Self-Driving Cars Will Change Things

I realize that self-driving cars will change how we drive, but it will also change many other auto related things as well (even some financial aspects of our lives).

What happens to Car Insurance? If most of the cars on the road are being driven by computer and such, will insurance rates drop? They should, but will they? Will we even need car insurance? The concept of lower rates for better drivers goes away, since none of us will drive, thus we should all get the same rate (shouldn’t we?). Other things that can affect your rates now come into question too:

  • Distance you commute to work, does that even matter any more?
  • Age of the driver, an 18 and 85 year old are the same when they aren’t the driver.
  • Type of car being driven shouldn’t really matter, in terms of whether it is a sports car, RV, sedan or pick up truck, only the relative cost of replacement (or maybe not?).
  • The theft portion of your auto insurance might be lower, as the new cars should be harder to steal (if new ignition systems are used), and certainly be easier to retrieve?

If cars are this much safer, do they still need to be that safe in terms of an ability to survive a crash? My guess is yes, since mechanical failure is possible (i.e. flat tires, failed systems, etc.,) so that kind of safety won’t be going away any time soon. The GPS industry will change, as our cars will have them built-in, will that mean the end of Garamond and other GPS companies, or will they evolve to some other useful idea?

Will we need to have parking lots? If a car can drop you off at work, and then either go home or drive somewhere else so that someone else can use it (e.g. your wife), then will the concept of a parking lot become obsolete ? Why do we need to tie down so much real estate so that cars can wait for us (hopefully somewhere close)? Wouldn’t I just send my car home after it dropped me off?

Google Self Driving Car

A Google Rendition of their Self Driving Car

Uber and Taxis might both just disappear, or maybe Uber would take over, if I could have my car drop me off at work, and then act as a “Ride Service” which I would be paid a premium when used? This might lead to a great deal less cars on the road too, that should lower insurance rate as well, shouldn’t it? Do you really need that many flights on shorter haul trips? Overnight car trips suddenly become more attractive and cheaper.

How will governments intervene into the technology? Will local governments be able to divert cars off heavily used roads to alternate routes? Schedule snow clearance and divert cars away from areas having snow cleared? Same would be true for road repair as well, you can easily divert cars elsewhere and be able to repair roads during reasonable hours (less work done over night). Will there be need for more roads? I think both sides of that argument are possible.

At first blush you’d think the following driving violations would simply disappear:

  • Distracted driving, since we don’t need to notice, we can be oblivious and not kill anyone.
  • Impaired or under the influence should go away, although if you are too drunk to tell your car to take you home, what do you do then?
  • Speeding? Again, I suspect there are going to be “cheat codes” to make that possible
  • Driving with an expired drivers license? Do we need those any more? Driving with expired registration might go away, if they hook into the government’s DB, and not allow cars that aren’t license to start.
  • Running a red light, or a stop sign, assuming everything is hooked together well.
  • Driving too slowly, will this mean that Quebec highways will no longer need posted minimum speeds?
  • Demerit points would go away, since it is a mechanical system doing the driving (you can’t penalize the human riding in the car, or can you)?

I am sure there are a few I have not thought about, but how will that change how Police work?

Will we have car offices, where we can work while commuting to our office? You aren’t driving, maybe you get some work done, or maybe you watch a movie? Will folks be tricking out their cars so that they are nicer leisure environments? Hacking the control systems will become a huge black-market for those wishing to get an advantage on things.

An interesting financial question is will families need to have two cars? If you can schedule things with pick up and drop off, maybe 1 car can deal with all the family transportation needs. Lower insurance and less cars means more money in family pockets.

{ 5 comments }

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Michael James April 27, 2016, 11:08 AM

    I think you’ve focused on a transition period that will last only a few years. Eventually, people won’t bother to own cars at all. They will just order up a car whenever they need one from one of several services like Uber. One analysis I saw estimates that travel costs will drop from US$0.75/mile to US$0.15/mile as we transition from owning cars today to Ubering self-driving cars in the future.

    Reply
    • bigcajunman April 27, 2016, 12:47 PM

      That is an interesting hypothesis, and we shall see whether that transpires, but certainly the transition period in between from our current automobile world to a fully automated driving world will be quite interesting.

      Reply
    • CalgaryPotato May 2, 2016, 12:14 PM

      I’m not sure I buy that all people will be comfortable simply using borrowed cars all the time. I know lots of people who could save money today by using rentals/taxis as opposed to owning but don’t do that, because they want a car of their own.

      I know my minivan is stocked with stuff all of the time, and the idea of having to unload the car every time I get home, and load up someone else’s car is painful. Heck, I know for me I like having my car handy parked with other things I may need that I don’t want to carry around, having the self driving car to come by, supports that model, a purely rental strategy really doesn’t.

      Reply
  • Money Beagle April 27, 2016, 10:16 AM

    Could mean a lot less road rage too. LOL.

    This is a great list but the one thing I wonder is the transition for the time where these cars would be the minority and then slowly start to take over the roads.

    You will also likely have other circumstances that need to be considered. What about semi trucks or RVs or landscaping trailers or other things that might not necessarily fit in with the autonomous driving model?

    Reply
    • bigcajunman April 27, 2016, 10:28 AM

      Very good points, and thus overnight shipments are no longer something you have to pay a premium for, as you are simply putting it on a self-driving truck? Might make delivery cheaper? Maybe not….

      Reply

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