Coming into the semester, I had no idea what to expect. I was interested in autonomous technology, and I think I knew how to think about the different quandaries that the technology faced, but I definitely did not know what questions to ask. I was interested in a number of different topics such as the ethical, the legal, and the machine vision problems just to name a few. But I had no particular direction that I was focused on, and looking back,
I truly enjoyed the first weeks of class, with a myriad of different ideas and problems being mentioned to analyze. I spent a little bit of time looking at a large number of different problems, but alas that did not help me narrow down my focus. Every single topic is so fascinating, and so different, which is what makes autonomous transportation such an interesting topic. As experts in their field, as well as enthusiasts, started to give talks and presentations about what they knew, I realized that I just had to pick a topic and stick with it. I decided to pick the different problems that we’d run into due to ownership of cars, as well as the feasibility and the form with which autonomous vehicles would take.
Class gave me different and in depth opinions on entirely different topics, and were so interesting that I often spent significant time at night just reading more about the different topics. I learned all about the different legal and legislative issues that these cars face, the problems that Nutonomy amongst other companies were trying to solve, etc. But what I really appreciated was the opportunity to reflect on how these different topics were related. As my knowledge grew, I started to connect the correlation between all these problems, and their affects on one another, and it gave me significant insight into how my problem would turn out.
Now, I’m going to dive in a little deeper into the particular problems I looked at: Car Ownership, and the form that these vehicles will take. First, I am going to approach what form these vehicles take.
As you can see, there are estimations on how much money will be saved by using shared autonomous vehicles. This particular estimation has it at 1/3 the price of a personal vehicle, a truly staggering number based on the current price of ride sharing. It is important to understand what exactly the costs will be spent on and how they will be able to be so low.
As the figure above shows, autonomous vehicles will be able to be so cheap, because they need not worry about so many of the costs that we have to currently. However, this particular graph only looks at the costs of driving. In order to understand the full costs, all costs including the non-driving costs of cars must be considered.
This particular prediction believes that the cost of an autonomous vehicle in a ride sharing service will be essentially the same as personal driving. However, there are a number of different costs that go along with owning a car. Maintenance, as well as insurance must be paid, and insurance will look very different in a climate with autonomous vehicles on the road.
It is clear, that autonomous vehicle ride sharing will be cheaper, so now the question is can it overcome the other hurdles. Can it be as convenient or more convenient as owning a personal vehicle? Will it give the exact same flexibility?
These graphs are all predictions in the US, where personal car ownership is at 50%. Owning a car seems to be a point of pride as well as a way of life in many parts of the country. In somewhere such as Singapore, where the government taxes car owners so heavily that ownership is less than 15%, it does not seem that there will be any push back with implementation of ride sharing. People are already using ride sharing services now, and to have them be accessible for a lower price makes complete sense. In the US, the attempt is to make autonomous ride sharing so incredibly more affordable that the majority of people give up their own cars. However, I do not believe that personal vehicles in the US will ever fully go away. Whether it is owning a personal autonomous vehicle, or just a car that you have to drive, I do not believe that it is possible to have ride sharing be as convenient as personal car ownership. If I’ve lost my phone, and want to go home, I can only do so with my personal vehicle for example. I do believe that a lot of people will switch to owning an autonomous vehicle. That being said, while personal ownership might not every fully go away, I do believe that the major form of transportation will be AV’s in the near future, as long as there are no major technical or legal issues.