According to Bloomberg Technology, driverless cars might create a $42 billion market by 2025. Once thought to be science fiction, the driverless car market is gaining traction – and fast.
Let’s take a closer look at what driverless cars are and their potential initial impact:
How Driverless Cars Work
Driverless cars operate by using various sensors, cameras, radars and maps to “see” the road all around them. These self-driving cars don’t function very differently from today’s newest cars already on the road.
For example, certain cars already have:
- Lane-keeping systems
- Adaptive cruise control
- Auto-parking systems
- Emergency braking
- Built-in GPS
However, driverless cars also have software programs that link all of the various systems together, enabling them to operate autonomously.
While still decades away from personal use, these cars have the potential to impact society in the following ways:
The EPA states the transportation industry accounts for about 26% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Driverless vehicles, however, could offer improved ecological footprints. According to Driverless Market Watch, self-driving cars will be:
- Mainly electric, which reduces CO2 emissions
- Smaller and lighter weight that today’s average car
Human error accounts for over 90% of road accidents, as cited in Alert Driving. The National Safety Council estimates that 38,300 people were killed and 4.4 million injured in traffic accidents last year.
However, Tech Times states that on a road of fully autonomous cars, the accident rate will be significantly lowered. This self-driving technology would keep people safer on the roads and save the U.S. over $400 billion in accident costs.
Improved Traffic Flow
Autonomous cars also have the ability to reduce traffic congestion. They’d be able to travel at higher speeds closer together without the risk of crashing. Fuel efficiency could further improve, since a computer would determine when to stop and when to go.
The improved traffic flow could also increase people’s productivity. According to Reuters, U.S. commuters spend about 42 hours a year stuck in traffic. Self-driving cars have the potential to eliminate traffic jams and wasted time.
Full Level of Impact Hard to Predict
Yet driverless cars’ full level of impact on society is hard to predict. For example, various industries, such as taxi cab drivers and truck drivers, are likely to be impacted. Insurance policies would need to change, too.
While the scope and profitability of self-driving cars is not yet finalized, it seems that they’ll become a reality sooner than we may have thought.