Tag Archives: cars

Driverless Cars will Disrupt Auto Industry Entirely

Thesis: Driverless cars will forever change the auto industry and create a more efficient system with less private ownership of automobiles.

Driverless cars are coming, and there is no stopping this massive new industry. The implications and potential impact of this new industry are so large that one could write a hundred blog posts. I will however, due to time, only focus on the personal ownership decreases that driverless cars will cause. This will disrupt the auto industry and completely eliminate some large automakers, unless they jump on board with this new technology, and fast.

As discussed by Chunka Mui in his Forbes article, “Personally owned cars are parked, on average, almost 95 percent of the time, so there is plenty of room to better utilize them through person-to-person car sharing or taxi-like car services.” This astonishing fact on the inefficiencies of current personal car ownership was astounding to me. It really opened my eyes as to the implications and how big this transition really can become. In the current day United States of America, it is almost a necessity to own a car, unless you live downtown in a large city. This is because public transportation is not widely available and easily accessible to all the little towns around. This could be changed by car sharing companies. I picture an app (much like, or possibly Uber) that allows an individual to schedule a car to come pick them up and drop them off at any time of the day. The costs that would be saved could be huge, since individuals won’t have to pay for auto insurance or make car payments every month. As mentioned later in Chunka’s article, “The same studies found that the cost of taxi service could be reduced by 50 to 80 percent by reducing labor cost and increasing operating efficiency through network coordination.” These cost savings will be enough to convince many people to not buy their own car, and instead rely entirely on car sharing services such as Uber.

While opponents to this argue that “The analysts write that “the average driver seems to like personal ownership over the alternatives, and the suburbs still dominate. 80% of people drive themselves to work alone. If people wanted more carpooling or mass transit, we could already make those choices, and we don’t.” This however could be overcome with car sharing. People may not choose carpooling or mass transit options currently because they like the solidarity and alone time of the commute to work. This will still be largely available to individuals to call their own car to take just them to work. A combination of Uber and driverless cars presents a whole new innovation that is ripe to disrupt the automobile industry entirely.

Auto Makers ‘Kill Two Birds with One Stone’

Thesis: Auto makers should get government credit for autonomous cars leading to reduced emissions.

Large auto makers are teaming up to try and persuade the government to give them credit for the cleaner environment and fuel efficiency that autonomous cars will create. This credit will be to count towards the corporate average fuel economy requirements that the government is forcing upon auto makers to try and reduce carbon emissions. These auto makers remain a long ways away from the stringent requirements that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency set to be reached by 2025. As Tom Krisher wrote in his article, Fuel Efficiency Standards, “The rules mean that all new vehicles would have to get an average of 54.5 miles per gallon [by 2025]… The requirements will be phased in gradually between now and then, and automakers could be fined if they don’t comply.” As Mike Spector wrote in the Wall Street Journal in his article, Self Braking Cars Are Safer, but Do They Boost MPG?, “Through the first two months of 2015, the average fuel economy of new light vehicles sold is just 25.2 mpg.” This means that these auto makers will have to more than double the current mpg standards in just ten years. This seems like a far fetched goal, which is why auto makers are fighting for these credits on autonomous cars.

Auto makers are arguing that “as safety features like automatic braking and adaptive cruise control become more widely available, traffic accidents are expected to fall. Fewer accidents will lead to less congestion and better traffic flow—factors that, when combined with speed management, could cut vehicle emissions by as much as 30%.” These improvements in the safety of driving cars will in turn lead to reduced emissions, which is why car companies should get credit. The entire purpose of the Obama administration’s decision to impose such strict measures was to reduce emissions, which will occur through these autonomous cars. While it may be a different, non-direct, route to reduced emissions, it is one that has many societal benefits. Not only will these autonomous cars reduce emissions, they will save lives! The government should encourage auto makers to make as much autonomous as possible to both reduce emissions and make cars much safer to drive. The government can should be doing all it can to encourage these auto makers to develop as many autonomous safety features as possible to achieve both ideal goals. The biggest argument against giving these auto makers these credits is that the government “contend auto makers are simply trying to get around meeting tougher mileage targets. They point out the auto industry has met requirements in previous years and shouldn’t get extra credit on fuel economy for making vehicles safer.” This viewpoint is confusing the underlying purpose of the regulations. As Tom Krisher wrote, “the regulations, will change the cars and trucks sold in U.S. showrooms, with the goal of slashing greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption.” Autonomous cars increasing safety leads to decreased traffic congestion are accomplishing the underlying purpose of these regulations. This is why the government should start giving credit to automakers for these contributions autonomous cars are making for society.

How Close are we to the Autonomous Car Revolution?

