Do We Need Cars?

I mean, do we need to own our own cars and do we need to have them at all?

The self-driving car idea is taking off more and more, and, at this point, it is obvious that that ship has sailed, and it cannot be stopped anymore. Even attempting to curb the progress with “self-driving car ban” legislation will not help at this moment, as other countries around the world will continue, simply because, from the point of view of capitalism alone, it makes sense. Humans are very good at optimising processes, and self-driving cars are just one of many of these optimisations.

And, face it, humans are terrible drivers. Even the best among us are prone to get tired, make mistakes, easily get distracted by a number of things, and occasionally do stupid things that will lead to accidents.

Self-driving cars never get distracted or tired, and, even when they start behaving buggy, they can self-diagnose and “say” they need a repair. They can pull over and request to be fixed, refusing to drive anymore. They will never deliberately disobey the law. As they can communicate among each other and behave with a “swarm” mindset, they can learn from all possible cars on the road, becoming better with each version.

Humans — when stressed, tired, under the influence of alcohol or drugs — have a tendency to ignore all of that and sit behind the wheel, frequently causing traffic accidents.
Only in the U.S., the number of deaths due to traffic accidents in 2015 was 35,092 (that is more than 11 times the deaths of 9/11 each year). But, that is not all: according to National Highway Traffic Administration statistics, in the same year, there were 6,296,000 police-reported crashes, which resulted in 2,443,000 injuries.

Now, if we multiply these numbers with the medical bills and repair bills, we will find that, each year, there is a huge price tag to our terrible driving — a huge toll on the global economy.
Unlike human drivers, self-driving cars will save lives and be prepared that the same statement will very likely be used to bring self-driving cars onto the market much faster.

Ok, it is obvious we should not drive, but what about owning cars?
The average expense of owning a car in London for one year is around £2,585 (~$3300) per year, on top of the cost of purchasing the vehicle, which is, on average, around £15,000 (~$19000). *1

    That price includes costs such as:
  • road tax (~£225),
  • maintenance (tyres, oil, brake fluid, antifreeze, filter, cleaning ...~£400),
  • insurance (~£750),
  • petrol (~£1150 for a modest 6000 miles range)
  • and parking (£60).

In total, owning a car for 5 years will cost you around $35,500 in the UK (($3300*5) + $19000). In the USA, that amount is noticeably larger. In comparison, a monthly travel card for London public transport (which covers underground, over ground, trams, buses, and DLR transport) for Zones 1–6 (which is quite far) will cost you around $17,780 for the same period ( "TFL ticket price zone 6" £231.20 * 12 months * 5 years).

Well, you can argue that owning a car gives you a commodity and mobility, and, therefore, it is worth paying double the money we would otherwise spend on public transport. So, let’s remind ourselves about traffic congestion, the amount of time people who drive spend in cars waiting in traffic, inaccessible parking spots, and occasional traffic tickets.

It is worth mentioning utilisation: most of the time, the cars we buy will just sit idle, exposed to the elements somewhere in the open. Our roads are jammed with parked cars. In fact, the number of cars sitting in parking spots at any given point of time is far greater than those driving on the roads.

Currently, there are 1.1 billion cars in the world, and most of them run on fossil fuels, adding significantly to the global warming issue.

Analysts calculate that, by using self-driving cars, we would utilise our cars better and therefore could reduce the number of cars on our roads by 10 times — from 1.1 billion to 110 million cars.

Current annual production in the world is around 90 million cars per annum.
That means that, switching to self-driving electric cars, just in bit more than ONE YEAR, we could radically transform our transport and move a significant step closer to fixing global warming permanently!

What about those arguments that the machine does not know what we want, and that, sometimes, we just change our minds suddenly, wanting to go somewhere else?

Well, those sudden, rush decisions are frequent reasons of car accidents, and we should avoid those and similar “U-turns,” if possible, but, if we are talking about flexibility for us to choose our own favourite route, or to suddenly change directions while driving, it would be trivial as asking “Alexa, please turn left on this junction, and then take me to the Disco club.”

Fixed, flexible, dynamic, adaptive, car polling, and any other type of route or passenger demands will be inbuilt, and you do not need to worry about it. Many things you can imagine will be part of the programming options for understood commands, except, maybe, deliberately slamming the car into a wall.

What about those who claim that driving is the only alone time they get, almost like meditation?
Well, you can do that in the self-driving car even better, without jeopardising other drivers by slowly dozing off while holding the steering wheel. And, if you do not like that, as self-driving cars will solve traffic congestion, you will have at least one hour each day to spare, so go to the temple, gym, forest, mountain, or whatever place will give you that few minutes alone.

In the future, our task will be just to sit comfortably, relax, and enjoy the ride, gazing out window... And, if that’s not your thing, maybe you will play games, watch a movie, meditate, or just take a nap to pass the time, until you arrive to you desired destination.

So, we do not need to own cars. What about having them at all?
When transport ownership is not in our hands, it is not very likely we will be concerned over how sexy or big that transport will look like.

Being safe, fast, comfortable, and maybe giving us time of solitude will be things to inquire from time to time, and who knows what kind of transport will take us into the unchartered and the unknown. Maybe they won’t be visible at all.

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