehicles, both in terms of economic benefits and safety.
Driverless car technology has the very real potential to save millions from death and injury and eliminate hundreds of billions of dollars of costs. Sebastian Thrun, the lead developer of Google’s driverless car, claims the following:
- We can reduce traffic accidents by 90%.
- We can reduce wasted commute time and energy by 90%.
- We can reduce the number of cars by 90%.
Simply put, Google is claiming its driverless car could save almost 30,000 lives each year on U.S. highways alone and prevent nearly 2 million injuries. It also claims that this will result in at least a $400 billion reduction in accident-related expenses every year in the U.S. Even if Google is way off—and we don’t believe it is—the improvement in safety will be a game-changer.
Cleaner, more efficient travel
There’s no doubt that driverless cars and trucks would reduce congestion, allowing cars to go faster, operate closer together, and choose more effective routes. All of these factors would reduce commute times, and fuel consumption. In fact, we’re already seeing some of these benefits as driverless trucks are currently being deployed in test mode as fleets in close proximity, working together in a similar way cyclists do to minimise wind resistance to reduce fuel consumption.
Driverless cars could also reduce the number of cars on the road by enabling efficient sharing of vehicles. A driverless vehicle could theoretically be shared by multiple people, delivering itself when and where it is needed, and parking itself in a remote location when not in use.
The driverless vehicle will one day be a part of our lives, and once it is it will have a significant impact on how we work and live. With the technologies and policy changes required to make this a reality rapidly emerging, the time to act is now. Anyone who moves people or products from point A to point B, including manufacturers, retailers and logistics providers, must prepare to adapt and make the most of this new opportunity.