Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are in the news a lot lately. From Tesla’s Autopilot to Uber’s driverless cars, we’re really starting to see an upswing in the credibility of this tech. I can see how this technology would greatly benefit the trucking industry—if not necessarily truckers. And, I can definitely get behind Uber’s use of the tech, as well. My only (and horrible) Uber ride in Birmingham convinced me never to use Uber in Birmingham again. Plus, some Uber drivers like to talk and I’m just not into that level of human interaction sometimes. If I wanted that in my life, I’d take more trips to the hair salon. So, from a business/commercial standpoint—aside from a decrease in jobs—AVs are a pretty smart investment.
In the consumer market, however, will AVs be beneficial? Probably. Will they be wanted? That’s seriously up for debate. Will they be needed? I imagine sometime in the future, the answer to that will be yes.
Benefits of Autonomous Consumer Vehicles
It seems likely that AVs will provide pretty significant benefits for consumers. No human error means—on paper, at least—fewer accidents. And, with all the incredible road rage stories in the news lately (my cure for road rage is Tenacious D and The Lonely Island, personally) taking humans out of the driver’s seat may reduce violence. Of course, increased fuel economy and reduced emissions make AVs friendly to both wallet and earth.
You should realize by now that I always look for the health benefits in tech and, likewise, I see a big one in AVs: stress reduction. AVs—once perfected—have the ability to reduce the stresses that come with driving. The aforementioned road rage, for instance. Commuters will no longer have to worry about navigating traffic. Even better, they won’t have to worry about navigating areas they don’t know well. We know from numerous studies that stress is a factor in weight gain, depression, anxiety, poor sleep, high blood pressure, and other negative health issues.
AVs will also give you back your commute time. Instead of spending your commute driving, you can safely handle those emergency work situations, get in last minute studying for a final exam or, hell, even meditate if you want. Feeling less pressed for time is another stress alleviator.
One of the Biggest Concerns
For some people, driving isn’t stressful. In fact, it’s fun and freeing. It’s a hobby done in spare time to help relax during beautiful summer days. For some people, AVs are the enemy. This article in The Guardian points out that new automobile tech often rouses unhappiness—the airbag, anti-lock brakes, power steering, automatic transmissions, etc.—with the main complaint being that all the fun of driving will be taken away. Sometimes, that’s true. Driving a manual is much more fun and rewarding than driving an automatic. Driving an automatic, however, is much more practical.
We’re a long way from AVs taking over, but it seems inevitable that AVs will dominate sometime down the road. We’re in the introduction and perfecting time of the tech right now. After that, it’ll be consumer’s choice. Eventually, it’ll become a government mandated thing. I think that’s the big fear. AVs are very cool, very impressive, but like anything else, it’s only cool because it’s offered. It’s cool because we can choose to partake in this tech, or we can choose to drive ourselves. Once that choice is taken away, AVs become much less impressive. Of course, by the time citizens are forced to give up the skill that is driving, driving lovers will probably be long dead.