As autonomous car technology gets more advanced, and more and more companies are working on development of self-driving cars, it’s obvious that transportation will undergo a revolution of some sort and the way we travel will be a lot different in the future. Also, driverless cars will inevitably affect the environment, with the prevailing opinion that it will be in a good way, as well as urban planning. The way cities are built in the future will have to be different, and streets will have to be constructed in a way that will cater to fully automated cars, with no traffic lights and stop signs, as they will be able to seamlessly move through intersections without the risk of collisions, because they will have sophisticated software that will allow them to avoid other vehicles.
As far as the environment is concerned, the initial thought is that driverless cars are going to have a positive impact on it. Self-driving cars will be more fuel-efficient, primarily because they will be lighter than today’s cars, since there will be no need for them to be made out of strong, heavy materials for safety reasons, because with autonomous cars, human error will be eliminated and there will be no risk of accidents. Also, they will burn less fuel because they won’t have to stop at red lights or intersections, and this will lead to reduction in carbon emissions, as well.
Self-driving cars are also expected to promote car-sharing services even further. Car-sharing would be much more practical and convenient with autonomous cars, that are equipped with smart navigation systems. This would make it easier for people to use these services, as they would be able to order a car, that would pick them up from wherever they are, instead of having to go out on the street looking for an available car. This way, a lot of people will probably realize that they don’t really need to own a car, which will make for cleaner air, and the crazy amount of space that is used for parking lots and parking garages today, will be used for other purposes that are more environmentally-friendly.
But, the other side of the coin says something completely different. Self-driving cars give you the opportunity to multi-task while sitting behind the wheel, which makes it a pretty convenient mode of transportation, that allows you to do some extra work while taking your kids to or from school, or while commuting. This could easily make personal cars more appealing to people than public transportation systems, which will increase demand for cars. Also, autonomous cars will be attractive to the elderly, and the disabled people, who are physically not able to drive, as well as to people with suspended driver’s licenses. So, there is a chance that self-driving cars will have a completely opposite effect on the environment than what was initially thought. But, there is no way of knowing that for sure until they become more widespread and mainstream, and we will have to wait at least 10 years for that to happen.
Alice Aires is an automotive fanatic and “green cars” specialist. She is an author of many how-to articles related to safe driving, green technologies, auto insurance etc. Currently blogging for DMV.com.