Ihor Starepravo

Embracing technology to make self-diving cars a reality. Head of Automotive at Intellias

Why Wired is Wrong about the Future of Transportation

Is cycling to success really the future? Why not let go and have the car drive you to the top?

We are told by Wired that trusting a 100-year-old technology that hasn’t seen much change to safety and comfort is the way to go. They say it’s a healthy choice. Of course, you do reduce pollution and congestion on the roads.

But bikes are the “personal mobility [choice] for the last mile”, as stated in the Wired article. How about the dozens of miles before that last mile? Do you want to ride in comfort, well-protected from the ever-changing weather and actually do some urgent tasks before getting to work? Here is where autonomous vehicles come into play as the future transport technology.

Distance and culture are everything

CNN Travel recently published a much hyped about article on the Netherlands paying its people to cycle. According to the study, their government concluded that over a quarter of trips by the Dutch are on their bicycles. It seems like a leisure phenomenon that is supported by the relatively short distances covered and an abundance of cycling freeways. Indeed, only 25% of such trips are work-related and cover a distance of less than five miles. It’s hardly enough to break a sweat, especially on an e-bike.

Such travel can indeed be seen as ‘the last mile trips’ where walking will take too long and getting a car out of garage doesn’t make much sense. Still, even with such an ingrained love for the bike, the Netherlands decided to reward its cyclists with tax credits of about 34 cents per mile. Strange, isn’t it?

Well, they say that bikes are good for you and I get it, but the bike revolution has its limits and people in the US are a proof of that. According to ABC News, an average American drives 16 miles to work with the daily commute taking at least an hour. This is in stark contrast to the Netherlands where half the population needs to travel less than 10 miles to work.

And with over 3.3 million people engaged in mega commuting in the US (traveling over 50 miles one way), sitting on a bike rain or sun is not the best choice. And only one-fifth of such commuters want to move closer to work. On top of that, 60% of these drivers like their commute to work as they perceive it as personal time for reflection where nobody bothers them.

Commuting to work: the agony, the ecstasy

Source: ABC NEWS/TIME MAGAZINE/WASHINGTON POST POLL

So, people do love their cars. And 60% is a very good satisfaction level that can be increased even further if they are able to do work, study or engage in their hobbies while driving. This is where autonomous vehicles can help. Just imagine focusing on something else rather than staring into the windshield. Your hands are free and the car is driving you on the highway on its own.

Readiness to embrace autonomous vehicles

By now you may think that the above examples are in broad contrast, but the reality is not what it seems. The KPMG’s recent Automated Vehicles Readiness Index (AVRI) report states that the Netherlands and USA are among the top three countries in the world that are ready for a full-blown adoption of self-driving cars.

Source: KPMG — Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index

They are years ahead of many other countries disregarding the fact that they approach the daily commute (bicycles vs cars) in completely different ways. One of the key reasons that autonomous vehicles caught the attention of these countries’ governments is that such a vehicle can safely travel at speeds up to 5 times faster and allow dispersed communities to unite.

Benefits of a self-driving car revolution

In the not so far off future people may work hundreds of miles away from work, and there are many who do so already. Thanks to the future transportation ideas like autonomous driving, your journey to work can still take less than an hour. This means that many companies can now benefit and employ professionals that previously did not want to move and can now easily reach their new place of employment.

On the emotional side, driving car to work makes people feel more independent and relaxed. And with more time on your hands in your car, people will definitely feel even happier as they can do more in the convenience of their vehicles.

Moreover, if you don’t drive to work every day, autonomous cars will impact you in a different way. 62% of those driving not often feel frustrated with their driving skills, 56% feel nervous and almost a half angry. Autonomous transportation will change the future for them, as they can sit back and relax and watch the nature passing by. This is impossible to do when pedaling the bike or having a firm grip on the handlebars of e-bikes. Biking for long distances leads to unnecessary strain in the morning and fatigue in the evening.

Emotions behind the wheel

Source: ABC NEWS/TIME MAGAZINE/WASHINGTON POST POLL

But the traffic in your area may be horrendous and hopping on a bike seems like a good solution. Indeed, 50 million adults in the US are stuck on the road every day with something better to do. Among commuters, nearly a third get nailed by traffic jams at least weekly.

With autonomous vehicles, you won’t have to compromise as such driverless vehicles follow the rules of the road, and don’t make mistakes like humans. These two are the primary reasons for all car accidents that cause traffic jams and loss of life. And having them out of the equation will ease the traffic for the autonomous transport system and make getting anywhere you want safer and faster by a wide margin.

Finally, being able to work extra two hours while in the car will add, on average, a whole working week to your month. Meaning that you can get more accomplished in the given time. This will provide a significant boost to any country’s economy and GDP. Or you can simply leave work early to spend some time with your family. This will boost your happiness level and general well-being. As a result, within ten years, the economic impact of autonomous driving will add up to $1 trillion to the US economy.

Best of all, autonomous vehicles are not only the car of the future, but this future is not far off. I believe that in the next 5 years we’ll see a substantial development of this technology. It will become accessible to the middle-class and offer high speed and comfortable commute through professional car sharing services to all.

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