Our World With Self Driving Cars / by Josh Brincko

Autopilot is a very exciting topic to me because it WILL change the way we live on a scale much more grand than we have ever experienced. Smart phones and the internet have drastically changed the way and speed in which we access information and communicate with one another. Although this has been a huge change, the internet and cell phones have really not done much to change the basic ways in which we live. We still do all the same things we used to do before cell phones, but now we just communicate and query for information more frequently. Other than that, we fundamentally do the same things we used to do, but we just do them electronically. The biggest change this may have enabled is the fact that we can do more things remotely. There is less of a requirement of being in a certain location. This flexibility of accomplishing more tasks from any given place paired with autonomous driving vehicles will be the combo that will truly redefine the way we live. 

As more jobs can be "work from home" and more shopping is done online, there is less and less of a demand for us to drive. Also with drone delivery and 3D printing of products at home (yes, someday soon you will print your own Amazon purchase on your home 3D printer), the demand for driving is even further diminished. This creates less of a demand to really own a vehicle for some people. Currently, car sharing services such as Car2Go and Reach Now already serve this need. In populated areas, it is becoming easier to borrow a car than to own one. For a pay-by-the-minute rate, a city dweller can easily drive a borrowed brand new car without the hassle of making car payments, insurance payments, paying for gas (or even filling up with gas at all), paying for maintenance, paying for parking, etc. The only downside of this is you can't leave stuff in the car for later - you have to bring everything with you. Other than that, the car sharing services are very easy and cost effective when compared to buying and maintaining your own car since they are literally scattered all over cities ready for you to jump in and jump out with minimal planning. 

Autonomous vehicles will change this dynamic even more. Instead of using an app to find a car (or your own car), you will use an app for your car (or a shared car) to find you. A car could be summoned to pick you up at any time or place. Teslas already have a "summon" feature that will open your garage door (then close it), pick you up at your door, and start driving you to your destination. This technology already exists. Once it becomes more prominent, people will realize there is no need to have your own car just sitting in a parking space while you are sitting in your office or at home watching Netflix. You could rent out your self driving car during the day while you are working as it taxis other people on its own and earns you money. Or you could forego owning a car altogether and reserve one to pick you up and drop you off. You could also elect to share rides with other people along your same route. This is already an option with Uber which enables you to travel at a reduced fare by sharing your ride with random people (like a bus). 

Once the technology is perfected and all vehicles are autonomous, the real change begins. There will be no more drunk driving. No more texting and driving. No more traffic fatalities. No more need for auto insurance. No real need for street signs, stop lights, or no parking zone signs. There will be no need for stopping at all. Cars will automatically regulate themselves and will not need to stop for one another - only pedestrians. No more traffic tickets. No more parking tickets. No more speeding tickets. No more traffic cops. Yes!!!! There will be no more traffic jams. With the reduced number of vehicles and a database of everyones' travel plans, a logarithm will determine the fastest routes for everyone simultaneously. No more idiot driver in front of you doing 25 in a 45 or 45 in a 25. No more road rage. With less cars, we will need less lanes. Maybe even less pavement since streets only need to be under the tires. No more delivery drivers. No more taxi drivers. No more agricultural tractor, plow, or combine drivers. A lot of farming could be completely automated. 

The automation of movement causes less stress, creates more efficiency, and this provides for better opportunity. When we have more time available, we can live more fulfilling lives. We can focus on being people again. We can talk to one another while in the car. We can accomplish things while in the car. Everyone will always have access to a car. Kids will always have a ride to their practice. No license needed - just parents' permission.

Travel time will not be a factor. This will change the size of cities. It will be possible to  travel accross the country while sleeping, eating, working, or watching a movie while "driving." 

Autonomous vehicles are likely to be electric powered. This will cause another revolution. The current problem with electricity production is the fact that electricity cannot be stored unless you have a battery. Batteries are expensive. The power company must make more power than what is needed since it cannot be stored effectively. This means a lot of energy is wasted. Electric cars all have batteries. While these cars are sitting, they are plugged in to charge. With millions of electric cars plugged into the grid, we now have the batteries necessary to store excess energy. Excess energy can be stored in our cars, and our cars can also provide energy back into the grid when demand is high but the car is not needed. Cars will be mobile power stations that store the power created by the power company. With all of this battery power, the power company may run more efficiently and create the exact amount of power needed with minimal waste. This saves coal. This reduces the need for more nuclear power plants, more wind turbines, more solar panels, and more hydroelectric dams. This all reduces the impact on our environment. This makes it possible for all energy to be renewable and to greatly diminish our dependence on oil while reducing pollution. 

Electric cars, autonomous driving, and smart phones will all work together to actually simplify our lives and protect our environment. Many of us will not need to go to work or to the store like we used to. This will be greatly reduced. We will visit one another. We will go places together. We will enjoy each others' company. This will be an exciting time to be part of. I strongly believe my kids will never need to drive a car, and I will sleep better knowing this is one less thing for me to worry about. Will I be able to draw while "driving?"


Here's a great article on the topic:  


Tesla is changing the electric grid - CNET