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The Driverless Future

Driverless Future$7 trillion.

Per year.

That’s a figure with which to conjure, and which has got tech firms and especially app-designers rubbing their hands. It’s the amount of economic activity and new efficiencies that driverless cars will amount to by 2050, according to a new study from Intel and research firm Strategy Analytics.

Driverless Cars

It’s a figure broken down into nearly $4 trillion from driverless ride-hailing (passenger vehicles), and nearly $3 trillion from driverless delivery and business logistics, with a sweet $203 billion forecast for things we don’t yet know – ‘new use-cases for driverless vehicles.’ It’s by definition unknown what these new use-cases might be, but they could include the likes of mobile hair salons and spas – Perm ‘n’ Go, anyone? – or restaurants that bring the romantic scenery to you, matching the mood to the course.

While the development of driverless vehicles, and their role within connected smart cities and communities is a complete paradigm shift from the world as we have known it, the Intel study also points out that more than half a million lives are likely to be saved between just 2035 and 2045 because of autonomous vehicles’ potential for greater safety, reducing public safety expenditure by more than $234 billion over the same period.

Driverless cars will mean greater safety?

It’s odd to imagine that a technology that could radically speed up human transit times – higher safety and greater connectivity will mean greater safety and so the likelihood of higher speed and fewer traffic snarl-ups – might simultaneously shift more of what we do every day to an on-the-move basis. Where smartphones made the internet portable and ubiquitous, driverless vehicles could well mean we spend more time on the road, without necessarily thinking of it as ‘travel time.’ We might work-from-the-road as we now work-from-home, with the added advantage of being able to be out and about, having meetings while going from place to place. Lunch on the road at a food truck that takes you with it on a scenic city tour, then catch a self-driving spa-bus home.

Driverless Car AppsDriverless Car Apps

All this depends on vehicle manufacturers being able to get their software right to ensure public confidence in the idea of self-driving vehicles – a battle still yet to be entirely won, as Ford, Nissan and others prepare to launch their first commercial self-driving cars onto the market in 2020. But it also depends to an enormous degree on software and app developers, and businesses prepared to be early adopters of the new technological reality of driverless vehicles, to take the old world, combine it with new mobile possibilities, and deliver the killer apps and experiences that transform our understanding of the way the world works.

The figures are in: it’s a $7 trillion pie in thirty years’ time. But if you want to get a good slice of it, you need to start your thinking now.

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