All self-respecting automakers today have an electric car project. Most are either working on or considering an autonomous vehicle, too. E-cars are hot. Self-driving ones are even hotter. And according to one new report, they may take over roads much sooner than most analysts project.
RethinkX is a freshly set up think tank that will issue a series of reports on major disruptions in technology, starting with transport. According to the authors, co-founders James Arbib, a venture capitalist, and Tony Seba, an entrepreneur, autonomous cars will be the dominant form of transportation in the U.S. by 2030.
That’s in stark contrast to most forecasts, which see the evolution of self-driving cars as much more linear than it actually is, Arbib and Seba argue. That’s because driverless car technology is a tech disruption, and tech disruptions take much less time to unfold, Seba says.
In the report, Arbib and Seba paint a picture of electric self-driving cars that people don’t even own, but just rent whenever they need them. These self-driving cars will be electric simply because electric engines are not just greener, but also longer-lasting than internal combustion ones. Also, they break down less often because their powertrains consist of much fewer elements than an ICE powertrain. And they are much more cost-efficient.
An average household, the authors argue, would save some US$5,600 annually from switching to Transport-as-a-Service, and this will be sufficient motivation for the very fast adoption of the service. Total savings until 2030 could hit US$1 trillion and another US$1 trillion would flow into GDP from improved productivity resulting from the switch to TaaS. Related: Aramco Aims To Take Over The Offshore Rig Market
The implications of such a change would be of seismic proportions, of course, starting with oil and spreading into basically every industry. Jobs will be lost, certainly, and business models will in all likelihood have to be rethought fundamentally in the car making, transportation, and logistics industries. That is, if all that RethinkX says will happen, actually happens.
The report’s authors argue that the first self-driving cars will hit the roads in the U.S. as soon as 2021. By then, they say, regulations will be put in place and they are more likely than not to be supportive of the whole TaaS idea. Supportive or not, regulators will no doubt try to make sure that autonomous cars are really as safe as they are advertised to be before allowing them on the roads. Extensive testing will also be among the requirements, and this kind of testing takes time.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles, for example, has had regulations in the making since 2015. Among the proposed requirements is a communication link between the vehicle and a remote-control center, as well as the written support from the local jurisdiction (quite a vague term at this point). Something that is missing, however, as Wired notes, is proof of the car software’s ability to drive safely. There is no driving test for the autonomous car. Related: Are Oil Markets Becoming Untradeable?
That’s just one example of the issues that are bound to crop up when self-driving car legislation really gets into gear to make the jump from testing-only to commercial-scale adoption. With this in mind, 2021 sounds a little bit too optimistic as the year the self-driving car revolution begins.
Things might certainly change over the next four years, and turn the forecast a reality. Yet, it is too early to sing the dirges of the oil industry. Even if self-driving car adoption in the U.S. does reach 95 percent by 2030, which is far from certain, there is a whole world out there where autonomous car adoption will be much slower. It’s not just about affordability, green energy and more cost-efficient driving. A lot of people just like having their own cars and the concept of ownership is an old one. Old concepts are hard to shake off, and may very well take more than a decade to do that.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
More Top Reads From Oilprice.com:
- Worst Hurricane Season In A Decade Threatens Gulf Coast Production
- Saudi Arabia’s New Deal With The US: Averting Implosion?
- Are Super Rigs The Driver Behind The New Shale Boom?