Are self-driving cars the future of mobility? 🤖

Self-driving cars are the future, they say. But is that really so? And if so, will the street scene be full with self-driving cars?

Self-driving vehicles and more specifically self-driving cars are coming. The technology is being fully tested and there are already self-driving cars in different cities around the world. We can already draw many conclusions from the millions of kilometres that have already been driven autonomously.

First of all, autonomous vehicles not only drive around in America. Also at Lab Box, the start-up incubator of D’Ieteren Auto. They are working on ‘Autonomous Shuttles’, where they test a self-driving van on Belgian roads (see image above).

It is therefore certain that there will be self-driving cars, but the question is what we are we going to do with them. Will everyone replace their own car with an autonomous car? Or will they share? When will there be specific regulations regarding self-driving vehicles? There are a lot of questions, but also some interesting data.

Fewer accidents 🔝

Although every accident with a self-driving vehicle is widely publicized by the press, one hardly considers the number of road deaths that the world has to endure every day. More often than not, human errors are at the root of those accidents.

We don’t like to give up the wheel and therefore the control. The nature of the beast, logical, you think. But does this make sense if you know how many road deaths could’ve been saved using technology? Google’s test project for autonomous vehicles Waymo, covered more than 1.6 million autonomous kilometres on the roads of California between 2015 and 2016.

One of Google’s spokespersons, Jacquelyn Miller, testifies after an accident with a normal passenger car: ‘Over a total distance of more than 1.6 million kilometres of autonomous driving, our cars were only involved in 13 light collisions.’ This seems like relatively many accidents, you might think. But keep this in mind: ‘In no case was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.’

Exactly how many accidents self-driving cars will avoid, is hard to tell. What is certain is that self-driving vehicles will drastically reduce the number of traffic accidents.

Fewer traffic jams 🙌🏻

Traffic jams are mainly caused by accidents, brake movements on saturated roads and poor insertion. These are all human errors. Self-driving cars can be set so that they insert correctly and can ‘brake’ better and accelerate so that there are far fewer traffic jams. Fewer traffic jams mean less frustration, fewer exhaust gasses and less time loss.

The traffic jams will not only decrease due to automatic systems, people can also do something about this. Namely the way in which they will use autonomous cars. If everyone wants to buy an autonomous car themselves, more and more cars will be on the roads. This will lead to more traffic jams. However, if the autonomous vehicles switch to sharing systems such as Poppy, then we will actually see a drop in traffic jams.

Therefore, it is necessary to use self-driving cars in the sharing economy. It is also not necessary to have a car standing still in your driveway for 95 percent of the time, while it can drive around all the time to transport other people. Sharing really is the new having.

Two men getting in to a Poppy car
If the autonomous vehicles switch to sharing systems such as Poppy, then we will actually see a drop in traffic jams.

Fewer jobs 🚕

Unfortunately, there is also a flip side of the coin. The many benefits of autonomous vehicles will also ensure that many people fall out of work. Think of taxi drivers who are no longer needed, much less administrative work for the police since self-driving cars do adhere to the traffic rules, private car parks that are no longer required (so much) because of the limited number of cars …

The Belgian state will also see a huge drop in its income, because the autonomous vehicles adhere to the traffic rules. Our poor driving behaviour is an important source of income. Futurist Thomas Frey sees that 30 percent of the total income from local budgets is funded by traffic fines and associated costs. They can partially counter this through a kilometre charge, but clear regulations are needed.

Conclusion

Autonomous vehicles will soon be seen on our roads. However, a great deal still needs to be done before self-driving cars will become the only means of transport on the road. The regulations must be adjusted. In the United States, they are already setting a good example: the Ministry of Transport has already submitted a proposal of 80 pages to adjust the legislation to autonomous vehicles. But what about the thousands of unemployed …

Private trips will also become autonomous faster than professional trips. Think of carpenters or sellers who have to take their niche products with them, but cannot transport them in a normal passenger car. For those journeys with self-driving vehicles, they must make logistical arrangements and draw up schedules.

People must also accept autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles will appear prominently in the coming decades. However, it will take even longer before it actually becomes the only means of transport.

Poppy strongly believes in autonomous cars. The change is coming. It’s not yet for tomorrow, but it’s at the door and Poppy is coming along.

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