An image of the future in which we use self-driving cars seems very pleasant. We will be more flexible, while at the same time we have the opportunity to use our travelling time efficiently. No one will need to own a car anymore and still we would arrive at our destinations, all of us having our own, individual routes. Because of the large influence our mobility pattern has on our work and personal lives, such an image of the future would indeed facilitate our lives. You read all about it in the previous blog. Unfortunately though, not only benefits ensue from the scenario. These are seven problems that arise in a future with self-driving cars.
1. Unbridled mobility
Where many families before owned one, two or three cars to meet their mobility demands, they will have four vehicles at their disposal in the situation described above. Even the youngest children have one at their disposal, regardless of the fact that they are too young to drive. The omnipresence of vehicles on the one hand results in flexibility for the parents, allowing them to cook together and to start their evening in a more relaxed way. On the other hand, though, it might also result in higher mobility demands of the family members. The sky is the limit. Do you want to practice soccer, take music classes and participate in drawing lessons? That is possible. All you have to do is reserve some vehicles. The unbridled mobility will surface and before we know it, these vehicles will overcrowd our roads.
"The unbridled mobility will surface and before we know it, these vehicles will overcrowd our roads."
2. Professional mobility
What about professional travel? Think of the representative with his specific product or the carpenter with his equipment and his supply of wood. Such professional journeys are characterized by their specific needs. If they have to schedule all of their travel through the mobility system, they will have to make certain logistic arrangements. Think of ordering raw materials (such as the wood for the carpenter) and having these delivered at the right location. Or the necessary equipment, not to mention the travel of the employees or the self-employed person himself.
"The current political landscape shows little flexibility when it comes to changes in mobility, and especially regarding fiscal regulations relating to those changes."
3. Fiscal mobility
As regards company vehicles, many bad things can be said, but in many cases it really is a necessary part of the job. That is why the purchase, the maintenance and possible journeys are fiscal benefits for the company. What about the fiscal deduction of professional travel when we start shifting it towards different transportation systems? The current political landscape shows little flexibility when it comes to changes in mobility, and especially regarding fiscal regulations relating to those changes. It is therefore essential that we increase the flexibility of the fiscal system for mobility solutions and even for disruptions in mobility.
4. Public mobility
Which role does public transport play in this image of the future, if every vehicle on demand is better capable of meeting the individual needs of the user? It is not more individual, it allows the user to schedule his day in a flexible manner without having to make concessions regarding mobility facilities. There is a chance that our current system will evolve – without focused government regulation – into a public transportation system that is solely focused on individuals that cannot afford the autonomous formula. This will have many consequences. Think about the flexibility and freedom both parents and children enjoyed in our image of the future.
5. Shared mobility
The proposed image of the future moves away from ownership of vehicles, but it is nothing more than a shared system in some sort of back office. The fact that these vehicles are actually shared remains largely unseen by consumers. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but the combination with unbridled mobility results in us acquiring some form of fictitious ownership of the autonomous vehicles. We will not learn to deal with scarcity in mobility. Rather, we will revive and enjoy the luxury that ensues from the system.
"The integration of self-driving vehicles into non-autonomous traffic has to be accurately regulated."
6. Transitory mobility
The abrogation of ownership of private vehicles will not happen in one day. As a result, the transition from our current mobility system to the future one will involve some hybrid forms. The integration of self-driving vehicles into non-autonomous traffic has to be accurately regulated.
7. Equality in mobility
Equality in mobility gets challenged when we speak about autonomous and self-driving cars. Who can afford self-driving vehicles and how do we make sure autonomous vehicles do not get excluded from traffic?
"We can start anticipating the future today. We do not have to wait to take daring, future-oriented decisions."
This is not a pessimistic view towards the future. Rather, it is a wakeup call. In my experience, people often think technology will solve all our problems. Indeed, technology will turn upside down our world and our habits during the next few decades, mostly for the better. However, before that happens, government and private parties have to clearly be aware of the fact that waiting for such technology to come around is not a good idea. We can start anticipating the future today. We do not have to wait to take daring, future-oriented decisions.
Do autonomous vehicles appeal to you and why? Which possible obstacles do you see? Let me know.