Self-driving cars are one of the impending technological advancements that consumers are the most excited about.  The idea that you could step into your car, punch in an address, and then divert your attention to something completely unrelated to driving while zooming to your destination is a very luxurious one, and it is one that is becoming more and more feasible every day.  Google, one of the pioneers in the field of driverless cars, has a fleet that has clocked almost a million miles with just one accident – which occurred when a car was rear-ended while under manual use, as noted in The Telegraph.  The company predicts that the product will be publicly available as soon as 2020, which is shockingly soon, all things considered.

Zack Kanter, a self-proclaimed futurist writing for CBS San Francisco, is one of the many extreme optimists regarding the topic of self-driving cars.  Citing the many benefits to be gained by taking drivers out of the equation, such as virtually eliminating traffic accidents, saving millions of hours of manpower, and the rise of newly viable businesses as driving forces, he made dramatic predictions about how driverless cars will reshape the economy.  Kanter believes that consumers will essentially abandon the car in favor of ride-sharing services like Uber, while said services make the transition from contracted drivers towards automatic cars.  He anticipates these changes will take effect as soon as 2025 – in just ten years time.  Is his prediction too bold?  Some might say no: it’s incredibly hard to predict how technology can reshape our lives.  Ten years ago people may have not believed you if you claimed that everybody would carry a personal computer-like device on them at all times, but smartphones made that a reality.  However, in the case of self-driving cars, I think Kanter and leading industry members like Elon Musk, who claims that fully-autonomous driving will be on the market by 2020, are being a bit too optimistic.

I certainly can’t see the average American giving up car ownership within the next ten years.  Consumers will see self-driving cars completely differently from how they currently view cars, since the product is fundamentally different.  While I think there will be some early adopters, like there was in the case of hybrid cars, it will take a while for people to get comfortable with the concept of giving up driving completely.  While it’s true that it’s often a chore, many people enjoy driving, and they certainly take pride in their cars.  And driverless cars will almost certainly be quite expensive when they first become available, creating an economic barrier to widespread adoption. There’s also the question of how driverless cars will be handled legally.  Even if there’s overwhelming evidence that they reduce accidents, there’s still the question of how liability will be determined in accidents when they do occur, especially while manually driven cars are still on the roads, and that’s an issue that may take years for precedent to develop.  Traffic laws may need to be re-evaluated: would we still need stoplights if there are fewer cars on the road, and they’re being automatically driven?  What about road signage or stop signs?  Will parking lots and traffic tickets become a thing of the past, and if so, how are municipalities going to deal with the loss of revenue?  The technology is an exciting one, but there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered before it can become the status quo.

Driverless Cars

Everybody remembers the first time they get behind the wheel. They can feel the adrenaline start to pump, hands clenched at ten and two o’clock just like dad said. Finally after listening to a long-winded speech about being safe driving and how “the car is no toy” you put the car in drive and are off! This is a once in a lifetime type feeling, but sadly one that kids in the future won’t get to experience. This is because the future is going to consist of driverless cars. This experience that has been such a big part of people’s lives for generations, is becoming automatized. This is going to bring about a big cultural shift as people adjust to not driving anymore, but being driven everywhere.

This transition has already been underway and is starting its long evolution to full automation at UPS to help make deliveries more efficient. This computer software has been the work of millions of dollars over years to try and save UPS money by creating the most efficient system of delivery packages, while maintaining some of the autonomy for delivery drivers. As mentioned in the Wall Street Journal article by Steven Rosenbush and Laura Stevens, At UPS, The Algorithm is the Driver, “Orion…is not an endgame; it is part of a platform,” Mr Abney, UPS’s CEO, said…UPS Engineers are already enhancing Orion so it will update delivery schedules while drivers are on the road, useful in a situation in which a driver might abandon Orion’s instructions because of an unexpected road closure due to an accident, but want to resume using Orion late in the day.” This self adjusting automation will save UPS millions of dollars a year in shipping costs, and is the type of software that self driving cars will eventually utilize. This will revolutionize many industries such as UPS’s as the need for delivery drivers dissipates.

One big concern with driverless cars is if they will be safe. This should not be of any concern because as Ray Massey writes in his article, Self-driving Cars hit UK Roads, “Many experts say that driverless cars could actually reduce the risk of accidents as computers are able to react a lot faster than humans.” He also notes “94% of road deaths and injuries involve human error.” This statistic alone is a reason advocating for driverless cars. Humans make mistakes, and while people may argue that computers do too, if we can even reduce the amount of accidents and traffic deaths by 20%, a very modest goal, we will save ~250,000 people’s lives. Which is reason enough to continue this movement to driverless cars.