Self-driving cars. Soon-to-be short-term craze or long-term trend? News programs are starting to feature companies interested in hopping on the self-driving car bandwagon, including Tesla, Ford and recently, Uber. Tesla has released their self-driving capable model; Ford expects to release a fleet of only self-driving cars within the next 5 years and Uber is teaming up with Volvo to release semi-autonomous cars by 2021.
Despite the serious risk factors associated with autonomous cars – poor sensors, vulnerable computer systems, etc. – there’s another concern: jobs. Uber’s business model includes providing gigs to people who want to make extra income while keeping their day job or work on a non-traditional schedule. If the new fleet of cars becomes completely self-driven, the need for humans will disappear – the impending doom for every worker who performs tasks that could be replaced by machines.
Uber will continue to employ human drivers during the initial phase of the release. But what will happen to jobs after that? It is expected to take at least 10 years for full implementation. This switchover to autonomy is not as easy as being handed keys to a car. There will be many legal and financial implications involved in the transition from driver to driverless ride sharing transport. Not to mention the need to prevent outsiders from gaining control of the vehicle and other technological concerns.
Though technology is moving at quite a fast pace, the acceptance and safety of the technology will be the bottleneck in allowing self-driving cars to rev up. The benefits of autonomous Uber cars are geared toward the customer as they will be cost effective and help to reduce our carbon footprint on the globe. But until Uber finds a way to make their cars smarter, immune to hackers and able to navigate all routes, the company will have to rely on humans to pick up those rides.
Clearly there is uncertainty regarding the future of the gig economy with respect to application based transportation companies. Do you think Uber’s recent emergence into the self-driving car industry will have a significant impact on the economy?