THE CASE FOR
Around 80 percent of all trips made in the USA are one or two person journeys yet vehicles are designed for once-a-year occasions – look at seven-seater SUVS. Autonomous electric cars have fewer moving parts and offer great cost efficiencies in production – with as little as 1/10th the componentry of a conventional car – and much lower operating costs per kilometre. It introduces an alternative to oil without the need for the current tally of 170,000 gas stations in the USA, as the ride-sharing business model has autonomous vehicles returning to central depots for charging. There are three parking spaces for every one of the 250 million vehicles in the US. The impact autonomous cars will have on the use of real estate will free up valuable land. A typical Wal Mart has two to three times the car park footprint of its main building. Electric drive is vastly more efficient and kinder to the climate, depending on how and where the energy is generated.
They don’t all have to be two seaters. Any configuration is possible and it won’t be compulsory, barring government intervention. Americans drive three trillion miles every year and use 180 billion gallons of fuel. Physics says only 1-2% of the energy in a gallon of gas moves the driver – the rest is lost as heat, friction and in moving the 1.5 to 2.5 tonnes of machinery. The prized business model – a driverless Uber or Lyft – can co-exist with privately owned or leased autonomous cars and oldstyle human drivers. A driverless Uber or Lyft that can get to you in a few minutes for 20 US cents a mile makes private ownership at around US$1.50 a mile expensive, particularly in big cities. The claimed reduction in road deaths is between 80 and 90 percent of the 1.3 million people a year who die in vehicle accidents worldwide due to human error or inattention. The stats say privately owned cars are stationary 90-95 percent of the time, chewing away at your wallet in depreciation, insurance, maintenance, and of course the initial purchase price. A significant chunk of the population who can’t or won’t drive will have instant mobility – the aged, the vision impaired, kids, the handicapped. Time spent travelling in autonomous vehicles will be time well spent – on productive things like work, leisure or even shut-eye. Stress levels go down. Road rage becomes extinct.