Motorized vehicles began with the advent of electric vehicles as evidenced by the first recorded powered vehicle fatality in the United States in 1899, from an electric taxi (see Part 2 of this series). Technology advances in the intervening 100 plus years have given rise to fully autonomous vehicles which are on the horizon.
The summary (abstract) provided by Clements and Kockelman (2017) is superb and provided in full.
“Connected and fully automated or autonomous vehicles (CAVs) may soon dominate the automotive industry. Once CAVs are sufficiently reliable and affordable, they will penetrate markets and thereby generate economic ripple effects throughout industries. This paper synthesizes and expands on existing analyses of the economic effects of CAVs in the United States across 13 industries and the overall economy. CAVs will soon be central to the automotive industry, with software composing a greater share of vehicle value than previously. The number of vehicles purchased each year may fall because of vehicle sharing, but rising travel distances may increase vehicle sales. The opportunity for heavy-truck drivers to do other work or rest during long drives may lower freight costs and increase capacity. Personal transport may shift toward shared autonomous vehicle fleet use, reducing that of taxis, buses, and other forms of group travel. Fewer collisions and more law-abiding vehicles will lower demand for auto repair, traffic police, medical, insurance, and legal services. CAVs will also lead to new methods for managing travel demand and the repurposing of curbside and off-street parking and will generate major savings from productivity gains during hands-free travel and reduction of pain and suffering costs from crashes. If CAVs eventually capture a large share of the automotive market, they are estimated to have economic impacts of $1.2 trillion or $3,800 per American per year. This paper presents important considerations for CAVs’ overall effects and quantifies those impacts.”
See Table 1 for a summary of the economic impacts of autonomous vehicles.
In the columns headed “Dollar Change in Industry” and “Percent Change in Industry,” signs “+” and “-”, respectively, denote a gain and a loss for the industry, whereas the industry-specific total for the dollar change in industry is the sum of their absolute values. Figures in the “$/Capita” columns and provided as overall total represent the sum of net economic benefits enjoyed by consumers.
According to an estimate by Intel Corporation and Strategy Analytics, announced in June 2017, the economic effects of autonomous vehicles will total $7 trillion in 2050 (Figure 6). The dollar amount represents a newly created value or a new ‘passenger economy’, calculated based on the assumption that fully automated Level 5 vehicles will be on the roads by 2050.
They also assumed that consumers and businesses will use Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) offerings instead of owning cars, and those who had been commuting to work by car will become passengers and spend the commuting time doing something else. Furthermore, transportation companies suffering from a serious labour shortage – such as long-haul truck operators and home delivery service providers – will introduce autonomous driving services, thereby enabling them to change their business models drastically. As such, the estimate reflects a very broad range of potential effects, which also include a wide variety of new commercial services such as onboard dining and retailing (Tomita, 2017).
Advancements continue almost daily. CNN Business (Farland, 2020) reports a self-driving and electric robotaxi from Amazon’s Zoox can travel up to 75 mph and never has to turn around, reversing directions as needed to navigate crowded city streets. In an effort to become a leader in this sector, China is advancing autonomous vehicles quickly, including fully autonomous highways (Metha, 2019; KPMG International, 2019).
There are a myriad of challenges to realize fully automated vehicles and that will require an accumulation of massive quantities of data and learning processes to enable the development of AI capable of coping with navigating the rules, laws, traffic control devices, unique infrastructure, and nuances in each city, county, and state, not to mention internationally. Moreover, developing soft infrastructure, including laws and regulations, and setting rules for liability arising from accidents involving autonomous vehicles will be challenging. Similar to the open ITS architecture established by USDOT, there is a need to establish AV architecture within the U. S., if not internationally.
The advent of fully automated driverless vehicles will have a tremendous impact on our society, bringing fundamental changes to the entire economic and social systems. When fully automated vehicles come into operation, they will become a major means of mobility for the elderly and infirmed in rural areas, in addition to agriculture uses. Urban areas will likely experience the greatest changes, the number of cars owned for personal use will drop, eliminating congestion and the need for parking spaces, and car-sharing services will continue to grow.
Companies are investing enormous money in both electric and autonomous vehicles. For example, Microsoft is investing $2 billion in Cruise, that is majority owned by GM, for a valuation of over $30 billion (Colias, 2021). Apple and Hyundai-Kia are planning to start production of a fully autonomous electric car in 2024 (Lebeau, 2021). It is interesting to note that the smart phone market is about $500 billion annually of which Apple has roughly one-third of that market. By contrast, the mobility market is about $10 trillion annually so Apple would only need two percent of that market to match their iPhone business. It is little wonder the interest in the autonomous and electric vehicle space.
Although some estimates are that it will be at least 2040 before fully autonomous vehicles will be dominant, how should we cope with these forthcoming changes? How should we redesign and change the urban and rural infrastructure and landscapes, land use, and the economic and social systems?
There are test beds spreading around the nation in an effort to bring these and other technologies to market—Contra Costa County California formed a Transportation Authority (CCTA) and developed the leading facility in the nation—GoMentum (https://gomentumstation.net), the University of Michigan established Mcity some years ago (https://mcity.umich.edu), Waymo is planning a test facility in Ohio (Moderation Team, n.d.), and Missouri just formed a Missouri Center for Transportation Innovation (https://mcti.missouri.edu). These test beds, and other efforts, reflect the drive toward an autonomous and safe mobility ecosystem future. What do they have in common? They are built on partnerships and collaboration. Of course, the National Academies Transportation Research Board (https://www.nationalacademies.org/trb/transportation-research-board), U. S. Department of Transportation, state departments of transportation, universities, and the private sector represent the best minds around and continually add to our body of knowledge on all aspects of mobility and transportation.
