And we’ll have drivers, drivers, drivers ‘til Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) takes the T-Bird (driver’s seat) away…” An ‘A’ for you if you got that that’s a take on the Beach Boy’s Fun, Fun, Fun. This and countless other popular songs lose their meaning in a driverless vehicle world.
The point: There are far-reaching implications of any hugely disruptive technology, and by letting your brain take the scenic route you might be able to uncover some investing opportunities.
First, a brief look at the driverless vehicle landscape, before we hone in on possible implications.
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) is considered the leader in the fully autonomous vehicle race, and its project’s progress is well publicized. It’s lesser known that some other tech companies
and most of the major automakers are also involved to varying degrees in this arena. is especially well along in its efforts.
The head of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)‘s driverless vehicle project has said driverless systems will be available within five years, though many U.S. policymakers and regulators have deemed that too optimistic. Several automakers – such as BMW, Volvo, and Nissan — have said their self-driving (or at least semi-autonomous) vehicles will be available by 2020.
The vast majority of vehicular accidents are caused by human error. So, driverless vehicles should greatly reduce traffic deaths, injuries, and medical and other costs. There were nearly 33,000 traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2012, and more than 2 million injuries. In 2011, the societal cost of traffic crashes was almost $300 billion, while the cost of congestion was $98 billion, according to the AAA.
Possible implications of driverless vehicles becoming mainstream
As with any disruptive technology, there will be people and industries that benefit from the change, and those that end up with the short end of the (gear) stick. Some possible implications:
1. Larger cars desired
This is a conundrum. The future is reportedly electric vehicles, as per many in the auto industry (and I agree, at least for the consumer market). However, given the current constraints (battery range), EVs tend to be smaller than gas-powered vehicles.
If cars were self-driving, wouldn’t many people want a larger one?
Driverless vehicles will essentially be “rooms on wheels.” Some people are already doing a gazillion things while driving. Many more activities are going to occur in cars once they become portable rooms. So, I think many people will want them larger for their “stuff.”