The impact of autonomous cars . . .

. . . will go beyond the obvious.

Some of the insights from this McKinsey report are consumer-oriented [(such as commuters having free time to read on their way to work, or new car-service mobility models (think car-sharing, Uber, etc.)]. Others are more lofty-sounding, from a technical point of view: eg, autonomous vehicle [AV] technologies will "accelerate robotics development". The most intriguing gems to me, though, have to do with the impacts of AV’s that will drive significant infrastructure and economic changes; they may sound less sexy, but might ultimately have broader impact.

For example:

The car-service landscape changes. The proliferation of AVs could represent an opportunity for car OEMs. As of 2014, for example, roughly 80 percent of the car-service shops in Germany were “independent” from OEMs. Given the safety-critical nature of AV technologies, customers might strongly prefer strict adherence to OEM service processes and the use of original service equipment when it comes to maintaining and repairing AV systems. This could imply a disadvantaged position for independent service providers unable to afford AV-maintenance systems.

Comment: As I drive down the highway access road, I am often amazed by how many people make their living servicing cars. Muffler shops, inspection shops, brakes shops, auto parts shops, gas stations, and so on. Many of these are small businesses and/or small franchises (at least where I live). Could the advanced technology required by AV’s make dealership service a necessity in an increasing number of cases and decrease the number of independent shops?

Car insurers might shift their business model. Car insurers have always provided consumer coverage in the event of accidents caused by human error. With driverless vehicles, auto insurers might shift the core of their business model, focusing mainly on insuring car manufacturers from liabilities from technical failure of their AVs

Parking becomes easier. AVs could change the mobility behavior of consumers, potentially reducing the need for parking space in the United States by more than 5.7 billion square meters. Multiple factors would contribute to the reduction in parking infrastructure. For example, self-parking AVs do not require open-door space for dropping off passengers when parked, allowing them to occupy parking spaces that are 15 percent tighter.

Comment: Think about how much space in suburban areas is used up by parking. How much land would be opened up with broad AV adoption? Also, looking for parking is sometimes an important cause (to an uncertain degree) of urban traffic.
Lots to consider. The ‘hype cycle’ seems to be taking off about AV technologies over the past few months. Thank Elon Musk. What other changes or impediments do you foresee?

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