Automated cars are coming. It's a matter of when, not if. But whether it's four years or 40, things will change when you don't have to drive or get a driver to take you somewhere.
Yes, you'll be able to read a book when alone in a car, but that's not the half of it. Here are Tom Merritt's top five ways things will change with self-driving cars:
1. Driving could become illegal. Every year crashes kill more than 30,000 people and 94% of those are caused by human error. When human drivers are no longer a requirement, we may look at them as an unnecessary risk — at least on public roads.
2. Jobs will be lost or at least converted. Driving is currently one of the most popular jobs in the US with 3.5 million truck drivers, not to mention bus and taxi drivers. Some of those will take over managing self-driving convoys and other support roles but others will be forced to find new careers. Not to mention that traffic cop will be an anachronistic title.
3. Everyone will know where you are. The upside is that friends and family can easy see your location when you're on the way to meet them. And of course cars knowing each other's location can reduce congestion. The downside is the government could track that too.
4. That bit about congestion is no joke. Self-driving cars don't even need to track each other to improve traffic flow. Robots follow at optimal distances, only change lanes when necessary and merge perfectly. While humans can cause a traffic jam in a closed 750-foot circle.
5. Kids may need to ask their parents why people owned cars. Optimistic estimates project autonomous cars could cost 35 cents a mile. At that price, owning a car could be considered an eccentric hobby, not a necessity.
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Tom is an award-winning independent tech podcaster and host of regular tech news and information shows. Tom hosts Sword and Laser, a science fiction and fantasy podcast, and book club with Veronica Belmont. He also hosts Daily Tech News Show, covering the most important tech issues of the day with the smartest minds in technology.