Self-Driving Cars

Self-Driving Cars

A study estimates that mass-adoption of self-driving cars could reduce over 90% of traffic accidents.

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Autonomous vehicles are the future. Self-driving cars could change our lives, heralding an era of greater convenience, improved productivity, and safer roads. Like any transformative technology, driverless cars are attracting huge investment from traditional automakers, established tech giants, and smaller start-ups. But all that promise is also fueling a great deal of hype and ungrounded speculation. Here are five of the most persistent myths.

Recent studies from the University of Michigan and KPMG predict that the arrival of autonomous vehicles (AVs) will reduce private car ownership in the United States by 43 percent by 2030, and sales in urban markets by 50 percent by 2035. They hold that families will need fewer cars and that many people will opt for "mobility as a service" — a supposedly cheap and efficient model in which travelers will summon vehicles on demand instead of keeping one (or more) in the garage. Even the usually levelheaded BBC recently declared that "you have (probably) already bought your last car."

But people do not buy automobiles simply to get around; they own cars to get from A to B in a way that's convenient for them. This means a car at your doorstep, available at a time of your choosing (with no charge if you change your mind), and with your belongings exactly as and where you left them. Automobiles signal our values and extend our private space — things a shared service cannot offer. Nic Lutsey of the International Council on Clean Transportation sums this up perfectly: "In reality, a lot of people will have the same inclinations as they do today, to own a private auto and use it the way they want, without compromises."

Even if the inconvenience can be overcome, a recent study from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute suggests that owning a non-autonomous car will, for many users, continue to be cheaper than buying a self-driving car or hailing a ride, for some time to come. Indeed, car sales in the United States are at their highest level in 40 years, and Americans are keeping their cars longer than ever. It is going to take more than a new generation of highly efficient taxis to eliminate private automobile ownership.

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