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No more drivers: 15 more predictions and rules for the road of the future

Autonomous vehicles have the power to transform business and pleasure.


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(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read the first 10 predictions here.)

Last week, I shared 10 expectations for our driverless futures, and the more I muse on the subject, the more variables I've consider. The true value of a prediction is in drawing attention to a situation, and then allowing your audience to then reach their own conclusions.   

So, without further ado, I give you 15 more predictions.

1.  Police departments will shrink by 80 percent

In most U.S. cities, 80 percent of police departments are dedicated to traffic control. Without DUIs, speeding tickets and parking fees, police departments are sure to be shaved down.

2.  $35 billion a year goes poof

In 2014, federal fuel taxes amounted to $35.2 billion. This number will undoubtedly increase in the coming years until we reach a point of peak gas usage, likely somewhere in the mid-late 2020s.

3.  New York City will lose more than $2 billion per year in traffic fines

The Big Apple collected a whopping $1.9 billion from traffic violations in 2015, and this figure has been on a steady upward trend over time. But what happens when your car is programmed to avoid such pitfalls?

4.  Airport revenues will disappear

According to the Airports Council International-North America, 41 percent of airport revenue comes from parking and ground transportation services. Virtually all of this will disappear over the coming years.

5.  Cities’ revenues will be cut in half

When we combine the loss of sales tax, retail, income from traffic violations, gas taxes, vehicle licensing, parking meters and parking garages, the total loss to a city comes out to more than 50 percent.

6.  $500 billion per year will be wiped from health care

The National Safety Council estimates 38,300 people were killed and 4.4 million injured on roads in 2015.

Driverless cars have the potential to drive those figures down to zero. If we consider how low the accident rate is for the airline industry, that’s reasonably what we should expect for autonomous vehicles.

If we multiply the average health care costs after a traffic injury – say an average of $10,000 times the number of injuries, 4.4 million – we end up with a potential drop of $440 billion.

For 2015, the CDC estimates that 38,300 people who were killed in car-related incidents, resulted in $62 billion in medical and work loss costs in addition to the immeasurable burden on the victims’ families and friends.

That’s more than half a $1 trillion in the U.S. alone that, theoretically, will dissolve.

7.  Car theft no more

In 2015, 707,758 motor vehicles were reported stolen.

Autonomous cars will not more difficult or next to impossible to pilfer.

8.  Auto insurance to see loss of $150 billion a year

Total personal automobile insurance premiums in the U.S. stood at about $186 billion in 2014. 

According to KPMG, accidents will decline 80 percent by 2040 due to safer cars and autonomous transportation. But if driverless adoption happens sooner – which it’s likely to do – the 80 percent decline will come into play much earlier.

While the cost per accident may escalate because new cars and their parts are more expensive, once driverless technology hits a stride, the decline will be dramatic and result in sizable reductions in losses and premiums. More than 90 percent of accidents each year are caused by driver error.

9.  The irrelevance of location

In business, the saying goes: “location, location, location.” However, as the driverless world evolves, passengers will become more involved in working, watching movies and playing games throughout the commute.

As drivers, we are invested in landmarks along our journeys, and rely on the context of our location. But once drivers transition to full-time passengers, it would be reasonable to assume they will pay far less attention to local landmarks. How important is proximity then?

10.  Garage 2.0

As car ownership declines, garages won’t house cars.

A nicely remodeled garage, set up, for instance, as a separate living unit, could add as much as $1,500 to $2,000 a month to rent payments. Put that puppy on AirBNB as a rental, and add that to the average homeowner’s income.

11.  More than 5 million acres of parking lots will suddenly be ripe for redevelopment

Roughly 14 percent of Los Angeles is currently used for parking.

We have a colossal amount of land dedicated to this singular use – over 5 million acres, to be precise. Demand for parking will begin to dwindle over the coming decades and this property will be sold as prime real estate for redevelopment.

12.  Transportation costs will shrink

According to a study from AAA in 2015, the average person spends $8,698 a year on a car that averages 15,000 miles per year. That works out to $725 a month. For autonomous vehicles, projected annual spending on transportation will be far less - $4,200 (.28/mile * 15,000 miles) or $350/month.

Over time, the 28 cents per mile we used in our calculation will drop as fleet owners develop more efficient systems.

13.  A new hobby

Autonomous vehicles will cause car ownership to evolve from a necessity to a luxury.

As dealerships and gas stations begin to dwindle, the overall cost of owning and maintaining a car will ratchet up. Once autonomous vehicles reach 50 percent of commuter traffic, the cost of traditional car ownership will skyrocket.

14.  Overcrowding will officially come to an end

One thing that symbolizes overcrowding more than anything else is traffic.

Once traffic flows smoothly, people will regain control of their lives and congestion will fade.

15.  But what about the jobs?

Over the next two to three decades, driverless technology will be either directly or indirectly responsible for the loss of 25 percent of current jobs.

But that’s only part of the story.

Virtually every aspect of society, in every country around the world, will be touched by driverless technologies, and the vast majority of it is destined to improve our global standard of living.

Job loss will be offset by job creation. Businesses that disappear will be replaced by innovative new (sub)-industries built around the ingenious new capabilities autonomous vehicles provide.

Final Thoughts

In the future, our cars will know far more about us than we know about them. Each new vehicle will instantly adjust the seats, play the music we like or our favorite TV shows – because we don’t have to have eyes on the road anymore. Cars will also understand where we’re going, and let those we’re meeting know when we will arrive.

As transportation becomes faster, cheaper and easier, we will, I presume, go more places more often. We’re moving toward a very fluid society and this action will seem natural and effortless.

It’s important to understand that driverless technology will not only be applied to cars, but tractors, trucks, ships, lawn mowers, forklifts, snowplows, submarines, drones, trains and even airplanes. It will soon touch the lives of every person on the planet.

Still, this is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Just as wealthy people today enjoy the status of driving a more expensive car, not all driverless vehicles will serve the same utilitarian function. Richer people will pay to “arrive in style,” and will expect to have premier access to buildings. In much the same way hotels often greet their elite guests with teams of people waiting on their arrival, retail stores will find unusual ways to greet their most prominent customers and make them feel welcome.

If technology progresses the way I’ve predicted, we are on the verge of an explosive transformation.

As always, please take a few moments to consider the implications of these changes and let me know your thoughts.

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Thomas Frey

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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