It’s exciting to think about the future. Since the technology boom, there are endless possibilities for how we can shape the world. This is truer than ever in the automotive industry. The earliest innovations included digitizing production of cars and powering them electrically. But in 2017, we have gotten much further. A number of companies are discussing the very real possibility of having self-driving cars integrated into the mainstream driving culture. Right now, it’s still a prototype. But what would a world of self-driving cars look like?
Self-driving cars are essentially a hive of personal data for hackers. Private companies have to collect a lot of data from drivers in order to enhance their driving experience, and that makes drivers completely vulnerable. Think about it, you need to enter where you are going to go, when, and where you are coming from at a minimum. That, in and of itself, is extremely useful data. Businesses can build your profile and target things to you based on that information.
Additionally, there is the issue of whom the data belongs to once it is registered. This is an area of the industry that is still largely unregulated. Once the data is entered into the vehicle, who has the official rights to it? Does it belong to the manufacturer or the company? Where does the individual willing (or indeed, implicitly) hand over the rights to this data? And to whom? Many unanswered questions still plague the fully automated industry.
There is a big push to look into self-driving vehicles as a way to reduce accidents. In Australia alone, where a study was commissioned to look at the feasibility of self-driving vehicles, they found at nearly 1,300 deaths in Australia are a result of car accidents. Similarly, it is the leading cause of death in the United States. Therefore, there is motivation to better integrate fully autonomous vehicles. However, there are still gaps in the technology and it is not guaranteed self-driving vehicles will have as large of an impact as needed if they are mixed in with non-self driving vehicles. The unpredictability is still too large.
There are those who speculate the self-driving game could even change how we pay for transportation. Once you get ride sharing and sponsors in the mix, anything is possible. Imagine a world in which Google took you to and from work, for free. Of course there is a catch. You might have to spend 15-20 minutes at a sponsoring location (say McDonalds, Starbucks, or any other retailer). It could be wildly convenient for anyone needing to do some shopping and for anyone not needing to, all the better for sponsors. There has to be ways to make companies more competitive and its possible this would be the direction companies take. A company that is already as successful as Google could afford this sort of competitive edge, at least in the short term, for select clients.
How Wild Can This Trend Become
There are endless predictions for how this can go. There are those that theorize liquor sales could go up, since no one needs a designated driver for a self-driving car. Others say people may begin over consume rides to places since self-driving makes it so easy and convenient. While that may be true in the short term (a car that drives itself is cool, let’s face it), that probably won’t happen. First off, the videos of self-driving cars crashing is not helping their marketing pitch. But let us imagine a world where we have moved beyond that. Even then, no one is going to go on alcohol binges. Uber and Taxicabs have already existed for years. Not to mention buses. The novelty of the self-driving car would eventually wear off and is not likely to have as dramatic of an effect as people are hoping for.
Overall, the most useful thing that may happen, according to experts, is that the rate of accidents on the road due to human error. However, it is fun to imagine many of the other absurd effects as well, even if they are not plausible. One never knows, in the end. Much of this comes down to how far designers are willing to push the limit. The industry is changing and fast, and that is a fact that is steadfast as we come into the New Year.