Making “Cents” of Autonomous Cars Back »

Written by Bethany Stoutamire (Former SDSU Extension Aging in Place Coordinator AmeriCorps VISTA Member) under the direction and review of Leacey E. Brown and Lorna Saboe-Wounded Head.

Henry Ford’s assembly line drastically shaped the economy of the twentieth and twenty-first century. It is possible that autonomous cars will have a similar economic impact in the next one hundred years. While it is difficult to know the economic impact of autonomous cars before they hit the market, this article will discuss some of the potential economic impacts of autonomous cars.

One potential impact of autonomous cars is that it will save families money. In 2016, transportation accounted for approximately 15.7% of average consumer expenditures. One report estimates that by 2030, 95% of passenger miles will be traveled not by autonomous cars owned by individuals, but by autonomous cars owned by fleets or companies. By switching transportation from an ownership to service based model, the report estimates that the savings on car repair, maintenance, ownership, and fuel could save the average family more than $5,600.

One negative potential impact of autonomous cars is the cost of employment. It is possible that autonomous cars may replace jobs like truck or taxi drivers. However, not everyone believes the transition to a society dependent on autonomous vehicles will happen so sudden and drastically. In an MIT Technology Review, one scientist who works on robot navigation said, “I do not expect there to be taxis in Manhattan with no drivers in my lifetime.” It’s also plausible that money saved in transportation, would result in more discretionary spending, creating jobs in other sectors.

In conclusion, until autonomous cars are on the road, there is no way to determine what their economic impact will be. Henry Ford did not set out to change the American economy, he set out to make an automobile. Thus, we will just have to wait and see what innovations will drive the economy into the twenty-second century.

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