The self-driving car will de-socialize us

Recently I spoke to one of my students. He is a millennial without a driver’s license, and he said: “by the time I graduate I can probably obtain a self-driving car, therefore I don’t see any urgency in getting my driver’s license”. While it was a bold statement, and while all his other classmates laughed at him and rejected his statement it made me switch to his paradigm. Since that remark, I’m observing the streets, cars, drivers and its total ecosystem from a totally different perspective.

“by the time I graduate I can probably obtain a self-driving car, therefore I don’t see any urgency in getting my driver’s license”

1: The impact on the user level

What about the social aspect? Driving is a social activity. You give priority, you take priority, you honk, shout or smile a bit sometimes. It’s all part of taking part and driving also teaches us moral rules along the way. Not actively taking part could isolate us socially and deprive our moral development.

Not actively taking part could isolate us socially and deprive our moral development.

On the other hand, it could take away gender prejudices. What happens with the prejudice of “men being better drivers than a woman”? It will disappear like thin smoke in the air because there is no driver. And what happens with all the stress that driving in traffic jams can provoke? Less stress, a healthier population? And will we ever hear about a ghost rider on de news again? I guess not unless it’s a malfunctioning self-driving car.

And what will we do with our spare time? Frederik Deschuytter explores several concepts like working, sleeping and entertainment during traveling, in his graduation project: “the personal driver” (Deschuytter, 2016).

I predict the entertainment industry still has golden times ahead in designing new ways to entertain us during traveling in an autonomous vehicle. Imagine doing games like guessing which city you’re passing on the highway or how many miles are still ahead?

2: The impact on car brands

All my life I see car advertisements. They are all focused on seducing the consumer with better performance, a different lifestyle, safety, and or other technologies that make the unpredictable driver drive better faster or safer and become more successful. But what if it’s not anymore about driving? What’s the use of all those car brands then? Bob Lutz, former vice chairman and head of product development at General Motors even writes about a future with “a brand less fleet of autonomous vehicles” (Lutz, 2017).

“a brand less fleet of autonomous vehicles” (Lutz, 2017)

And what about all the car repair businesses? My self-driving car will drive itself at night to an autonomous repair hub somewhere on the outskirts of the city where all self-driving cars go for a fix.

And what about the new trend in the automotive industry: “gamification”? I recently read this article (Gestel, 2018) about several car brands introducing a reward system in the car for sustainable driving behavior. The more sustainable you drive, the more points you score. You can monitor your score on your dashboard and even compete to be the most sustainable driver of that brand in the world. This effort of gamification is still centered around the driving experience and will be useless in the future.

3: The impact on the car’s ecosystem

With the car’s ecosystem, I mean all the institutes and companies involved with us driving cars. I will probably miss a lot but here are some examples.

If you don’t need a driver’s license anymore what’s the use of driving instructors, driving schools or even driving tests? Just Imagine a world without. And what about the highway police? They will be out of work. And what about car insurance companies? Just Imagine a world without. And what about traffic radio? If all the self-driving cars communicate with each other they can probably also move according to an algorithm that avoids traffic jams. And what about gas stations? Will all our self-driving cars be electric and better at predicting when to charge, so that we don’t need gas stations anymore? Maybe we only need shops along the highway for toilet service and foods.

4: The Impact on our surroundings

The most visually shocking change will be a landscape without road signs. Just start noticing how many road signs you see per day and how that influences the way our surroundings look like. Maybe we can even do without traffic lights, except for those unpredictable pedestrians. Or no more white painted symbols on the streets because the self-driving car knows it all. And streets without parking meters, because the self-driving car handles that automatically. Also, no more fines. And self-driving cars become distributed evenly through the city so you always have a parking spot.

The most visually shocking change will be a landscape without road signs

I think these four levels of impact show what kind of new world we are entering once we massively start choosing this new paradigm of self-driving cars.

Bibliography

Deschuytter, F. (2016, 01 01). fred-erik.be. Retrieved on 01 11, 2018, from fred-erik.be: http://fred-erik.be/assets/the-personal-driver—long-text.pdf

Gestel, M. v. (2018, 01 7). Rustig optrekken voor 80 punten. NRC.

Lutz, B. (2017, 11 6). Autonews. Retrieved on 01 11, 2018, from Autonews: http://www.autonews.com/article/20171105/INDUSTRY_REDESIGNED/171109944/industry-redesigned-bob-lutz

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