The Driverless Car World in 2050


There is an endless list of obstacles that self-driving vehicles have to overcome in order to completely saturate the automotive market. However, let’s look past those for now and gaze into the distant future, all the way into the year 2050. By this time, autonomous vehicles will presumably have worked out all the kinks, come down significantly in cost, and become completely autonomous. At this point, we would expect 100% market penetration. Here are some of my predictions on how our world will change with the advent of our “robot chauffeurs”:

  1. Industries and workers will adapt and change:
    • Insurance companies will have to pivot and dramatically adjust their business model, possibly targeting manufacturers in case of technical failures instead of individuals for human error.
    • Buses, ride-sharing, and other public transportation will be driverless.
    • Long-haul truckers, USPS, and other shipping and mail delivery services will be replaced by automated systems.
    • Over this time, the labor that was once appropriated to tasks relating to vehicles, whether it was driving them, working at the DMV, basic maintenance, or insuring them, will be re-educating and focused elsewhere. Maintenance facilities will specifically have to evolve to also encompass troubleshooting software problems. We’re already starting to see this with current cars.
    • Just as driverless technology and security systems scale, so too will criminals. Car theft will shift to more intelligent criminal minds that have to figure out a way to pilot or gain control of cars.
    • Local governments, especially Los Angeles, will have to look for other “creative” ways to fill their budgets as moving violations and parking tickets will mostly become a concept of the past.

  2. The fundamental design of cars will change forever now that things like mirrors, pedals, and the steering wheel are optional. Seats can face each other, like in the Zoox concept car. It’s entirely possible that they will even become entire mobile live/work spaces.

  3. Time in the car will not be looked at with the same level of disdain as drivers will be liberated from concentrating on the road leaving more time to get work done or get some r&r. Say goodbye to traffic as we know it today. I’m lucky enough to not have a long commute to work anymore, but earlier in my career, I would drive all around Orange County and Los Angeles at all hours of the day for film work or consulting gigs. It was depressing how much time I lost sitting in traffic, even while listening to AM radio or podcasts.

  4. The total number of ads people view will most likely increase as a whole, now that the time spent driving will likely be allotted for work or play.

  5. Drive-in movies and classic style drive-in restaurants will have a revitalized return as we enjoy more leisure activities from the car.

  6. We will no longer have to look for a parking space. Cars will be able to park themselves if they’re not already running other errands for us.

  7. New benchmarks will be set for automotive safety and traffic accidents will plummet to an all time low.

  8. Car ownership will decrease and reduce the number of total cars on the road by 42% according to Forbes. Forbes also estimates that we use our cars as little as 5% a day (and most of that is probably in traffic or looking for parking). People will tend to use on-demand services like Lyft or Uber to come and pick them up, then drop them off. It’s possible that most individuals will opt to not buy a vehicle so they’re not responsible for cumbersome maintenance, while families might opt for just one car instead of two or three.

  9. Manual driving will require a new type of license and have to pass more stringent tests. People will choose to drive for recreation rather than necessity, very similar to how we run or bike for recreation now rather than as a major means for transportation.

  10. Those that own driverless cars may put them to work when they’re not driving their owners around. It’s possible that they could run mundane tasks like dropping off packages to be shipped places, picking up dry-cleaning, picking up groceries ordered in advance online…and yes, even filling itself up with whatever fuel source we’re using in the future. Just as we can opt for slower shipping on Amazon now for a few credits, it’s possible that we’ll have a similar option, but for having our vehicles pick up a package at one of their distribution facilities.

  11. Suburban sprawl will accelerate, and city centers will boom with an influx of new labor as automated long distance commutes become an option.

  12. Depending on the level of advancement long-distance transportation achieves by this time, it’s possible that many will opt for long road trips rather than pricey flights.

  13. The collective data contributed from decades of driving and development from driverless vehicles will propel the advancement of robotics and machine learning.

Please share your own predictions for the future of autonomous vehicles in the comments section!

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Anthony July 13, 2016, 3:24 pm

    “completely saturate the automotive market”

    Driverless cars wont achieve 1% global market penetration by 2050.

    Give a person a 2/1 chance of dying with them in control or a 3/1 chance with no control they will always opt for the less rational option.

    So many conversations, articles and hot takes on this subject, it is actually incessant. There will never be 100% adoption because a very large portion of people actually enjoy driving. As long as people enjoy driving people will crash, into other drivers and driverless cars. When people die inside driverless cars, even when it is the fault of a driver, other drivers will feel they would be better off with their hands on the wheel, as per my less rational option.

  • Voice As Computing July 13, 2016, 9:11 pm

    Very interesting reading.
    Voice As Computing will inevitably facilitate drivers’ communication with cars’ computers.
    Legal fraternity will make sure that there are enough issues arising from the manufacturers’ liability, to keep their “market share.”

  • Edward Zeiden July 14, 2016, 9:40 am

    @Voice As Computing, very interesting. That’s a great point. Wouldn’t you say voice and some sort of mobile web app will control the vehicle?

  • Murray August 3, 2016, 8:52 pm

    An unintended consequence of Autonomous Vehicles…lack of transplant organ donation due to decrease in deaths on the road.

    On a positive note, less traffic stress equals healthier population!


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