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Electric cars could change society - and soon

Posted on 8th Jan 2018 at 2:03 PM from Warwick, UK

Whatever you think about electric and autonomous vehicles - they are on their way! With trials on UK roads which started last year and every major motor manufacturer locked in a race for the electric vehicle market, electric cars will be coming to a road near you sooner than you might think.

This trend is not just a change of fuel that we use in our cars. It will go much deeper than that. Along with electric propulsion will come autonomy and the changes will be far more reaching than is immediately apparent. Once we have truly autonomous vehicles there will be some pretty seismic social changes. Just think about existing taxis - the most expensive part of the service by a long way is the driver. Take that cost out and taxis become a cheap alternative to car ownership.

Imagine instead of owning a car of your own that spends over 90% of its life parked up and stationary, you can just hail a ride sharing service using your smart phone. You call the autonomous vehicle and as tell the app where you want to go it arrives to your exact location and whisks you off to your destination. When the subscription to this ride sharing service becomes cheaper than car ownership then personal vehicle sales will drop of a cliff to practically zero. Will the children currently in primary school ever take a driving test? I have no doubt their children won't...

The first driverless vehicles are likely to be heavy good vehicles trundling up and down our network of motorways. The relative simplicity of a motorway environment and the limited number of trucks makes this the perfect entry point for the new technology. Plus the cost of paying drivers makes it economically attractive to hauliers to fund the development of these vehicles. Already electric, autonomous ships are being built and trucks will not be far behind.

The other evening I read an article that suggested that autonomous vehicles would bankrupt the train operating companies. Initially I was skeptical but the arguments of cost and time were persuasive. The example given was the journey from London to Leeds which is likely to be a quarter of the price with ride sharing compared to the train. Although the train is a little quicker, one has to factor in that trains only run to the schedule dictated by the operating company and unlike trains, ride sharing takes the passenger door-to-door.

Electric and autonomous vehicles certainly promise some interesting times ahead. What effects do you see in the world of these vehicles?

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