Visionaries tout a future in which cars are electric, self-driving, and shared. All three of these things are starting to happen today, but will they come together to produce a future where congestion and pollution are things of the past?
Electric cars are most certainly on the rise. All the major car makers are shifting their futures toward electric vehicles and analysts project that EVs will be all-around cheaper to own by 2024. But will they really take over soon enough?
Ride sharing is on the rise as services like Uber and Lyft gain in popularity. But will many people really be willing to give up owning their own cars no matter how easy it is to summon a ride on demand?
Autonomous vehicle technology is also coming along quickly. Self-driving cars could turn daily commutes into opportunities to get more work done on the way and experts claim that car accidents – which cause 1.2 million deaths a year – would be reduced by 90% since automated cars don’t fall asleep, exchange emails and texts, or operate while drunk or drugged.
The environmental benefits of this automobile future critically depend on the widespread adoption of electric cars. Autonomous cars running on gas may not save any fuel or reduce emissions if, for example, people are driven to work and then send their cars home rather than paying to park and instead summon them back at the end of the day.
The vision of electric, autonomous, shared vehicles is a compelling one and may come to pass. And if only parts of it come true, it may still be a major advance for transportation. But along the way, there will be interesting new problems to solve.
Photo, posted December 30, 2014, courtesy of Mike Mozart via Flickr.