Getting into a car, which is able to drive autonomously, will become a habit?
Probably yes and one day cities will become similar to the minority Report metropolis.
These evocative and suggestive images, however, are only the visible part of an iceberg that, although not as dangerous as the one which sink the Titanic, will be able to overturn the whole automotive industry.
Insurances, for instance, are intended for a profound change: if the car fleet became completely independent, It would be little or no point to insure a driver who would shine for his…absence!
Companies should most likely insure vehicles instead of people, so is declared by Volvo which would take responsibility for any accidents that may occur to its cars driving in autonomous mode.
The fleet, however, won’t become autonomous overnight: how to manage the case of accident between an automated guided vehicle and a human guided one?
Will the insurance premiums decrease?
In case of malfunction resulting in an accident, who will be held accountable?
Automatic cars, voracious data users, will always be connected: if the telematic infrastructure had, for example, a blackout and this prevented to report in time a tree fell on the road causing an accident, liabilities would fall on network operators?
Without distorting mechanisms the premium is estimated on the basis of statistical and probabilistic algorithms, generic or conforming to driver characteristics; they should therefore decline in parallel with accidents reduction, which should be less frequentin a self car fleet.
But before we get to that, things will change: it is estimated that by 2025 the Motor TPL could be reduced by 50% thanks to advanced driver assistance system (in 9 years autonomous vehicles share will be minority) such as the collision brake and the avoidance of obstacles.
Companies already consider this scenario as real and are moving accordingly: 11 British Insurers, for example, (including Axa, Admiral and Direct Line) have decided to form a consortium themselves into a group which can represent the field when the Government will make laws about driverless vehicles.
For its part, in Downing Street the first laws in this field will be discussed from 2018.
Less cars, more Km
An epochal change will also affect manufacturers and road users as well.
Autonomous vehicles will allow to increase road users including those who cannot drive because they haven’t driver’s license or cannot have it – because they are too young or too old – and disabled people.
These inclusions, however, won’t lead to an increase in the car fleet because every autonomous car could take place of 2 or, in same case, 3 conventional vehicles.
Think about the “daily circle” of the average family (2 parents and 2 kids) with a single autonomous vehicle: the car takes dad to work, gets back home, takes children to school and gets home again to “drive” mum to the office and the grandmother (without license) to the hangout for seniors, and then back home again.
It could be difficult to reconcile timetables but it is a plausible picture.
The result is that only one car could do the job of 2 and perhaps 3: the sale of new vehicles could be halved, the traffic could decrease (which would make easier the management of timetables) but the average distance of the vehicle could increase, thus shifting the manufacturers business of mass market towards the maintenance and services (the average distance would rise again if this vehicle during its “spare time“ in a car sharing services or similar) instead of the sale of new cars.
The contraction of the car fleet wouldn’t be uniform: more than a search foresees that it would be a reduction of small and medium cars – normally used in the daily commutes – while those in the premium segment would survive as best as, with the result that the fleet composition would see an increase of expensive cars, so owned not only by wealthy drivers but also families may spend more money for the only car owned.
Quite a change, no doubt about it: so we’ll see many deep transformation – not immediate because the car fleet will gradually change – in all fields.
Translated by Federica Izzo