The future of the autonomous car is like Southern Trains – everybody knows they’re coming, they just don’t know when. Many of the greatest inventors and technological minds have weighed in on the subject. Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering at Google and the man behind such predictions as the ability to upload your brain to the cloud and buy more synthetic neo-cortex directly from inside your brain as well as Geoffrey Hinton.
A new opinion on the subject caught my attention earlier this week. It’s an article from Wired talking about the associated space and design benefits of autonomous cars. Below is an extract from the article:
But it’s in Phase 3, after 2040, that the fun begins. This is the point where autonomous cars become our primary means of transport, and all the rules are up for debate. Just as car design will fundamentally change once things like forward-facing seats, mirrors, and pedals are no longer necessary, the way we structure physical space could evolve: McKinsey predicts that by 2050, we might need just 75 percent of the space we now reserve for parking our cars. Because this is America, that means we get back 5.7billion square meters of space—enough to hold the Grand Canyon and then some. That’s because autonomous cars can pack themselves together tightly (no need to allow space for human to exit).
More than that though, our entire idea of car ownership could change. Currently, cars sit unused about 95 percent of the time. That leaves a lot of room for improvement in terms of how we allocate resources.
We won’t stop buying cars altogether—people will still want the option to “independently drive and use the vehicle, and have fun doing so,” says Kaas— but we will buy fewer cars. Without the need for a human at the helm, one autonomous vehicle could take the place of two conventional vehicles: If Joan is going golfing and Joe needs to go shopping, a single car could drop Joan off at the club, swing back to the house to take Joe to the supermarket and back, then return to the club and get Joan. Kaas also predicts you could see the rise of private commuting services, shuttling customers around for a fee.
Wired article here: http://www.wired.com/2015/03/the-economic-impact-of-autonomous-vehicles/