By on March 6, 2015

Lexus Autonomous Car

Seven years from now, commercial and industrial autonomous vehicles could set a path toward a a future where the cityscape and beyond are radically changed.

According to Detroit Free Press, a report by consulting firm McKinsey titled “Autonomous Driving — 10 Ways in Which Autonomous Vehicles Could Reshape Our Lives” forecasts as much, with the outcome being that most vehicles on the road within the next few decades will be autonomous. Automotive practice chief Hans-Werner Kaas explains:

Autonomous vehicles will have a gradual step-by-step adoption. First, there will be pay-per-usage models. These vehicles will be alternatives to cars. They will make mobility available in smaller incremental units.

Meanwhile, autonomous technology is already present in the industrial sector, such as Australian mining company Rio Tinto’s fleet of 53 autonomous dump trucks at one of its iron ore mines in western Australia. Kaas says vehicles like those trucks “are defined environments where you have defined routes,” leading to greater control overall.

The report goes on to state that body shops would have less work due to fewer fender-benders between autonomous vehicles, while service techs would need extensive training to maintain the array of systems used by the vehicles; insurance companies would have to adapt as well.

Finally, more parking spaces would be in need of repurposing: by 2050, up to 5.7 billion square meters would be converted into something else as a result of how autonomous vehicles handle such things. The report adds that the shift to near-autonomy would take two decades to accomplish.

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20 Comments on “Report: Autonomous Vehicles Radically Altering Landscape In Coming Decades...”

  • avatar

    I just don’t see automotive autonomy reaching that level of proliferation in our lifetimes. Ghosn had it right with the increase in “driver assists”, but I don’t see the reality of me hailing a driverless cab happening in the next 4-5 decades and I am 31.

    • 0 avatar

      The only landscape I see it “radically altering” by 2050 is the legal landscape.

      • 0 avatar

        +1 on this. It amazes me that so many people are perfectly willing to put their lives in the hands of an internet-connected computer controlling their “autonomous” vehicle. Hackers have continuously proven their ability to get one or more steps ahead of cyber-security efforts, so why would we think self-driving vehicles would be immune? Imagine the havoc a hacker could unleash by getting control over one or more of these cars and commanding them to do the unexpected? They don’t even need to crash them – get a few of them to slow down to 10MPH (or even stop) on a busy highway and you’ve created an instant traffic jam.

        • 0 avatar

          Pls dont piggyback your paranoia on my posts, I don’t agree with this at all. Plenty of stuff is networked…. planes, power grids, traffic lights etc. etc…. where are the hack attacks on those? If major safety stuff were hackable as you fear it would have happened long ago.

          No, RangerM has it mostly right. The legal ramifications will be a hurdle. Another hurdle will be the legacy of human driven cars and other non connected road obstacles. These are actual challenges companies are working to overcome now, not unproven paranoia fueled speculations.

          • 0 avatar

            It’s not paranoia, it’s reality, and your comparisons don’t hold water.

            US energy networks have already been hacked, multiple times. It’s been widely reported that networked traffic light control is ridiculously easy to hack – all you need is a laptop and the right kind of radio.

            That said, traffic lights, at least currently, also have a human element – attentive human drivers can see if something’s not right and react.

            Planes have two human pilots who are expected to be paying attention, and have the ability to step in and take control if their autopilot does something unexpected or the plane suffers some kind of systems failure. The vast majority of riders in automated vehicles will be oblivious to their surroundings. What happens when the car’s OS crashes?

            You’re absolutely right that human operators and un-networked obstacles pose another challenge, but I think you’re putting way too much faith in the ultimate ability of these automated systems to work reliably & faultlessly.

          • 0 avatar

            Autonomous vehicles don’t need to work “faultlessly” they just need to work as well or better than human drivers.

            As human drivers are generally not very good beating them does not represent a large hurdle to the adoption of autonomous vehicles.

            I’m sure that fully matured AV technology will still have faults. I’m equally sure that in aggregate it will outperform human drivers by a worthwhile margin.

  • avatar

    I’m not certain it offers motivation & labor savings for transportation. Once destination is reached material still has to be manually offloaded and distributed. Now we’re back to the human cost again.

    • 0 avatar

      Have you seen the videos of Amazon’s automated warehouses? Autonomous delivery vehicles and trucks can certainly be made self-loading/unloading with currently available technology, so it really becomes a matter of cost – are human truck “riders” that manually load/unload cheaper than automated robotic load/unloaders? My bet is on the robots by the time autonomous trucks are widespread.

  • avatar

    It will probably take longer than they expect, but when autonomous cars become the norm it will reshape the entire economy. Mass-transit systems will disappear; why sit on a crowded smelly bus that stops every two blocks when your self-driving car can take your directly, even if you don’t have a driving license. Car sharing may become the dominant model, which will mean far fewer cars on the roads, which means less need for multi-lane highways and parking spaces. You won’t need liability car insurance even if you own the car, because if there is an accident it will be the fault of Toyota, Google, or Ford or whoever manufactured the car. And driving schools and the DMV would cease to have a need to exist, except perhaps to protect government union member jobs.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re trying to graft a suburban mentality onto urban dwellers, with whom you may have trouble relating. Millennials are moving back into large cities, public transit use is up across the board, and urban properties located near public transit continue to skyrocket in value.

