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Thinking Out Loud: What Autonomous Vehicles Could Mean

There’s a lot of talk about autonomous vehicles these days – both the opportunities and the ramifications. It’s an exciting prospect of being able to travel “autonomously” beyond texting carefree or reading a book.

Consider the following:
  • The alleviation of traffic. With autonomy comes prediction. With prediction comes the ability to mitigate traffic. Cars could potentially fly down roads well past current speed limits as they behave in hive-like manner. Imagine a beautifully orchestrated, synchronized traffic system where vehicles notify each other when they’re turning and exiting. Human reactionary delays and errors cause most of traffic, so the elimination of human thinking leads to huge opportunities.
  • Going farther away from city centers. With autonomy comes the ability to be productive the moment workers leave their homes. They can work on computers much like commuters do today on planes, buses, and trains. As such, there can be a migration away from business epicenters as commutes become a part of the workday.
  • The line between homes and vehicles start to blur. In one example, you can see how a company like Cabin will continue to pave the way for travelers to sleep/ live between destinations. Or, you can have a Jetson’s like experience where people roll out of bed and get completely prepared for the day on the drive. Perhaps there will be a rise in nomadic living where larger vehicles become actual living spaces. People then travel and live wherever they want.
Of course, opportunities create more opportunities (or challenges). Trucking, as an industry, is an area with a lot of potential to lose should autonomous vehicles take over trucking – especially regional and longer hauls – with 3.5M people employed professionally. The jobs that autonomous vehicles could displace are jarring.

Would ride-sharing services become even bigger as people shift to autonomous vehicles? Vehicles lend themselves as service running routes daily. Car ownership, then, could decrease as efficiency and productivity increase of shared vehicles. On the flip side then, more utilization could lead to higher maintenance intervals promoting needs for mechanic professionals. (Unless those get automated, too!)

The prospects of autonomous vehicles are incredible. They will change the way we live, work, and play. They’ll have massive opportunities as well as massive challenges. Either way, autonomous is coming. How we prepare for that will be key to how we continue to innovate and shape the future.

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