In the mind of many experts, autonomous vehicles are inevitable. There is widespread interest in self-driving cars, thanks to Google, a pioneer in the self-driving car space. Autonomously-driven cars are equipped with multiple sensors, cameras and have logged hundreds of hours and many miles of testing. Even so, driverless vehicles will have to cross many hurdles before they gain sweeping acceptance.
Proponents of driverless cars say they will prevent injury, death and destruction of property. They will be able to navigate using smart technology, reducing traffic congestion and eliminate the need for parking because robot-driven cars don’t need to park. They will simply move to the edges of the city or town for refueling and repair. Despite these advantages, a recent study published that was conducted by a collaborative effort between the University of Washington, University of Leeds and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, found that the future impact of autonomous vehicles may be more complicated than we realize.
Advocates of autonomous vehicles are excited about the potential for energy savings. After all, robot-driven cars will improve the flow of traffic, end the need to circle around looking for a parking spot, drive close enough together to reduce drag (platooning), and the vehicles themselves will either be electric or much lighter, increasing the number of miles per gallon of fuel usage. But researchers have uncovered a less obvious factor that might counteract the expected energy savings. The convenience of a driverless car may cause more people to commute to work, thereby increasing the number of vehicles on the road. If a trip is no longer stressful because you can relax, work or even hold conferences during transport, people might decide to buy their own vehicle, contributing to a more car-centric lifestyle.
One solution that has been suggested is to increase the use of on-demand ride sourcing (i.e. Uber or Lyft). The biggest advantage of a fully functional robot-driven taxi system is the ability of the vehicle to transport many people within a 24 hour period. For this reason, it is imperative that fully-autonomous robot-driven vehicles become available before too many people invest in a self-owned driverless car.
A robot-driven taxi system works best when there are more people using it because more demand means more supply. More supply translates into shorter waiting times and faster service, making the system more desirable. If you live in urban or suburban areas where there is higher population density, an on-demand taxi system will be cost effective and more convenient than owning your own vehicle.
Unless manufacturers and policymakers make an effort to enact systems that prevent the proliferation of driverless vehicles to the detriment of society, Florida roads could become increasingly overcrowded, creating even more problems than they are meant to solve.
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