I've long been a proponent and follower of the idea that cars should drive themselves. I've watched and read about the Darpa Challenge and even quietly thought the government should fund a whole parallel infrastructure where only self driving cars were allowed. Last October when I found out that google had been working on a project I was downright giddy. If you haven't seen the video from this year's TED conference it's awesome to see the car in action. Video
Why am a so excited about this prospect?
1. Decoupling of the "you are what you drive" idea- For some unknown reason people believe their car is an extension of who they are as a person. "I'm a austin martin" or "I'm a ford pinto". I am very confident that once you move from a driver of the vehicle to a passenger this oneness with the car will diminish if not disappear altogether and once this happens we can begin to just get in the next car that's going our way. If a car is just a way to get from A to B then as long as what I'm riding in is safe, comfortable and clean it doesn't really matter and I'm just trying to get somewhere.
2. Cars sit idle most of the day- 85% of the time your car isn't being used. This is just a plain waste of resources, the world could use a lot fewer cars IF they were used more efficiently, then the resources used to build and maintain those cars could move elsewhere in our society. Maybe most importantly we would need much less parking and parking lots to keep those cars.
3. Usher in the use of electric cars. Electricity is cleaner and more efficient than gas burning cars. Given it doesn't matter what car I get in cars can be sent to a charging station when the need charged and a fully charged replaces it on the street to pick up the next passenger
4. Productivity increase- Americans spend more than 100 hours every year in their car . That's more than two weeks of work. There's a lot of lost productivity that could happen now with ipads, smartphones and laptops while people were commuting. Once there is a realization by business of how much can be done without being in the office there will be less people going into the office, and will just work from home part of the time
5. Goods getting to market faster- Without the restriction of how much time can be spend driving computers will just drive goods to their destination without stops. Again this will allow the more than 3,000,000 drivers move to more productive activities for our world.
6. Getting Goods to MY HOUSE- How many of my trips in a car are to "run to get something"? there's a lot and once the car can pick up some milk and bring it home is there really a reason for me to be inside the thing?
7. Safety. There are more than 30,000 people in the US alone killed in accidents. That's not to mention those hurt or incapacitated for life. Self driving cars won't reduce that to zero but even if it cuts it in half that's great. Notice I didn't mention safety first. It's very important but there's so much more promise of a autonomous transportation device.
8. Finally the Flying Car-- Okay I know, I know this is the thing of science fiction but I do hold out some hope here. My thought is that once we are comfortable with computers driving us around we'll save more on infrastructure costs and make all this other happen faster by just having flying cars. But maybe that just makes me like this onion anchor.