The widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles on our roads will probably have far more profound implications than many people realise. Here are just a few of the possible benefits to society.
Driverless cars could restore the independence of those unable to drive such as the elderly or disabled currently prevented from driving. The cost of keeping people in residential homes or hospitals could be reduced if driverless cars allowed more people to live independently for longer.
Also autonomous vehicles could help those living in areas outside integrated transport networks. Others, including those who don’t have regular access to a car, would also benefit from shared ownership. They would lead to shorter and more predictable journey times by interacting with real-time traffic management. Travellers’ time could be used more profitably both economically and personally, increasing productivity for all.
The population would enjoy health benefits from reduced congestion which would also mean less fuel consumption and an improvement in air quality. Most importantly, there would be far fewer accidents with machines rather than fallible humans at the wheel.
Government and industry need to put the necessary common communications and data standards in place as soon as possible given the potential advantages of driverless cars. Governments, at both national and international level, are the only authorities large enough to pull together the car and technology manufacturers, local & metropolitan authorities, agencies and other relevant national and international bodies.
To reap the benefits of a driverless future, we need to not only build a strong base for investment now, but also be absolutely clear what we are creating and how it will work.