First of two parts
Electric autonomous vehicles are expected to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, traffic congestion, parking demand, insurance costs and traffic fatalities. They'll eliminate the 90 percent of traffic accidents attributed to human error.
Those effects are well celebrated. But they will likely have some equally startling side effects, once the three trends of electric drive, connectivity and autonomy converge.
"Those three items collectively will lead to a big change in the way we travel," said Edward J. Regan, senior vice president of the consulting firm CDM Smith. "The convergence of these things will have a big impact, and it’s going to affect people’s decisions on how they travel and if they choose to own a car."
The big trigger point will come when vehicles achieve level-five autonomy, Regan said, operating completely driverless without geographic restrictions. When that happens, according to Regan and other experts at the Transport Chicago Conference in Chicago Friday, we'll see side effects like these:
1 Cars Will Last Longer
Because they have fewer moving parts and don't rely on explosive heat, electric vehicles are expected to last longer than internal combustion vehicles. According to Regan, they could last almost five times longer.
"Electric vehicles will reduce operating costs and increase the life of autonomous vehicles perhaps to 700,000 miles instead of 150,000 miles today," he said. "The use of shared mobility will make them more productive. Instead of sitting idle for 95 percent of the day, those vehicles will be used 50 percent or more of the time."
2. Mobility Will Become Uber Cheap
Those economics will start to drive down the cost of transportation, but the biggest drop in cost comes when the human driver is eliminated.
"The biggest thing is that level-five automation—full driverless operation in all areas at all times—will enable the elimination of the driver of the vehicle operated from the third party shared mobility environment. And the driver in the Uber model accounts for more than two-thirds of the total cost," he said.
"And that effect of those economics might change the cost of shared mobility type services from maybe $2 to $2.50 a mile today—you’re going to go 10 miles it’s going to cost say$25—to 15¢ to 25¢ in the future. A ten-mile trip might be $2.50."
3. Cars Will Interact More Like Phones
Expect to relate to cars the way you relate to a cell phone or computer.
“Your car is not going to be a car anymore," said Habib Shamskhou, president of San Francisco-based Advanced Mobility Group. "It is going to be a third mobile device.”
Companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple are not suddenly interested in autonomous vehicles because they want to sell cars, Shamskhou said. They're interested because they want the 14 percent of people's time that is currently wasted on driving.
"When you get into the car they want you to open up your screen to Facebook, Twitter or something else that they have.”
4. Adios to Asphalt
The radical reduction in parking needs means a lot less land will need to be covered with asphalt.
"Asphalt is terrible," said the architect Marshall Brown of the Illinois Institute of Technology, soon to be of Princeton University. "And it’s everywhere. It's ugly. It has bad environmental effects and it's everywhere especially because of parking. Right? Especially because of parking. So I care less about how cars will park in the future, to me that is not the question. To me the question is, how I can get rid of 30 percent of the asphalt in the metropolitan area."
Read about a fifth side effect, that could prove difficult for governments, tomorrow in part two of this series.
4 Surprising Side Effects of Electric Autonomous Vehicles
First of two parts