Private transportation has long been an activity that requires full human control and attention. Cars and trucks need a driver that can watch the road every second and steer the vehicle to its destination. However, this way of getting from "here" to "there," is going away. Over the next few decades or maybe even in the next few years, the autonomous vehicle will become a widespread technology in the United States.
|Companies Involved in AV Research|
|Currently testing completely autonomous vehicles in their early rider program||Already releasing car models with advanced automation||(formerly Otto) Developing self-driving trucking||Developing software and hardware for autonomous driving|
Many companies have been designing and testing driverless vehicles for years. Google is one such company. The company began officially researching autonomous vehicles in 2009. Having now transitioned over to the independent company Waymo, it has successfully tested several driverless vehicles. According to Waymo’s "Journey" page, their goal is to “make our roads safer, free up people’s time, and improve mobility for everyone.” Another company more recently known for its development of autonomous vehicle technology is Elon Musk’s Tesla car company. Many of its consumer vehicles already contain substantial amounts of automation from parking to lane changing. But the company is working steadily toward its goal of complete driverless transportation. The autopilot page of their website states that “all you will need to do is get in and tell your car where to go.” Replacing the human with the computer as sole driver is the ultimate goal of both Google and Tesla as well as many other companies conducting similar research.
The question is how soon this kind of tech will reach average consumers in their daily lives. Some believe that it may take a bit longer than a few years. In an article of the Economist, the author explains that one of the reasons for inevitable delay in consumer availability is that the autonomous vehicle development process cannot simply leap from small autonomous segments to complete computer control of the car. The in-between stages are less reliable and could be dangerous, causing development companies to wait till they have a near complete autonomous vehicle before it pushes the concept heavily. Whether they come sooner or later however, the amount of research around autonomous vehicles makes it seem highly likely that they will replace human-driven vehicles.
|Industries At Risk From AV Technology|
|Taxis and Buses||Trucking||Human-Driven Uber/Lyft Services||Car Manufacturers|
|A human taxi or bus driver is completely unecessary with autonomous driving.||A robot doesn't need to sleep or stop to eat. It won't fall alseep at the wheel.||This industry will be forced to switch to AVs or face the same fate as taxis.||Fewer individual consumers will need vehicles of their own right from the manufacturer.|
Their inevitability means the world needs to be prepared for the problems they will present to society. The first apparent conclusion is that jobs related to the transportation industry will be drastically diminished. The trucking industry, employing 1.7 million people in the US, may be one of the biggest ways in which automating vehicles will eliminate jobs according to an article by Natalie Kitroeff in the Los Angeles Times. Of course, the other side of the coin is that better transportation will benefit all aspects of the economy counterbalancing the job losses. Autonomous vehicles also present a challenge to the automotive industry which will need to face the fact that fewer people will have the need to buy cars themselves. Instead, car rental services will make more sense when the need for a driver is nonexistent.
Autonomous vehicles are the future. They are being built and designed now and a taste of them is already purchasable through companies like Tesla. It will be interesting to watch the effects of such a drastic technological change and how society responds to it.