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Last updated: January 2021

The first autonomous car can be dated back to the 1980s, in a project funded by the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Called the NavLab; it looked like a postal delivery truck. It bore little similarity to Google's driverless car (without a safety driver), first demonstrated on Arizona's roads in 2017.

Since then, technology has continued to evolve and sparked predictions about how autonomous cars will transform our lives and work.

Here are some of the more intriguing predictions.

#1.   90% reduction in traffic deaths

Yes, you read that right.

The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) predicts that the rise of driverless cars will decrease traffic deaths drastically.

This prediction makes sense when you think about it.

In 2017, it reported 37,133 deaths due to vehicle crashes (94% of which were down to human error).

So, a 90% reduction would save 30,000 lives in a year.

#2.   60% drop in harmful emissions 

Fewer accidents mean less traffic congestion, which means a drop in emissions.

But this is not just due to a reduction in accidents.

Ohio University's Future of Driving report states that harmful emissions will be reduced by 60% after the advent of autonomous vehicles.

Another key benefit of autonomous cars is their potential to revolutionize traffic flow dynamics.

#3.   Eliminate stop-and-go waves by 100%

According to research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, autonomous cars could eliminate the waves of traffic created by stop-and-go behaviour (where humans, rather than road accidents, develop speed changes).

This, in turn, will not only save people time but also decrease the time their cars are on the roads and reduce emissions.

#4.   10% improvement in fuel economy

Rand's Autonomous Vehicle Technology guide states that self-driving cars will provide a reduction in fuel economy by between 4% and 10%.

This is supported by the Ohio University study, which puts a figure of 3.1 billion gallons of fuel as the amount US drivers waste each year. 

With improved fuel economy, there's an even broader impact to consider – a dramatic increase in the efficiency of our roadways.

#5.   500% increase in lane capacity 

The same Rand report also predicts that lane capacity could increase by 500%.

The State Smart Transportation Initiative only puts this figure at 100% (still an impressive increase), which it says, in turn, could result in a 20% increase in traffic speeds.

#6.   40% reduction in travel time

UK citizens' travel time could be reduced by 40%, according to KPMG's Connected and Autonomous Vehicles – The UK Economic Opportunity.

The result?

A saving of £20bn in increased productivity and better use of time for people who would otherwise have been travelling in vehicles.

Meanwhile, in the US, autonomous cars are expected to save workers 80 billion hours lost to commuting, which will keep the economy at US$1.3tn.

Stay with us to discover the last point!

Alongside the time saved, the benefits of autonomous cars extend to substantial financial implications for consumers, including lowered insurance costs and overall savings in vehicle operation.

#7.   Consumer savings of £5bn

In the UK, according to KPMG, the savings on reduced insurance costs, running costs, and parking mean the UK consumer market would save £5bn a year.

And there's more.

Autonomous cars are also expected to solve the 'last mile problem' (whereby people struggle to travel the final mile between their home and the public transport drop-off point).

It should supplement public transport, utilizing the reduction in traffic and the autonomous car's ability to find a parking space and park all by itself.

Moreover, there is a predicted drop in taxi wait time of 88% when autonomous taxis are used, 15% less space needed for parking and enhanced mobility for seniors in an ageing population.

Benefits of self-driving cars and related topics:




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