'Self-drive': A whole new world

2012-08-17 08:45

Consultants KPMG and the Michigan Centre for Automotive Research has released a report showing how close the industry is to rolling out self-driving cars.

They see the first such vehicles in showrooms in 2019 and a more developed infrastructure by 2025.

However, KPMG and CAR said the implications of a totally driverless car that doesn't crash would be huge. Consider...

* Automakers cut weight from cars and trucks as crashless cars do not need to be made with as much reinforced steel or as many safety devices such as airbags. That would lower vehicle costs, accelerate vehicle development time and reduce fuel consumption.

* Automated cars would drive in tighter packs because computers would control their speed and spacing. That would mean smaller roads and eliminate road shoulders and guardrails, leading to a significant reduction in the R616-billion spent each year on highways and other infrastructure.

* With computers controlling the cars, driving would be more efficient and thus faster, leading to less road congestion. Fuel consumption would decline and companies that rely on just-in-time delivery could reduce inventories even further.

* Automated cars would allow for the elimination of traffic and other road lights in many cases. That would slash energy use.

* Driverless cars would mean a change in the way drivers are insured and could even end the need for car insurance.

* Hospitals would lose more than two million crash victims a year.

* Crashless cars would mean auto repair shops seeing fewer damaged cars, meaning they would need to shift their business
model to serving the after-market needs of existing cars that lack autonomous driving systems.

* Steelmakers would have to adjust to a world where cars use less of their product.

* State and local governments would have to adjust to the loss of traffic fines, possibly reducing their police forces. Governments might seek to replace some of that lost revenue; perhaps with tunnel, bridge and road tolls.

* Less expensive driverless cars would open ownership to new audiences such as younger generations or even the blind, but they also could lead to wider vehicle sharing that would slash global sales.

* If vehicle sharing expanded, cars could be summoned as needed and people could pay for mobility services as needed instead of owning a vehicle.

* Autonomous transportation could eliminate the need for and cost of high-speed trains.

* Vehicle sharing could keep vehicles in more constant use, reducing the need for car parks that take up a lot of land in cities.

* Lighter, easier-to-build, cars could open the auto industry to rivals using a model such as Apple's, where a company designs and markets a product but outsources its construction.

* A connected, driverless car network would require security from hackers and would raise privacy concerns with many consumers.

The full story.