Among all the latest and promising advancements in artificial intelligence, one of the technologies that stand out and has the potential to make a great impact on our daily lives and the world economy and societies, is that of self-driving cars which are also known as driverless or autonomous (automated) cars.
But, what is an autonomous, self-driving, or driverless vehicle?
Self-driving cars or vehicles are designed to act independently and be capable of moving from one place to another without input or interference from a human being or operator. Autonomous vehicles can include planes, cars, and ships.
Presently, all the cars that are designed to exhibit some level of self-driving ability still depend on humans to control the car steering wheel, whenever it becomes necessary to do so.
But from what we are witnessing from present-day technological advancements, the future would be different: self-driving cars will not likely have or need steering wheels to turn vehicles’ around during any ride.
Although it may sound absurd to imagine someone “driving” without ever needing to control their car, some vast minds have already been turning this thought into reality. The reality would also attract enormous implications for our day-to-day activities and lives.
There will likely be even more benefits of self-driving cars in the future than we can ever imagine, presently. For now, these are some potential benefits we can expect:
1. More safety and reduced cases of accidents on the streets
With self-driving cars’ computers constantly monitoring their respective surroundings, the traffic and streets would be safer for passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians; in addition, people would have to worry less about likely accidents caused by drunk-driving and cell phone distractions because the probability that self-driving cars would be “under the influence” is zero or next to zero.
2. Reduced hospital expenses
Consequently, as a result of fewer car accidents, there would be safer traffic and streets which, in turn, would reduce hospital expenses that stem from injuries caused by typical car accidents.
3. Improved traffic efficiency
Because self-driving cars are not like many human drivers who usually have unreliable or improper driving habits, their presence will pave way for less traffic congestion and better traffic flow. This will enable police officers to save time and focus on more serious issues instead of wasting time on traffic-related incidences or accidents and tickets.
4. Increased output or productivity
With self-driving cars that are tasked with driving and navigating, the human occupants’ respective levels of output or productivity could be positively and even greatly impacted because they wouldn’t need to spend time on driving. As a result, they would have more time to focus on improving other important aspects of their job.
5. Faster expansion of businesses
With self-driving navigational systems that can evaluate the shortest and quickest routes and also traverse them, deliveries can be made more efficiently, and businesses and economies can expand much faster than has usually been the case.
6. Reduced cases of parking problems
Large areas of space are often allocated for parking in many countries and people usually park improperly, especially in countries where traffic and parking are not so organized. But with self-driving cars that are programmed to park properly, fewer areas of space and fewer parking lots would be needed. The implication is that more space would be allocated for other purposes such as residential and commercial buildings, and agriculture.
7. More options for cheaper mobility
With self-driving cars in place, taxi or human drivers wouldn’t be necessary. As has already been estimated—if all related factors remain balanced or equal—self-driving taxis would be roughly 60% less expensive than current taxi fares.
The competition between different self-driving car services could create more options for cheaper mobility and make self-driving taxis more affordable for people to get to where they want.
8. Reduced negative environmental impact
If self-driving cars are programmed to move more efficiently and through short routes, less fuel would be consumed, thereby further resulting in much less overall energy consumption and negative environmental impact.
With the world’s focus on environmental sustainability, which is presently much higher than at any other time in recorded history, many self-driving cars will be fuelled or propelled by renewable energy sources or electricity.
This would result in even much less emission of climate- and health-damaging gases such as nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide.