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The self-driving future is coming

One of the powerful arguments for self-driving vehicles is they can potentially bring the road toll down dramatically, by eliminating human error.

This is compelling, given 10% more people died on the roads in NSW in 2016 compared to 2015. The financial and emotional price of serious injury and death on the roads is high – $27 billion a year in Australia alone.

But there is another side to the self-driving vehicle. It may potentially save many precious lives – an estimated 1.2 million globally – but it will put a lot more people than that out of work.

In the US alone there are:

  • 3.5 million truck drivers
  • 233,000 cab drivers
  • 330,000 Uber drivers
  • 660,000 bus drivers.

Eliminating the wage

Speaking to fleet owners, a spokesperson for Ford said, “we’re eliminating that wage of that human driver”. This goes for Uber drivers, taxi drivers, bus and truck drivers and train drivers. Ford is only one company.

Most car manufacturers think the first fully self-driving vehicle will be available on the roads between 2020 and 2025. That is not far off.

This does not mean you are going to own a self-driving vehicle. By 2030, as the experts describe it, this will be called “mobility as a service”. Rather than own the means of getting around, companies will own the vehicles and you will subscribe to the service. This could sound exciting or disempowering, depending on your attitude to cars and driving.

The self-driving future is coming, whatever it means for safety, employment or commerce.

Must still insure

A self-driving vehicle will need to have a different kind of insurance, based on a new class of vehicle. This is most likely to be a package underwritten by a motor insurer offered at the point of purchase, use or hire. This could see a drop in premiums, based on the technical capabilities of the car rather than the riskiness of the profile.

Until then, the usual green slips apply to all human drivers.

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