It was once envisioned that by the 2000’s people would be flying to work and living on different planets. The future held runways instead of garages and the 52nd state was to be Mars. Unfortunately, today people still drive themselves to work in cars not a flying apparatus, and the only thing living on another planet that is known is the Mars rover Curiosity. But the part about people driving themselves might soon be a relic of the past. In 1939 Norman Bel Gaddes in a partnership with General motors showed off the first prototype for an autonomous vehicle. Unfortunately his idea was too early to ever truly come to fruition, but it is that idea that could lead to one of the greatest revisions of the automobile since the seatbelt. Semi or fully-autonomous vehicles are currently being developed by some of the greatest thinkers in the world. Google has been experimenting with and using them for several years in contained situations as have many auto manufacturers. Mr. Gaddes would be amazed by the leaps this technology has made in just this decade. While concerns with the legislation, liability and market acceptance could stall this technology, fully and semi-autonomous vehicles have the potential to be a quicker, safer and more efficient means of transport.
The average American has an almost thirty minute one way commute to work each day. That’s an hour a day a person spends in their vehicle battling other commuters, road conditions and stop lights. That average only accounts for only eighty-eight percent of all commuters. There is an unlucky category of commuters called “Megacommuters”; these travelers travel at least fifty miles or ninety minutes on a one way commute. Autonomous vehicles offer commuter solutions through increased speed and decreased congestion. People have proved over time that they are bad drivers, consistently making decisions that cause bottlenecks in traffic. Autonomous vehicles would take human decision making out of driving instead communicating with each other to work together to perform what could only be described as driving acrobatics. Automobiles would be able to execute the maneuvers at triple digit speeds allowing commuters to cut down the time spent traveling. All in all autonomous vehicles could give back around ninety percent of the 4.8 billion hours wasted in traffic worldwide.
Opponents to autonomous vehicles often bring up liability as an issue with these vehicles. Why would someone buy something that they are responsible for if they are not in control if something does go wrong? While every answer may not suffice opponents, the answer is simple and adds up: autonomous vehicles in the long term save money and lives. The early estimates say that autonomous vehicles could have major economic benefits for consumers. At ten percent market acceptance fuel savings would reach almost $17 billion and at ninety percent as a country Americans would save $64 billion a year. This is all without...