Just a decade ago, autonomous vehicles were the fodder of science-fiction. However, as transit costs have soared and high-profile companies have poured large amounts of money into the industry, these cars have become reality. Now sold for both business and personal use, these seemingly magical machines are limited in availability and quite costly. As research and development continues, you’ll likely observe these five trends in the future due to the proliferation of autonomous vehicles.
1. Ultra-Fast Package Delivery Times Will Be the Norm
As the COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated, both public and private parcel delivery systems have limited capacities. With so many public closures and restrictions, many people began to rely on deliveries for nearly everything. Unfortunately, there is a finite number of delivery workers in these organizations’ fleets.
Some companies have switched from hiring delivery workers to using independent contractors in an attempt to scale to meet demand. However, this approach will still hit a dead end when demand for services exceeds people available to work as independent contractors, as well. Though it’s currently working as a stop-gap measure for pandemic-era deliveries, this approach isn’t nearly as future-proof as autonomous vehicles are.
In the future, companies will likely be able to instantly add to their fleets when necessary. Since logistics are already performed by computer programs, AI will be able to predict these surges and order more fleet members. This will ensure that we won’t experience shortages of critical items in future crises and speed up delivery times across the board.
2. Car Insurance Will Become a Thing of the Past
Especially for younger drivers and those with less than ideal traffic records, car insurance can be quite costly. Though a portion of this cost is for comprehensive coverage, most of it goes towards personal liability in case of an accident. When autonomous vehicles begin to outnumber traditional cars on the road, insurance rates will likely plummet.
There are two reasons rates will come crashing down. First, there will be far fewer traffic tickets since these vehicles will be programmed not to speed or commit other infractions. Second, while collision and comprehensive insurance will probably stick around, individual liability insurance may become far cheaper. With the vehicle’s computer making every decision, insurance companies wouldn’t be able to justify high fees anymore.
Keep in mind that, as time goes on, there will be a period where a good number of people will be able to afford autonomous vehicles, but a good proportion of people will not be able to. For those who drive traditional vehicles during this period, liability insurance rates should still go down but not completely disappear. This is because they will be surrounded by safer “drivers,” making the chances of being involved in an accident still much lower.
3. Traffic Will Get Much Better
As it stands now, almost all major routes experience regular congestion. In some cases, such as in dense cities with lots of intersections, this is almost unavoidable. On “controlled access roads” or roads that have only entrances and exits and don’t allow turning, stopping, or driveways to be built directly on them, there could be a significant change in rush-hour traffic.
Even as it currently stands, traffic has improved as remote work technology has increased during the pandemic. However, as normal activities resume, it’s likely that traffic will worsen. Remote work is here to stay, but people will likely find activities to take up the time that their commutes used to take up, restoring similar traffic volumes.
In theory, a controlled access road should never be backed up since there are no intersections on them. Backups on these types of roads are almost always due to a combination of accidents and inattentive or aggressive drivers. Autonomous vehicles will adhere strictly to posted speed limits, removing deadly speed differentials. They’ll observe proper following distance and take other preventive measures, so traffic flow on interstates and freeways should greatly dissipate. These cars can also be used to report back about locations where traffic issues persist, which can help governments to more effectively target their infrastructure upgrades.
4. Autonomous Delivery Services
During the pandemic, many businesses that had only allowed for in-store shopping began offering “curbside pickup” options. This made store trips quicker but still required time to drive to and from the store. Those with packed schedules will experience some relief as their cars will be able to go to stores, be loaded up with the items the person purchased, and bring them back to the person’s house. Companies like Amazon are likely to send autonomous vehicles to your home, cutting down on the need for drivers.
Of course, this will create an issue for the food delivery industry. Throughout the pandemic, food delivery orders skyrocketed as people avoided contact by not eating out at restaurants or entering buildings to pick up carry-out food. Once cars are fully autonomous, they’ll be able to “carry out” food for you. In response, food delivery companies will probably remove some of their excessive fees; their own customers will become their competition.
At the moment, some high-profile companies have been experimenting with delivering food with autonomous vehicles. Though this profit model will work for awhile, there will be a point where the vast majority of people can afford the same vehicles. When this period of equal access to autonomous vehicles arrives, we’ll likely see automated carry-out become reality.
5. Your Car Will Get More Comfortable
Autonomous cars will certainly include amenities similar to ones currently offered by modern public transit systems. With the autonomous vehicles’ ability to safely operate independently, drivers will be able to take naps during road trips! Naturally, some people will be drawn to drive rather than fly to faraway destinations. Cars may begin to resemble what efficiency apartments look like now.
Those who commute to work in their autonomous vehicles will never know the pain of experiencing stressful rush hours. With freer-flowing traffic, no aggressive drivers, and adherence to the rules of the road universally, there’ll be no more quick, unexpected stops. It’ll still take time to commute in an autonomous car, but that time will be much more peaceful for most. Rather than being limited to audio for entertainment, commuters may be able to watch a movie or return morning emails on the way to work.
Driving won’t be the only activity enhanced by AI in these vehicles. Just as current technology customizes digital experiences now, these cars will be able to tailor comfort and entertainment options for their occupants.
To Infinity and Beyond!
As scientists continue to rapidly innovate in the autonomous vehicle industry, it’s impossible to predict what will happen down the line. This transformation of the car industry will complete the more holistic migration people’s lives are making from the real world to the digital world.
Though only time will tell what the true impact of vehicles becoming fully autonomous will be, one thing is clear: Driving will become less of a chore and continue to evolve.