I for one, can’t wait for our robot drivers

Robotic quad copters notwithstanding, the most important area of robotics is that of self-driving cars.  I predict that self-driving cars will become common within a decade.  The changes will be significant:

  • Fewer people will bother to own cars.  Most of us use our cars for less than an hour a day.  That’s just poor use of capital.  When cars can come to you on their own then you just reserve one on demand.
  • The differences in car ownership between urban and rural areas will extend into suburban areas.
  • Taxi drivers will cease to exist.  Professional drivers will become very rare and specialized.
  • Parking facilities will shrink.
  • Transit systems will become integrated with car networks.
  • Traffic management will become a real time management problem and opportunity.  A central authority may not control your car but it will certainly be able to virtually close some roads.
  • Access to cars becomes more like airline travel.  Unlike most airline travel however, individuals have very predictable patterns of normal usage.  Daily commutes will become an auction process optimizing for finite resources.
  • Staggered working hours will become even more common.  What works for school buses will certainly work for everyone else. 
  • Cars will become more utilitarian.  Today’s cars are a major personal style and status symbol.  Some people will be willing to pay more for a luxury on-demand car but most will stop caring so long as the car has internet.
  • Fuel efficiency will finally improve.  Most cars today are over-powered.  Their engines are optimized for user satisfaction rather than efficient travel.  Take the driver away and give her a book and driving 5 to 10 mph slower won’t matter much.
  • Law enforcement will start pre-emptively gathering travel data and investigating exciting correlations.

I can’t wait.