Like it or not, self-driving cars are on the way.
Most automakers have pledged to have at least their semi-autonomous systems available by 2020, and many industry experts predict it will only be a few more years after that before fully autonomous cars hit the road.
These self-driving cars will bring about more changes than you might expect.
Here’s a look at some of the big ways autonomous cars will transform the world.
Thousands of lives will be saved each year.
- REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett
About 1.24 million people worldwide die each year in collisions, and that number is expected to skyrocket to 2.2 million by 2030, according to the World Health Organization.
In the US alone, about 33,000 people die in traffic-related deaths every year.
Driverless cars, though, have the potential to dramatically reduce the number of accidents, thus potentially saving millions of lives.
According to a study by the Eno Centre for Transportation, if about 90% of cars on American roads were autonomous, the number of accidents would fall from six million a year to 1.3 million and deaths would fall from 33,000 to 11,300.
Carbon emissions will be dramatically reduced.
In addition to saving lives, driverless cars may also help save our planet.
Because autonomous vehicles are built to optimize efficiency in acceleration, braking, and speed variation, they help increase fuel efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.
According to McKinsey, adoption of autonomous cars could help reduce car CO2 emissions by as much as 300 million tons per year. To put that into perspective, that’s the equivalent of half of the CO2 emissions from the commercial aviation sector.
People will stop owning cars.
- Reuters/Marcos Brindicci
Industry experts predict self-driving cars will dramatically change consumers’ traveling habits, spurring them to trade car ownership for on-demand robo-taxis.
In fact, vehicle ownership could decline as much as 43% in the US once autonomous cars are adopted, according to a study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.
One big reason for this is because it will be more cost effective to use a shared fleet car as opposed to your own autonomous vehicle.
In fact, by taking a shared, driverless fleet vehicle, your cost per mile could be reduced as much as 80% versus a personally owned vehicles when driven 10,000 miles per year, according to Casualty Actuarial Society.
Traffic will disappear.
- Mark Fischer via Flickr
Autonomous cars will not only help reduce car crashes, they will also likely dramatically reduce traffic congestion.
The average commuter in the US spent about 50 hours stuck in traffic during 2015, according to the INRIX 2015 Traffic Scorecard. In total, that means Americans spent 8 billion hours in traffic last year.
However, according to a report from KPMG, the platooning of vehicles could increase highway capacity by as much as 500%, meaning less traffic and less wasted time.
Everybody will have more free time.
- Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann
Time spent in traffic is wasted time. But Autonomous cars would enable drivers to spend that time doing something else instead.
McKinsey estimates that worldwide time saved everyday by driverless cars could total as much as one billion hours.
Productivity will increase.
If people spend all of their new free time working, productivity will soar.
Autonomous vehicles could mean productivity gains of $507 billion annually in the US alone, according to a study by Morgan Stanley.
When productivity gains are combined with other saving generated by autonomous vehicles, like fuel efficiency and savings from accident avoidance, the total potential annual savings to the US economy climbs to $1.3 trillion. Worldwide, Morgan Stanley estimates that number could reach $5.6 trillion.
Mobility for all people will dramatically improve.
- Rosie O’Beirne
Self-driving cars will enable not only the elderly to be mobile, but it will also empower those with disabilities, the unlicensed, and those who do not own a car to travel as well.
In 2012, Google showed how powerful this technology could be for helping empower people to become more independent when they had a blind man run errands in one of their self-driving cars.
Parking spaces will also begin to disappear.
The adoption of driverless fleets will mean you never have to search for a parking space again because you will always get dropped off at your desired location.
And even if you do opt to own your own autonomous vehicle, there will still be no need for you to park it because it will locate a space and park itself.
This could have a big impact on cities, especially.
According to a report by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, parking currently accounts for about 31% of urban land, but as car ownership declines and the need for parking decreases, land once reserved for parking can be turned into living spaces in cites.
This is significant because urban populations are expected to grow by 66%, or 2.5 billion people, by 2050, according to UN estimates.