OP-ED from across the pond by Paul Wimsett
People see a car as a way of getting from A to B, a status symbol or an extension of personal tastes and character. What people tend not to see is a computer.
Looking at the computer it did have a mechanical history, first made of cogs and gears then bulbs and transistors. It doesn’t take much to imagine the pipes and chambers under the hood as the early beginnings of a computerized device. As more people get AVs (autonomous vehicles) we may have to change how we see the humble car, I feel.
The idea of AVs seems to be growing in popularity even if it seems unlikely to become a reality any time soon. It seems that AVs will cause accidents in the early days, but each country’s legal system will have to determine if the fault is with the driver or the programmer? I also feel that a certain amount of driving is culture. In some places, everyone runs amber lights or stops at crosswalks and other places they don’t. We grow accustomed to how we drive locally. As a motorist, you can’t follow the habits of a fellow driver who isn’t even in the driving seat. We’ll have to learn what the computer does or doesn’t do and it won’t match what the other human drivers are doing. It’s a different way of driving completely.
This post, however, isn’t about how safe or unsafe the driverless car is, merely how our relationship may change. My feelings are that a car will stop being a personal possession. It may well become a family-owned possession, maybe passing down generations if the car is expensive enough. It may also mean that cars are harder to buy and keep their values more, as houses do today.
How do cars not being personal change their meaning? Well, there may be a lack of stickers and go-faster stripes. This is a shame as it so much part of American society, including political interest. However, if an automobile is no longer a personal thing, this will alter, I feel. The interior of the car might become neutral and the form of the interior less some kind of hierarchy where the driver is in charge.
Okay, will we be driving by committee? No, but even now the driver shares the load with a navigator. At least for now (perhaps, fortunately) folks in the back seat cannot physically control the vehicle, but that could change.
This will essentially change the way cars are marketed too. No longer just to the breadwinner and now more to the family as a whole. The idea of a car being a “macho-wagon” and “chick-attractor” may alter as the automobile changes its character.
Less obviously, how women see cars may also change. Even with a female “driver” there may be more neutral colors, fewer turquoise, and other pastel colors. (It seems these days women prefer the color green to other colors, (https://www.thoughtco.com/what-are-womens-favorite-colors-1077397). The car may be in future designed with all the family in mind.
Does this mean that a car will be more of an investment? It would seem so, IHS says that a self-driving technology will add $7,000-$10,000 to the value, at least up to 2025. Even now, cars can be collateral against a loan. In the future will expensive cars be “remortgaged” and become an income source? It doesn’t seem likely at the moment, but at a time of fluid change, who knows?
It seems to me that drivers who drive themselves will become the outsiders, the people who chose the cheaper car. As stated above they will also find it harder to drive in a world of non-drivers. So what if you know a three point turn? No one else does. That information will not be valuable anymore.
The predictor of the future will no doubt get many things wrong. Maybe the world of the driverless car will always be considered unsafe except in arranged convoys or it will never happen at all. We can never totally predict what the future might bring.