10 surprising ways that driverless cars could change the world

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With driverless, or autonomous, cars set to arrive on UK roads by 2021 according to the government, they are predicted to change the face of personal mobility forever.

Undoubtedly, they’ll make our roads safer, give us more free time and make our journeys faster. But what are the less predictable consequences of driverless cars? 

Select Car Leasing has found 10 surprising ways that driverless cars could change the world, including the death of radio and an organ shortage. Chris Price reports.

1. Road rage will no longer exist

Out of 38.6m license holders in the UK, a massive 80% of Brits suffered from road rage in 2017. With the main cause of road rage being the interpretation of other road users’ actions, once road users’ hand over control of driving to the car, there will be no reason for road rage as each car will strictly adhere to road regulations.
 
This reduction of road rage could save lives. Recent data shows that 66% of traffic fatalities can be linked to aggressive driving of some kind, which can be one of the effects of road rage.
 

2. The NHS will save around £450 million each year

In the UK, injuries caused because of car accidents cost around £500 million per year to treat. However, by 2030 car accidents are predicted to have been cut by around 90%, meaning that the NHS could potentially save £450 million each year as far fewer people will be seeking treatment. This figure sounds substantial but is still only 0.3% of the NHS yearly budget.

3. Underage ‘driving’ could be legal

The UK government recently gave the green light for children being able to travel in a driverless car without an adult, with Transport Minister Claire Perry saying: “‘I have a vision of the school-run driverless car where you wave your children off to school and they come back at 3.30.”
 
Trials are ongoing although the public may not be so quick to trust an autonomous car with their children. A study carried out by the Open Roboethics Institute showed that only 38% of the public would be happy for their child to ride a driverless car alone. However, this may change depending on the success and safety of autonomous vehicles once they hit the streets.

4. Alcohol consumption will rise 

A fully driverless car would enable its user to exceed the current alcohol limit before taking them home, with experts predicting that £50bn of value will be added to the alcohol industry because of this.
 
Recently the National Transport Commission, an independent advisory body, came out in favour of allowing people to use driverless cars if there is “no possibility that a human could drive”.
 
Ironically, although there is likely to be more people drinking while in their self-driving cars, alcohol-related deaths on UK roads will likely disappear, saving around 240 lives every year.

However, the adverse effect of this could be an increase in alcohol related deaths as consumption will no longer be limited by drink driving laws.

5. Death of radio?

Research carried out by Ofcom shows that 22% of all radio listening is done in a car. Radio is a natural companion for drivers, with a large proportion of its business model centred around listening in cars, with its often popular “Drive Time” segments. With driverless cars, it is likely that radio could lose a significant amount of its audience.
 
The freedom of being a passenger without having to keep your eyes on the road means riders will be able to browse the news on their tablet, watch their favourite TV show or begin work before they reach the office. This could see a large number of radio listeners slowly turn off and do other activities during their journey.

6. You probably won’t own your car

A recent study by think tank RethinkX predicted that consumer demand for new vehicles will drop by a huge 80% by 2030, as drivers move towards a subscription-based model.

One reason for this is that once driverless cars are introduced, it’s likely they will be based on a subscription model like Netflix or Spotify. They will be able to be hailed from any location.
 
An estimate from KPMG recently predicted that by 2030, midsize car sales in the US will decline considerably from today’s figure of 5.4m units every year to less than half that number, 2.1m. This will also have an effect on passenger vehicles, with predictions that the 247m passenger-based vehicles on American roads in 2020 will drop to just 44m by 2030, with the need for taxis etc. significantly decreased.
 
Savings on transportation cost will result in a boost in annual disposable income for US households totalling $1 trillion by 2030.

7. Your car might take you hostage

According to Munch Re, one of the world’s leading reinsurers, 55% of corporate risk managers believe cybersecurity is the biggest concern for driverless cars.
 
Anything that contains a computer within it can be hacked, and driverless cars are no different. In 2015, cybersecurity researchers took control of a Jeep Cherokee 10 miles away from their position and made it crash. Not only did they make the SUV crash, they also had full control of all of the cars electronics such as the radio, heating and windscreen wipers.
 
According to Mark Rosekind, the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, cars have already become “supercomputers on wheels”, and as this trend towards autonomous driving continues to increase, the threat of being hacked will only intensify.

8. There will be an organ shortage

In the US alone, 6,500 people die each year while waiting for an organ transplant with another 4,000 removed from the waiting list as they are considered too sick for a transplant. 20% of the organs currently donated for transplant come from driving accidents.
 
Once driverless cars are implemented, it’s predicted that they will lead to a 90% decrease in road accidents meaning there will be fewer organs available for people who need them.

9. Car parks will become obsolete 

Driverless cars will be able to make their own way home, meaning the £8bn British motorists spend every year on parking will significantly decrease.
 
Approximately 95% of the time, we aren’t occupying our cars. That means they have to be parked somewhere. The parking industry in the UK is worth around £8bn per year with motorists often paying premiums for city centre parking and prime locations.
 
However, driverless cars will be able to drive themselves home once they’ve completed our journey. If your driverless car is part of a subscription service, they will leave you at your destination and make their way to their next pick up. This means that parking will no longer be necessary, especially in city centres and suburbs where journey times tend to be shorter.
 

10. Millions will lose their jobs

In the US alone, low-end estimates predict that 1.7m truck drivers could be replaced by their self-driving counterparts, eventually raising to 3m.

Automation is the biggest threat to workers in several areas of industry such as farming, manufacturing and banking, but it’s transportation that will be affected the most. 
 
Self-driving cars could cost the economy 25,000 jobs per month, according to Goldman Sachs. It’s likely that the US would be the hardest hit, with truck driving the most popular profession in 29 states, which shows the seismic shift autonomous vehicles will cause in employment.
In the US, 4m people currently earn their livelihood through the operation of motor vehicles and these jobs would be put in jeopardy because of autonomous vehicles.
Chris Price