Autonomous marine, freshwater, river, air, truck, and train vessels
This discussion does not even mention other modes and types of autonomous vehicles such as marine, riverine, freshwater, trucks, trains, planes, drones or unmanned aerial vehicles, aircraft, or space craft. Although they share many of the same challenges as cars and similar vehicles, many of these are likely years away before widespread use. Nonetheless, they are on the horizon. Of course, the elimination/reduction of operators will require careful planning to help people find other jobs in addition to negotiations with unions, changes in business models, and changes in society. The following links provide more information on these topics.
“What Will the Autonomous Ship of the Future Looks Like?” Smithsonian Magazine: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/what-will-autonomous-ship-future-look-180962236/
“The Marine Corps is eyeing a long-range robot boat that can nail targets with kamikaze drones” Task & Purpose: https://taskandpurpose.com/news/marine-corps-long-range-unmanned-surface-vessel-contract/
“A New Generation of Autonomous Vessels Is Looking to Catch Illegal Fishers” Smithsonian Magazine: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/new-generation-autonomous-vessels-looking-catch-illegal-fishers-180976336/
“Autonomous Shipping: Trends and Innovators in a Growing Industry” Nasdaq Technology: https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/autonomous-shipping%3A-trends-and-innovators-in-a-growing-industry-2020-02-18
“The Future of Autonomous Aircraft” TechXplore: https://techxplore.com/news/2020-12-future-autonomous-aircraft.html
“Xwing Unveils Autonomous Flight System for Regional Planes” VentureBeat: https://venturebeat.com/2020/08/20/xwing-unveils-autonomous-flight-system-for-regional-planes/
“Rail in on the way to autonomous trains” International Railway Journal: https://www.railjournal.com/opinion/rail-autonomous-trains
“Autonomous vessels on inland waterways” De Vlaamse Waterweg: https://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regexpert/index.cfm?do=groupDetail.groupMeetingDoc&docid=38717
“Automated Trucking, A Technical Milestone That Could Disrupt Hundreds of Thousands of Jobs, Hits the Road” CBS News 60 Minutes: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/driverless-trucks-could-disrupt-the-trucking-industry-as-soon-as-2021-60-minutes-2020-08-23/
“Robots exploring on their own and self-piloting spacecraft are a long way off, says NASA computer scientist” Arizona State University News: https://news.asu.edu/20200220-discoveries-autonomous-spacecraft-baby-steps
Clements, L.M. and K.M. Kockelman. (2017, January 1). Economic effects of automated vehicles. Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board. Retrieved February 6, 2021, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.3141/2606-14
Colias, M. (2021, January 19). Microsoft bets bigger on driverless-car space with investment in GM’s Cruise. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 6, 2021, from https://www.wsj.com/articles/microsoft-bets-bigger-on-driverless-car-space-with-investment-ingms-cruise-11611064940#
KPMG International. (2019). 2019 autonomous vehicles readiness index: assessing countries’ preparedness for autonomous vehicles. KPMG International. Retrieved February 6, 2021, from https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/xx/pdf/2019/02/2019-autonomous-vehicles-readiness-index.pdf
Korosec, K. (2017, June 1). Intel predicts a $7 trillion self-driving future. The Verge. Retrieved February 6, 2021, from https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/1/15725516/intel-7-trillion-dollar-self-driving-autonomous-cars
Lanctot, R. (2017, June). Accelerating the future: the economic impact of the emerging passenger economy. Strategy Analytics. Retrieved February 6, 2021, from https://newsroom.intel.com/newsroom/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2017/05/passenger-economy.pdf
LeBeau, P. and Reeder, M. (2021, February 3). Apple and Hyundai-Kia pushing toward deal on Apple Car. CNBC. Retrieved February 6, 2021 from https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/03/apple-and-hyundai-kia-driving-towards-deal-on-apple-car.html
McFarland, M. (2020, December 14). This robotaxi from Amazon’s Zoox has no reverse function. CNN Business. Retrieved February 6, 2021 from https://www.cnn.com/videos/business/2020/12/14/zoox-robotaxi-amazon-orig.cnn-business
Mehta, Ivan. (2019, April 15). How China’s new highway for self-driving cars will boost its AV ambitions. The Next Web. Retrieved February 6, 2021, from https://thenextweb.com/cars/2019/04/15/how-chinas-new-highway-for-self-driving-cars-will-boost-its-av-ambitions/
Moderation Team. (n.d.). Waymo to open new autonomous testing facility in Ohio. Self Driving Cars 360. Retrieved February 6, 2021, from https://www.selfdrivingcars360.com/waymo-to-open-new-autonomous-testing-facility-in-ohio/
Tomita, H. (2017, December 17). Awaiting the realization of fully automated vehicles: potential economic effects and the need for a new economic and social design. VOXEU CEPR. Retrieved February 6, 2021, from https://voxeu.org/article/potential-economic-and-social-effects-driverless-cars