When we think about autonomous vehicles, we usually think about the effect that they’ll have on us. We dream of having an autonomous taxi at all times, and shudder at the thought of losing our autonomy in driving. We think of how our lives will change, for better and worse. The point is, we think very close to home about the future of autonomous cars rather than big picture.
Take a moment with us and imagine the impact beyond your life, and picture how autonomous vehicles will change the entire automotive industry, from basic car service deals, to long haulage trucks. We’ll go through some of the likeliest big changes that will start to happen if, or more likely, when, the autonomous vehicle takes over.
Long haul trucks
Because of the great distances they need to cover, long haul trucks will be one of the automotive industry areas to be affected. The reality is that long haul trucking is hard on the truck driver. It’s a lonely business, and you can spend potentially weeks on the road with very little stops. Many truck drivers accept trucking as more of a lifestyle, as they might spend more time in the truck than their home and more time on their own than with their families.
Because it’s often hard to find truck drivers that stick around for longer than a few years, this industry will likely accept autonomous trucks with open arms. Autonomous trucks will not have to stop for rest breaks, will be safer on the road because there isn’t a driver who potentially is sleep deprived or distracted after days on the road. It also means more long haul trips can happen, as currently there is a driver shortage and less items getting transported.
The car service industry is changing dramatically, even without the autonomous car industry. However, as autonomous cars start becoming the norm, we’ll see even bigger changes in things like transmission service because autonomous cars will likely be electric, and electric cars no longer need a transmission. Electric cars are easier to service (with the right training), and therefore we may see less demand for car mechanics going forward.
Other areas, like different warehousing services, will also become unnecessary. Forklift truck servicing, for example, will be fairly nonexistent as the vehicle will become fully electric and full autonomous. Many warehouses or plants currently employ their own service person to fix heavy machinery on site, but as we make the switch, these roles will become redundant.
The warehouses we know today are almost guaranteed to start going autonomous. Take forklift servicing, for example. Forklifts will likely be one of the first warehouse item to go autonomous, to avoid some of the common human driver mistakes. The precision and accuracy of an autonomous forklift, along with safety features that outperform humans on a regular basis, will change the way our warehouses look forever.
Warehouses can program their needs exactly into the autonomos heavy machinery, making things like moving stock around the warehouse seamless. Since all stock will be logged into a system and autonomous warehouse vehicles will be on that same system, carrying out orders will be much faster. Things like warehouse audits can be instant, and order prediction and forecasting will be much simpler.
We’re already seeing a massive change in the automotive manufacturing industry, as many jobs have essentially been taken over by robotics rather than humans. We will start seeing the auto manufacturing companies who are already focusing on autonomous vehicles start to pull ahead of those who refuse to jump on board.
A little thought of effect of autonomous vehicles is the fact that many type of licenses will no longer be required. Think driver’s licenses, forklift licenses, and other heavy machinery licenses. Where previously a job may have required one or all licenses, either they may not be required anymore, or the job won’t be required at all anymore.
- Ownership: If autonomous cars are all electric and programmed, there would be no real reason to own your own car. Some apps have already adopted this type of car share system, like the Go Get cars in Australia or Zip Car in the United States.
- Drunk driving: We’ll no longer need that jail cell to hold the drunken drivers overnight, as their autonomous cars will taxi them home instead.
- Car insurance: Our traditional car insurance covers accidents and fender benders, which are promised to drastically reduce with autonomous cars. Car insurance for an individual driver will become nonexistent, as the car itself will likely not even be owned by the rider, and the chance of an accident is minimal.
- Police: How many times do we see police officers directing traffic for a big sports game, or during particularly heavy traffic or construction? This kind of manual traffic direction will likely no longer be necessary as vehicles will be programmed to avoid traffic and accidents.
- Security: Because autonomous cars would presumably be connected to some type of network, providing real time traffic updates and road conditions, there will be a need for a new area of security. We’ll need to prevent hacking into the system to disrupt traffic or cause fatalities, and perhaps traditional car mechanics will need to start learning about the security of vehicles and building in preventative measures from the start.
When you look into the future, it’s pretty clear our vehicles won’t look anything like they have in the past. We’re heading to a brave new transportation world that promises fewer accidents, easier commutes, and equal ownership. It will also lead to a loss of jobs as servicing and warehouses become more automated, and time will only tell where these jobs will be reabsorbed into the economy. Until then, let’s enjoy our long road trips with the windows down and Willie Nelson’s On the Road Again playing loudly over the radio.