Driverless cars at the forefront of innovation and infrastructure.
By Kent Kwan, Co-founder and CEO at Elevate Super
With the increased awareness and concerns around population growth as well as having emissions from motor vehicles responsible as one of the biggest contributors to climate change around the world, there is no denying that driverless cars will have a place in our world into the foreseeable future.
Not only can automation help reduce the number of crashes on our roads by reducing the risk of dangerous driver behaviours, it can also allow city planners to focus on green space more than roads and would give every commuter more time in their days.
Development of driverless cars speeding ahead
The leaders in Silicon Valley have taken notice and are investing directly or indirectly in the automotive industry with a view to improving road safety as well as improve efficiencies in road transport generally.
Google has been testing autonomous cars, Apple is targeting car production by 2024 with its self-driving and battery technology and then there is Tesla Motors, the manufacturer of fully electric cars founded by Elon Musk, who made his initial fortune through PayPal. Traditional players such as Ford and BMW are already testing their own driverless vehicles, with Volvo having them on the road from 2017.
And then there is Uber, which shook up the road transport industry with its so-called ‘ride-sharing service’. While controversial, it has been game-changing and continues to expand into new markets.
In May 2016, Uber revealed that it had begun testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. However in December 2020, the company announced its selling its autonomous vehicle business to Aurora Innovations, a San Francisco-based startup founded by the former head engineer of Google’s self-driving car project. As part of the deal, Aurora’s self-driving cars will operate on Uber’s ride-hailing platform and Uber will invest will invest $400 million in Aurora.
Winners and losers from driverless cars
The potential benefits of driverless cars are hard to quantify at this time but there is no doubt that there will be great savings in efficiency, time and overall productivity to be gained from vehicles that drive themselves.
- Logistics will be greatly improved and peak hour traffic should lessen with better radar guidance control and telematics (gathering of information and communication between cars).
- Roads are likely to be safer with less reliance on human drivers and associated dangers such as drink-driving, speeding, fatigue and inattention, particularly as a result of unsafe use of technology while driving.
- Maintenance will be better managed as software increasingly becomes a key part of a car and becomes more adept at detecting and solving mechanical issues, preventing more expensive and complex repairs down the line.
It would be reasonable to assume that businesses would be the earliest adopters of such technology as they would be able to view the technology from an economic, rather than an emotional, perspective.
Trucking companies would no longer have to worry about the safety of their drivers (and the goods they are carrying) who may otherwise be facing tough time pressures while driving over long distances. Courier services can save on labour costs and improve delivery times.Industries which stand to be potentially worse off from such technology include:
- Airlines: increased efficiency and safety of roads is likely to reduce the need for short haul flights.
- Car parts: fewer accidents and better ‘driving’ means less wear and tear, and ultimately, less need for maintenance and consumables.
- Insurance: premiums are likely to drop with safer roads and fewer instances of accidents.
- Car parks: as cars will be able to move around continuously, there will be less need for long and medium term car spaces.
Resource companies have also been using large driverless trucks in and around mine sites. Self- or assisted-parking has been a feature in mass production cars for a few years now. With so many large multi-nationals now playing in this space, the march towards an entirely new industry is inevitable.
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