For the past hundreds of years, new innovations have created cleaner, safer, and more affordable vehicles. The automotive industry is now slowly changing with the emergence of the autonomous car –one that can drive itself. Google first revealed in 2010, that it had been working on self-driving cars, and now, more companies endeavor to do the same. With its Google Self-Driving Car project, Google hopes to have fully autonomous vehicles on the road, and sold by major car manufacturers by the year 2020.
The autonomous vehicle technology offers several benefits. According to the Conference Board of Canada, there are 2,000 vehicle fatalities every year in the country, which many have been caused by human error. With self-driving cars, these errors can be eliminated and collisions could be reduced by more than 90%, saving $37.4 billion. Automated vehicles could also the eliminate time wasted (around five billion hours per year) that Canadians spend driving, which is worth about $20 billion. Congestion costs can also be reduced by $5 billion a year, by creating a more efficient traffic flow and decreased congestion. Increased fuel efficiency can save $2.6 billion in fuel costs. In total, autonomous cars could save Canadians a whopping $65 billion a year.
With benefits come possible drawbacks. For example, the technology would decrease the cost of driving and encourage more people to drive. As a result, congestion might increase, rather than decrease. Additionally, jobs and economies based on public transit, crash repair, and automobile insurance might suffer as the technology makes certain occupations obsolete.
Over the next few years, we can expect cars to slowly gain more autonomous features. Adaptive cruise control, land keeping alerts, and assisted parking will all morph into a fully autonomous driving experience. All of these advances — plus many others — will accumulate over time. Then finally, we will probably see highways and cities where hand-steered cars will be replaced by the more efficient, self-driving cars.