The Unintended Consequences of Driverless Vehicles

We often hear about the really positive consequences that are likely to come from driverless vehicles, including safety and improved mobility, and the negative consequences, including potential increased congestion and loss of jobs, but there are a host of other consequences to consider. In fact, they will likely be significant, even if they aren’t obvious or direct.

Motion Sickness – As this article states, there’s a significant likelihood that people will take their eyes off of the road (since they no longer need to focus on driving) and they will experience motion sickness. Could this create a larger market for motion sickness medicines and therapy?

Decreased Organ Donors – As this article states, if driverless vehicles provide the safety benefits that have been promised, there could be a significant reduction in accidents, which will mean a significant reduction in organ donors. Maybe we can also hope for a significant reduction in the people that need the organs? Let’s hope the medical research community keeps up!

Increased Carpooling and New Communities – As this article states, driverless vehicles will likely significantly increase the potential for car sharing and ride sharing. In addition to (potentially) reducing the congestion on roadways, this concept could create entirely new communities and market potential. Imagine happy hours, AAA meetings, and dates happening within vehicles while also taking people to their destinations.

Municipal Budgets – As this article states, many local governments rely on vehicle-related activities for a large portion of their funding. Sales taxes on vehicle purchases, vehicle registration fees, parking fees, traffic violations, and the list goes on… local governments may want to re-think (and diversify!) their revenue sources since their costs are unlikely to change as drastically.

There are countless other examples! Land use (and parking, in particular), identification cards (no more drivers’ licenses!), shopping/retail completely transformed, driving vehicles as a source of entertainment (think race tracks with driving cars available for rent), and the list goes on!  Please comment and share any other indirect consequences worth considering!

About Lauren Isaac

Lauren Isaac is the Director of Business Initiatives for the North American operation of EasyMile. Easymile provides electric, driverless shuttles that are designed to cover short distances in multi-use environments. Prior to working at EasyMile, Lauren worked at WSP where she was involved in various projects involving advanced technologies that can improve mobility in cities. Lauren wrote a guide titled “Driving Towards Driverless: A Guide for Government Agencies” regarding how local and regional governments should respond to autonomous vehicles in the short, medium, and long term. In addition, Lauren maintains the blog, “Driving Towards Driverless”, and has presented on this topic at more than 75 industry conferences. She recently did a TEDx Talk, and has been published in Forbes and the Chicago Tribune among other publications.
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6 Responses to The Unintended Consequences of Driverless Vehicles

  1. James P. Davison DO. says:

    Great post and the questions keep on coming. Interested in your opinion in how soon State and US DOT will require driverless vehicle scenarios in local LRTP that MPOs and Transit organizations must submit for funding.


    • Lauren Isaac says:

      I would like to say soon, but I’d imagine the process of getting there will take awhile. That doesn’t mean government can’t and shouldn’t be doing it anyway!! It’s so important even today!


  2. I would suggest that regarding municipal budgets, any loss in revenue from vehicle taxes could be more than offset in terms of the much smaller investment that would be needed in transportation infrastructure. In short, the existing roads we have now could be more than sufficient without having to construct new motorways, interchanges, or undertake expensive road widening projects. So I think this is not very well comprehended – the fact that driverless cars will save us money.


  3. I’m curious to know about how self driving cars will impact urban centres. Standards of road and car will improve significantly!!


  4. aaronhriver says:

    I’m curious about how self driving cars will impact urban centres. Standards of road and car will improve significantly.


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