As we look around us, it can be easy to forget how difficult life was just a few short decades ago before some of the major advances in technology took hold and life became more automated. Before automation, some activities could take hours or even days to accomplish. For example, the automation of harvesting equipment has significantly sped up the process of getting food to our tables and has afforded more farmers the ability to expand their farms and take on more production.
Of course, farming is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the automation of our lives. As time rolls on, more and more things are headed that direction. Possibly the most exciting of all of those for many people is the idea of the automated, self-driving car.
Self-driving cars not only play into many of our fantasies of ultra-advanced societies with flying cars and robots, but it also serves up a number of practical benefits. Weighing these costs as the technology to implement becomes more readily available is one of the biggest decisions tech giants and governments will make in our lifetimes. It could change the course of our society in a very tangible way.
There is no question that technology is vastly changing the way that business is conducted globally. The automation of various industries has had positive and negative sides. For instance, automation allows for faster production rates with fewer errors while also increasing workplace safety and often saving companies money. However, part of the reason it saves so much money is because fewer humans are needed to do the jobs, meaning a loss in the number of blue-collar positions.
The self-driving car in and of itself is set to have a profound impact on all sorts of industries, many of which you may not even initially think of. For instance, driverless vehicles are predicted to negatively impact hotel changes because fewer people are likely to opt for a hotel when passing through on a trip. They may instead choose to sleep in the comfort of their driverless vehicle and arrive at their destination sooner than they would have in the past when a stop to sleep was almost essential.
Likewise, industries such as the insurance market may also see substantial impacts. Driverless cars will, in theory, be far safer and less unpredictable than drivers behind the wheel which means there will be less of a need for car insurance. Self-driving cars are expected to spur growth in engineering, though, as many roadways and infrastructure will have to be reimagined to accommodate automated vehicles.
A trucking case study
One industry that is set to see truly significant changes if and when the automated vehicle takes off is trucking. The industry is already going through a number of major changes. For one, many trucking companies struggle to hire and retain quality employees because of the long and difficult hours on the job and an aging generation of truckers. Additionally, some states are mandating conversion to electric vehicles for trucking in the near future.
Many within the industry believe the self-driving truck is next on the list of changes. Though there are certainly concerns of safety and efficiency, many of these problems are currently being tackled and it is likely that if autonomous trucking takes off, it could reduce much of the shortage in willing truckers that the industry is facing.
In some places, self-driving trucks are already being tested for use. For example, in Australia driverless trucks are being used to transport iron ore around mines. The trucks are considered a big benefit because they are able to run their routes every day of the year without breaks throughout the day. Furthermore, there is a cost savings in not having to pay one or more employees and a safety benefit of keeping more people out of the way of mining equipment.
Where we’re going
Though there is a lot of hype surrounding the automated vehicle, there is still quite a ways to go before they become mainstream and in every household. Many safety and efficiency concerns are still being worked out, especially since there will be a transition time when driver and driverless vehicles will be on the road together. Likewise, mass production, government regulation, and insurance requirements are all still in the initial planning phases.
Still, there is much to look forward to. Self-driving cars are anticipated to provide a safer alternative to driving yourself. It can also mean trips are more enjoyable or productive for travelers and commuters who can complete work, read, play games, have a relaxing drink, and so on when they aren’t driving themselves. Finally, automated cars could do a lot to improve fuel efficiency and reduce impacts on the environment.
The overall local governments will also be forced to make some major changes to adapt. For instance, with self-driving vehicles, there will be less of a need for traffic cops and fewer tickets related to minor traffic violations. Parking and congestion issues may be able to be mitigated more effectively as well.
The automation of cars is a very real possibility in our lifetimes. Today, numerous companies are working towards developing and testing driverless cars that could hit a roadway near you in the coming years. As these changes take place, adaptations will ripple through all sorts of industries both expected and unexpected. It is an exciting time to be a driver!
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