      We need to wake up and follow that trend. We don’t need autonomous cars. We need higher fuel taxes across the nation with the extra funds generated by that going into subsidies to improve public transit infrastructure in our largest cities and to subsidize car sharing services.

      Also on the radar in most major municipalities is bicycle infrastructure, which is great because bicycle use generates no pollution and Americans are getting way too fat. Autonomous cars hardly solve that problem. If anything they’ll make it worse.

      • 0 avatar

        You are trying to graft the dreams of urban planners onto your predictions. There is no evidence of any mainstream move back into cities (see link below). You must also be from a warm weather area, because biking in sub-zero temps, snow, and ice is never going to catch on for any but a hardy few. Even in nice to bike areas biking typically accounts for less than 2% of commuters. I would also like to see a real study of the environmental benefits of biking when the full costs are considered including more traffic congestion caused by bike lanes taking away car lanes/slow bikes impeding traffic, extra hot water for extra showers and clothes washing needed by sweaty bikers, etc. People are going to love self-driving cars and it will likely mean even more suburban living as you comfortably get driven to work while sipping coffee and playing video games.

        • 0 avatar

          And undoubtedly stuffing their faces with Dunkin’ Donuts and McMuffins as their car does the thinking for them. At least fast food drive thru’s will be more orderly.

          It’s true that suburbs have been thriving over the past half century, but one internet study doesn’t establish your position. I can cite studies too.

          The last article wisely points out that there has been suburban growth, but it’s largely subsidized by cheap gasoline. I don’t underestimate the stupidity of the American government to subsidize things that don’t need subsidizing and to not subsidize the things that do. But with growth in China and India and corresponding growth in demand for energy, cheap gas may become a thing of the past.

          • 0 avatar

            As someone that lives in a country that taxes the crap out of motor fuels and cars ($8 to $10 per gallon depending on exchange rate), the amazing thing is that the vast majority of people still drive to work, school, etc., and most urban growth continues to be in the suburbs. Don’t mistake the lower US fuel taxes for suburban subsidies, it really is about allowing people to keep their own money and make their own choices on where to live and how to get around. Car taxes are high here mostly because it is a stable source of revenue to support the vast welfare state, because citizens continue to buy heavily taxed cars and gasoline(aka inelastic demand).

        • 0 avatar

          the daily beast: >>>A National Association of Realtors survey last year of buyers over 65 found that the vast majority looked for suburban homes. Of the remaining seniors, only one in 10 looked for a place in the city—less than the share that wanted a rural home.

          I bet that a lot more would look into the city if they could afford the nicer areas.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Think big: how cars superseded the horse/carriage a century ago. You can still ride a horse, but not in the middle of a big city without a special license and possibly a diaper in NYC.

    If autonomous cars are offered only as services, without an option to buy, who needs dealerships and service shops? Self-service fuel stations? Quick Lube? In their place, lots of new services: In-car freshly brewed coffee, fast/casual meals via car-to-car delivery, massage chairs, freshly cut flowers in your bud vase, instant photo booth.

    Public transit will still be around, because none of this will come cheap. You want an Apple Car? the monthly service fee will cost double-triple the lease payments for a non-autonomous luxury car. There will be different levels of service and interesting incentives, such discounted fares via a Tinder-like app.

    • 0 avatar

      If you look at the economics of public transit, autonomous cars will likely be cheaper than maintaining trains/buses/trams with expensive drivers, maintenance workers, schedulers, etc. plus the costs of building/maintaining the rails, overhead power wires, etc. for the trains. Most public transit systems are already money losers and only survive on subsidies from fuel taxes on car drivers, so if you take away a significant portion of users that have converted to self-driving cars you will have even larger deficits. It will likely be cheaper to offer subsidized self-driving cars to the poor, elderly, etc. that may not be able to afford them on their own, but even these subsidies are likely to be smaller than current public-transit subsidies.

      • 0 avatar

        Public transit will never work well for most people who are outside of major cities. Just one more of the reasons is that outside of dense urban areas, most of the time busses run far short of capacity, and they are so [email protected]@m slow. Even subways outside of places like Manhattan and Paris aren’t that good. When I lived in DC’s Brookland neighborhood, six blocks from the red line, it still took me twice as long to get to my doctor’s office, downtown by subway as it did by bicycle or car (the two were equal). Getting to the National Institutes of Health by subway took close to an hour, by car, 30 minutes.

        Now in east Lexington, outside of Boston, I could get to Harvard Sq. by bus in probably 45 minutes-plus, walking to the bus stop and then riding in. By car, 12 minutes if there’s no traffic, plus five to park the car. By bicycle, 30 minutes, 35 if I take the bike path, which is slightly less direct.

        • 0 avatar

          In contrast, a few miles to the east of Lexington there’s an express commuter rail train from suburban Anderson Station in Woburn MA that covers the 13 miles to Bostons North Station in 21 minutes at the height of rush hour.

  • avatar

    How about public transportation implemented as a fleet of autonomous vehicles? They would provide riders with door-to-door service over the most efficient route. When not needed, they would sit idle instead of running almost empty.

  • avatar

    Can fleets of autonomous pods really have the capacity to meet the needs of all the commuters in/to a city like New York? Replace all the buses and trains? Many of my friends can’t wait for self driving cars- they hate driving. I love operating my personal vehicle. This vision of the future is depressing.

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