Driverless cars need neither a driver nor wipers on a windscreen and rear window to ride safely. Will autonomous cars make professional drivers unemployed and also ruin suppliers of certain car parts?
If the forecast included in the report prepared by the Business Insider Intelligence comes true, in 2020 around 10 million driverless vehicles will ride on roads worldwide. The largest increase in this number during the considered period will occur in 2019. If the trend of this size continues after 2020, it will involve the rapid change of people’s lifestyle and their personal expenditure structure. The shift would also lead to remodeling local budgets allocated for public transport and appearance of new possibilities in city planning due to a considerable decline in demand for parking spaces. On the other hand, self-driving cars would have need lanes for a short-term stop to put passengers off or to pick them up.
This technological leap may bring many benefits. For example, self-driving cars may reduce the number of accidents, decreasing the number of deaths and injuries on roads and thereby cut spendings on ambulance and emergency medicine, rehabilitation, etc. Secondly, driverless cars may decrease traffic congestion in cities, reduce travelling time and consume energy more efficiently. They can also bring new business models based on cheap supply service of goods, for example, food, clothing and furniture. Since people can place an order online for fresh ingredients to prepare a meal delivered for pennies by an autonomous car, they can reduce the storage space in their kitchens. Urban dwellers will not need so many kitchen cabinets or large refrigerators as they do today. An impact on the furniture industry seems to be inevitable in the long run.
On the other hand, thousands or millions of professional drivers are at risk of losing their jobs in the long term, and insurance companies will see a significant drop in the number of customers. Autonomous vehicle does not exceed the speed limit which means cities will collect fewer funds from fines. Furthermore driving to the office or home will be counted as working time (imagine that we will miss an idleness and listening to music in traffic jams). This shift may also severely affect manufacturers of certain automotive parts.
Prototypes of self-driving cars shown by Mercedes and Google are significantly different. The first concept is a story about the luxury of the future designed for the most affluent clients who can afford an exclusive car. The second vehicle is ideal for a car sharing model. Corporations such as Uber and courier companies specializing in fast deliveries of small consignments will be delighted.
Passengers of Mercedes F 015 who do not feel well when traveling rear-facing, as well as those who like driving a car manually can rotate front seats to the dashboard and take control of the machine. But if it is raining, the driver will be quite surprised: wipers are not included. Apart from the fact that both prototypes are driverless, the lack of rubber wipers on a windscreen and a rear window is a feature that Mercedes F 015 and Google Car have in common.
It is neither a negligence of designers nor a depressing prediction of a permanent drought. Although California is a not a very rainy place especially in the summer when the Google Car will be tested on roads, designers are fully aware of random weather conditions. They designed wipers, but they are not working on windows. Instead, you can find little wipers on the roof where one of the most crucial parts of the self-driving car is installed. Under the black dome, all sensors scanning the environment around the vehicle are hidden. Tiny wipers on the roof are clearly visible on the mock-up presented at the Design Museum in London on the exhibition „Design of the Year 2015”. Incidentally, Google Car is the winner of Transportation category at this year edition of the contest.
If self-driving cars designed for the mass market will include domes full of hi-tech sensors scanning the surroundings, there is a chance that some manufacturers of wipers will survive, but undoubtedly they will have to decrease their supply. However, if the vision shown by Mercedes will come true (the F 015 does not include any rubber wiper; a clear visibility during the rain is probably provided by an ultrasonic force used on some modern jet fighters or another advanced invisible system), the producers of ordinary wipers may go bankrupt. A similar problem may concern manufacturers of steering wheels, gauge, gearboxes, etc. Hopefully, the value of new businesses based on self-driving cars will exceed negative returns of some automotive parts suppliers.
I had the pleasure to watch Mercedes-Benz F 015 in January 2015 in Las Vegas during the presentation given by Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, organized within the CES trade show. A mock-up of Google Car is a part of „Design of the Year 2015” exhibition which will be open for public at Design Museum in London until 31st of March 2016.
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