Are we ready for SDECs aka self-driving electric-cars? And how are they likely to change the way we live and work? In a word – profoundly!
Culturally, we are experiencing a change no one would have predicted 10 years ago. Large numbers of millennials are not interested in owning a car. Many only value the utilitarian aspects of transportation. They are far more likely to use Uber or a Zipcar and not bother with the overhead of car ownership. In a little over 100 years, the American love affair with the car pinnacled, and now appears to be down shifting to a much lower gear.
Self-driving cars are just over the horizon. Last week, a Tesla travelled in an auto-pilot mode across the entire USA in 57 hours! Self-parking cars have been around for a while, but now they are getting their real autonomous sea-legs. Google and even Uber are in this game full tilt.
Uber is an interesting play. First they disrupted the entire taxi industry. Now they are poised to disrupt yet again, this time replacing their own Uber drivers with self-driving cars. Stealthily, Uber has launched one of the largest self-driving initiatives, and their CEO is determined to make this into a reality. Rumors are that Apple is working furiously on a self-driving project too.
In a world with SDECs do I really need to even own a car?
Many will elect not to do so. Some estimates show that we may have one third less vehicles on the road. Great for global warming, but terrible for car companies. With less cars sold, mega mergers will become more familiar. Get used to a Nissan-Mercedes or even the burial of entire brands just like we saw with the airlines. This will create turmoil in the job market – auto manufacturing employs a lot of people in the world.
The insurance industry is shaking in their boots too. Car insurance is huge. Volvo just announced that if anyone has an accident in a self-driving Volvo, they will pick up the tab! Other car manufacturers will have to follow. So, now this change is going to disrupt the insurance business. And over time, self-driving cars are likely to be far safer. Truck drivers and even airline pilots should be concerned. They are next on the endangered species list. The first self-driving trucks are already on the roads in California.
Our entire road and bridge system is built around gas taxes. With electric cars not needing any gas, how will we pay for these expensive infrastructure costs? Tire taxes? Windshield taxes? Horn Tax? And do we need as many parking garages if cars are not being parked and just sitting idle? I would want my SDEC, if I had one, to drop me to work and then join the Uber self-driving fleet to earn its own living.
And what about the highway patrol? Speeding tickets for whom? Traffic courts will fall into history’s dustbin. Traffic lights – who needs them? Self-driving cars don’t need to “see” lights.
And the gas stations. Another dying breed. Your car will drive to a charging station, charge itself and drive back to you. It doesn’t even need a gallon gulp drink or a day old hot dog at the convenience store.
If you are not driving, what will you be doing in this SDEC? Prepare yourself for new found car productivity. More connectivity, more entertainment, extended office time, a kitchen (?) and more leisure time to do makeup…well, maybe not the last one – we do that already.
And what about the oil states of the world who have made a pretty living from the fossil fuels we pour into our cars right now? With electric cars, oil demand drops. Geopolitics will shift. Entire regions of the world, will no longer be considered “vital to our security”. “Drill baby Drill!” and the Keystone pipeline may soon be forgotten.
Yes, indeed, big changes are underway. You don’t need a driving license for a SDEC either. Another rite of passage will fall asunder. Unless of course you are one of the dangerous humans still attempting to drive in the high-toll high-insurance “For Human Drivers” lane.