The future of transport

I remember when I was very young, possibly under five, I decided to climb into the front seat of the family car while my mum was inside visiting my grandma. It was a manual, and I proceeded to put it in neutral and take off the hand brake. When the car started rolling down the driveway, I realised the error of my ways and quickly reached for the foot brake (luckily I could reach...just), and stopped the car. I'm sure my mum nearly had a heart attack as she looked on in horror at the events unfolding in the driveway!

Cars kill

Luckily no one was hurt with my antics that day, but a lot of people definitely do get hurt in cars - around 1,300 people died last year in Australia, and the economic cost of road crashes in Australia is estimated to be $27 billion per annum. And the figures worldwide are truly frightening - around 1.25 million deaths each year according to the world health organisation.

..when driven by humans

I've mentioned previously that automation is coming, and I think it will have a massive impact on transportation. Put simply, people aren't meant to be driving. It's a process perfectly suited to a machine. You need total concentration for sometimes hours at a time. The job is very repetitive, you do the same thing over and over. There are clear rules defining exactly how to drive. And most importantly, a small mistake can get people killed.

But what if cars drove themselves?

Imagine if you could pay a monthly fee and have a car turn up whenever you need one. You're off to work, so you pull out your phone and request a pickup. The car is guaranteed to be there within five minutes, which is easy given it's generally very close. It's not always the same car, but it's always a certain standard of car based on what plan you're on. You're paying a little extra to have access to three cars at once, meaning you and your partner can both go to work while the kids are driven to school. The kids get home in the car too so no more battling that afternoon school pickup. After work, you get another lift into the city for dinner and maybe a drink. Heck, it's Friday night, why not go for two drinks. I mean, it's not like drink driving is an issue.

There's also something different about the city. Ah yes, no carparks. How wasteful having cars sitting in carparks when they could be out driving other people around. Carparks are always in very high value areas of a city. When cars do need to park, they can go somewhere more remote. But of course they won't need to be parked for long as they'll be busy ferrying other people around.

I reckon that's the future, and that future is fast approaching. There's so much happening in the self-driving car field these days. There's Google's Waymo, Elon Musk pushing ahead with Tesla. Really every car company who doesn't want to be left behind is researching their own tech, or finding existing companies to partner with. California recently updated legislation to clarify exactly what a self-driving vehicle is, and more clearly describe the requirements for companies wanting to test them.

There are so many areas that will be affected by this change. Basically, if you drive for a living, whether it's a taxi, truck, or forklift, get ready to be superseded. In fact, if you drove a mining truck for Rio Tinto here in Australia, that may already have happened.

It just makes sense. Self driving vehicles won't drink and drive. They don't get tired. They're always alert. Google's self-driving test vehicles have now driven over 2 million miles, and the statistics tell a remarkable tale. In all those miles, there have been zero fatalities, and only a handful of minor fender-benders. It's clear, these cars A LOT safer than your average driver.

Take heart. If you love driving, you'll still be able to indulge yourself, but chances are it'll be in a controlled environment like a racetrack. The day-to-day process of moving people around will soon be outsourced, and I think it can't come soon enough.

What do you think? Are you as excited about self-driving cars as I am? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

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