Ramifications of Self-Driving Cars?

A FB friend of mine shared an auto shop blog article about self-driving cars being “the wave of the future.” I enjoy driving for the most part but could definitely get behind taking a Johnny Cab to work everyday for a monthly subscription fee. Since I’m not really a big picture kind of guy, I was wondering what you think the potential consequences (if any) would be for a mass switch to self-driving cars?

It occurs to me it would solve the parking problem. Big cities would be full of empty cars slowly circling the block waiting for their owner…

But yes, your car could earn you money while you rest; just sign it up for Uber.
Maybe there will be self-drive only lanes (much like high-occupancy lanes now) where th cars drive almost bumper to bumper at full speed.
If there are no manual drivers on the open road, how relevant are speed limits?
The finger-pointing in the event of an accident would be interesting. I saw an article on the google cars - most of the accidents were the other driver(human’s) fault. However, there were a few like lane changes where the problem was humans didn’t behave like the car expected, so the car for example switched lanes too early or too late. Technically, this was the car’s fault.

But I think you’re right - for the average big city inhabitant, why have a car? Sign up for an Uber-like service (“Johnny Cab 9”), and all your transport is like a taxi. No garage fees, no parking costs, no car payments. For a reduced rate, check the box on the app that says “willing to share ride…”

What I am looking forward to is the elimination of traffic lights and stop signs. Self-driving cars will negotiate with each other when approaching intersections and adjust speeds accordingly so that no two of them are attempting to occupy the same space at the same time. How manually driven cars will fit into this equation I have no idea.

Either (a) there will be “no manual driving” areas or (b) the smart cars will realize when a manual driver is blundering around their midst, and adjust accordingly, sort of like adults negotiating around the wandering infant. Or more likely, a combination of these two. SDC’s will just have to allow a greater envelope of uncertainty for the behavior of manual cars… they could speed up or slow down unpredictably.

Or the traffic lights will detect manual cars and signal accordingly. As manual drivers become fewer and fewer, they will be able to ignore traffic lights. The only real need for traffic lights is when two manual drivers arrive at the same intersection. It will be a leap of faith to drive manually into an intersection on the green light and trust that the cars crossing at full speed in front of you will magically part for you.

Bar owners should be over the moon. Drunk driving should be all but eliminated.

Old people accidentally mowing innocents down, should also become a thing of the past. It will be a lot easier to insist your parents stop driving!

Also, think of the impact for the disabled, no more navigating train, bus, subway stations, etc, which must be an enormous challenge and very stressful. Suddenly they can go a lot more places I expect!

Hell, you could take teenagers off the road entirely. Or be able to bar people with poor night vision from ever driving at night!

How successful are proposals to totally eliminate guns from this country? I expect proposals to totally eliminate manually driven cars will be equally successful. So there is always going to be a mixture of manually driven and self-driven vehicles. Thus proposals to do things like substantially cut lane width or eliminate traffic signals won’t happen.

Well, we already have different classes of roads that restrict specific vehicle types. No horse and buggy on the interstate, no commercial vehicles on certain parkways with low bridges, no cars in the bus lanes, no single-driver cars in the HOV lanes, etc. I can imagine that HOV and bus lanes could be converted to only allow autonomous cars, and in subsequent decades new major roads will be built only for autonomous cars.

It may mean the end of private car ownership, except for hobbyists. Why spend money buying and maintaining a car when there are self-driving cars everywhere that you could flag down (with a phone) anytime?

Right now, the geeks are all excited and having orgasms over the new technology. It reminds me of the dot-com euphoria back in 1996. Sure, a lot of their dreams will come true—but not all of them. Robo-cars will not take over the roads…there will be a mix of robo-cars and human drivers for at least several decades.

There are some vehicles which cannot be driven by computers( with current technology), because they must be driven in places where there are no rules of the road.

Pickup trucks, for example. Can a computer back a pickup truck onto an unmapped construction site full of mud and mounds of dirt?
Or cars used for recreation on dirt roads—can a robo-car identify a camp site between the 3 trees on the left side of a picnic table, but not the 2 trees on the right side of the same table?
Or a mid-size sedan used by a real estate professional, which not only serves as his family car, but also as his work vehicle,which has to drive into a new neighborhood under construction,where the still-unpaved roads do not appear on any map?
These problems can be solved, of course. But it will take many years for the technology to improve, for the legal system to adapt, and for the car companies to match their models to what the public wants to buy.

The gun analogy doesn’t apply because guns are protected by the second amendment and any attempt to regulate them is quickly beaten down. Cars on the other hand are the most regulated product on the planet.

Once one major city mandates self driving cars only it will be another 10-20 years to where it will be common place to only have self driving cars in just about all cities with a few exceptions for rich people willing to pay a fee. Much like when the horse was replaced by the car. At first the cars were deemed to scary for the horses, then the table turned and the horse were too dangerous to have mixed in with cars. It’s called progress, it’s going to happen. Maybe the rich will be happy with there flying cars/drones and forget about manually driven cars altogether. When is the last time you saw a rich person impressing people with his decked out horse drawn carriage?

