8 Reasons Why Driverless Electric Cars Will Save the World
Hass McCook | 16 April 2014
In my previous piece on driverless cars, a compelling business case was presented. If you broaden your mind and not be hyper-critical of a brand-new technology, you can clearly see that autonomous electric vehicles are a foregone conclusion due to the laws of disruptive technological evolution. I’m not saying that all cars will be driverless by 2020, in fact, there may only be a few thousand driverless cars at that stage. But if you think that by the year 2050 the majority of cars won’t be driverless and electric, you may be embarrassingly wrong – the below 8 reasons illustrate why.
1- No More Death
Last year, 1.24 million people died on roads world-wide, and another 50 million were injured. This eventually ends once all cars on the road are autonomous
2- No More Traffic
Traffic and congestion is one of the biggest drains on global GDP – up to 6% (i.e. over $1 trillion) GDP lost due to congestion and accidents.
An amazing piece of engineering from Rinspeed & Tesla Motors
3- Quiet Roads
Since driverless cars come from the future, they will most definitely be electric, due to the comprehensive advantages over internal combustion engines. Electric cars mean the roads will be silent – and I have personally experienced a $500m highway deal be severely hamstrung due to traffic noise concerns and risks. Noise will never be a problem for a highway (or suburban road for that matter) ever again once all road vehicles are electric.
4- Less Crime
When all cars are driverless, the roads effectively police themselves. This means we can have our police do actual police work like stopping violent crimes such as assault, rape, murder and illicit drug dealing, instead of spending most of their time patrolling the roads and issuing petty fines to frustrated drivers just trying to get where they need to go.
5- Less Local Air Pollution
See point 3 above. EVs don’t produce any local pollution – pollution is generated at the power-plant that feeds the power-point you use to charge your car. If our power plants in 2050 aren’t mostly based on renewable sources, we will be non-existent as a human species due to catastrophic climate change. Pedestrians will no longer need to breathe in dangerous fumes and particulates spewed by ICE cars. Cities from Paris to Beijing will be grateful!
Green AND Driverless – What a combo! Autonomous automaker Zoox is promising to bring the future to us in 2021 – pipe dream or reality? (Source: http://zoox.co/design.html)
6- Less Environmental/Manufacturing Externalities
EVs by default have a lower carbon footprint due to a significantly reduced need for steel (there is a LOT of steel in a typical ICE engine block). Although EVs aren’t currently much lighter than ICE cars due to currently heavy batteries, but it will get much better sooner than you think!) – in fact, it’s a virtuous cycle: less mass = less steel = longer battery range. Each generation of driverless cars will be lighter and have longer range than the previous.
Ditching ICE also means that cowboy weekend-mechanics will have no motor oil to pour down the drain in their yard.
If that’s not enough, have a look at the global petrol usage stats – they’re pretty damning! Imagine the quality of our collective lives if that 60% went down to 0% – replaced with renewable powered EVs – it’s a no brainer!
7- Less Cars
When cars are driverless and you can call them via a smartphone app to both pick you up, and drop you off – I suspect that much fewer people will buy cars going forward. People will most likely subscribe to an on-demand or yearly-subscription-based model for their car needs – effectively a driverless ZipCar, or something similar. The average car is probably only used for an hour a day – the rest of the time it is parked. A fleet of on-demand driverless cars will be utilised at significantly higher rates. Due to the drastically increased utilisation rate, minimal maintenance requirements for electric cars motors, and the minor marginal cost of making a car driverless, yearly subscription prices will most likely be cheap. Just think of all of the steel and other material you would save. Note, the biggest consumer of world steel is the automotive industry, and steel production is one of the most energy and resource intensive processes in the world. Let me demonstrate with a table:
Furthermore, fewer cars on the road will allow roads to be shared in a safer and more enjoyable way by cyclists and pedestrians – fun for the whole family!
8- More Productive Time
I used to waste 3 hours of my day, every day, stuck in traffic, needing to focus my energy and concentration on the road. With no more traffic, I will have more time for the gym, more time for my friends and family, more time for cooking better meals – well – more time for anything that I want really! Who knows how far we can progress as a human species with all of the extra productive / leisure time afforded to us by autonomous vehicles.
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