I was interested to see Allister Heath’s comments today about driverless cars. They will change the world and much, much faster than you can imagine. You may have heard of Google’s driverless car project being undertaken by some of the same people who came up with Street View.
Driverless cars will mean that it becomes much, much cheaper to buy a car by the journey rather than owning one. Cars will become a service proposition. When you want to go somewhere you will put your destination into an app and get price and availability quotes back from suppliers. The price might make you think again and the app will tell you how quickly you could walk there. If you choose to be driven you accept a quote and your driverless car will arrive outside at the agreed time.
Driving yourself will soon look very silly and expensive compared to an automatic car that gets paid for by the journey. Sharing the capital cost of the car over many people will make driving much cheaper. Rather like commercial aircraft are always in the air or being serviced on the ground cars will always be in motion or in the repair shop being fixed.
The car rental business will disappear.
The taxi business will disappear.
All street signs and street furniture will disappear.
Car parking will disappear. Our roads will quickly empty apart from moving vehicles.
Hotels will become a destination only business – business travellers will just kip in the car on the way home.
Our front gardens will come back and garages will become a thing of the past. It will seem ridiculous to use any of your property to store a car.
Our road capacity will increase by 6 times.
Most public transport will be made redundant. The Tube system might survive and a couple of metro systems but pretty much everything else will get superseded by cheaper driverless car journeys. Driverless car providers will innovate so much faster than ponderous governments and rolling stock producers that it will soon become obvious that you should dig up the railways. Our railways will become long distance, driverless car only high speed routes.
Drink driving will disappear. You will pay more for a ride at 11.30pm on a Saturday night but the market will decide if you pay more or have another drink and wait for the price to come down after the rush.
Is this a fantasy? I don’t think so. My Samsung Galaxy SIII came with faultless satnav thrown in for free. I didn’t ask for it. It was just there and it works. This would have been a fantasy ten years ago.
I am prepared to bet that my five year old will never learn to drive.
The government should not spend £35 billion on HS2 – it should take a few billion Pounds and work out how to speed up driverless cars in the UK. The economies that get this technology implemented first will reap huge benefits.