Those who think manual cars will be a thing of the past are totally underestimating the huge number of people who drive because they enjoy it. The difference between a horse and carriage and a car is not comparable to the difference between a manual car and a self driven one. Whatever happens with self driving cars will have to allow for the presence of manual cars and motorbikes.

I think the gun analogy is actually a good one. The reason people have guns is because they want them, the second amendment is used to justify it but it is ultimately a cultural issue, not a legal one.

A lot of folks enjoy riding horses, too, but that’s very niche now, and is done only in specialized places. Nobody actually still uses horses as a practical means of transportation. We might see the same sort of thing with cars in the future, with privately-owned closed courses where folks can drive for fun, which they will get to in their self-driving car.

I don’t see car ownership going away in favor of an Uber-for-all model, though. We could already do that with human-driven cars, but we don’t. People like having their own cars, for various reasons: You have a secure place to store your stuff on multi-store shopping trips, you might like to keep certain things in your car (camping supplies if that’s something you do often, games for the kids in the backseat, etc.), different people will like or need different styles, and so on.

Just like once horse and buggies shared the roads with new fangled cars. But eventually one technology superseded the other.

Self driven cars will get regulated to one lane or some such most likely, I think.

One standard point:

Supposedly, SDCs (gotta abbreviate that phrase), are much safer than human driven cars (HDCs?). But, it seems kind of scary considering all the possible things that go wrong. It’s just that the number of SDC car errors that will happen might well be far less than the ones humans make.

In terms of lawyers looking for new ways of making money:

An SDC causes an accident. Sue because clearly they aren’t as safe as human drivers. A human would have easily prevented the crash.

An HDC causes an accident. Sue because what’s the matter grampa? You should be driving an SDC. Those are safer. An SDC would have easily prevented the crash.


Traffic flow would be interesting. Lots of opportunities to relieve stop-and-go congestion on highways and such.

But … humans tend to driver closer together in heavy traffic than is really safe (which is one reason a small oops moment turns into a mysterious jam). But this also tends to increase flow. SDCs might space themselves out more. Reduced flow but fewer jams. Do you want to get home smoothly and slowly or fast but with a higher chance of random stop-and-go nightmares?

London will quite possibly lead the way. They are already slowly pricing oil burning engines out of the centre. (Congestion tax and the London Lorry Control scheme) Taxis will soon be all electric. From there self driving cars is just one more step on the road and we will al be better for it.

You’ve got that backwards. Self-driving cars will space themselves much closer together than human-driven cars. They’ll still maintain a safe distance, of course, but what’s safe for a computer is much closer than what’s safe for a human.

If governments allow selfdriving cars with no occupants it’s going to be a disaster. At least today the number of cars on the roads is limited to the number of drivers available. If people can just send out cars to pick up their kids and have those cars circle around if they can’t park the roads will be a sea of selfdriving cars.

It will be very interesting to see how the areas that allow/support SDCs and the ones that don’t develop differently. Today, Google’s SDCs can drive around in their area fairly well, but only because Google meticulously maps every aspect of every street. In older cities without such exhaustive mapping SDCs won’t be able to drive autonomously the required 99+ % of the time.

I would be happy with computer assisted driving to make my passage smoother.

You can do that with Uber today. People still own private cars.

It appears the savings in lost life, human suffering and financial cost would be gigantic, whether on a national or global scale.

In the U.S. alone, 33,000 people die every year due to traffic accidents – roughly equal to total U.S. combat deaths in the Korean War. Within the last 10 years, more Americans have died in highway accidents than died in World War II combat.

Worldwide 1.25 million die in highway accidents every year. Every 6.5 years, this equals the total global combat deaths from World War I.

Nobody knows exactly what the motor vehicle death rate would be after a “mass switch to self-driving cars”. It would certainly be vastly lower since human error accounts for more than 90% of road accidents.

According to one study, the direct economic costs of motor vehicle crashes within the U.S. are $277 billion per year. When quality of life valuations are considered, the total value of societal harm from motor vehicle crashes in 2010 was $871 billion: http://www.pire.org/printinfopubs.aspx?cid=40934

The entire U.S. Apollo moon project was $110 billion in current dollars – spread over 10 years. Self driving cars (if fully deployed as mentioned by the OP) could possibly save double that every single year – just within the U.S.

It seems plausible that the same technology that enables self driving cars would also make human driven cars much safer. IOW if self-driven cars can autonomously avoid crashing, they could just as easily override dangerous human input and avoid those crashes – while allowing people to continue driving if they wish. To a minor degree this is already happening with skid control, brake assist, lane departure warning/prevention, forward collision warning/prevention, etc.