In 1913, Henry Ford and his adoption of engineering principles that used assembly line technology successfully changed the automotive industry. It meant that consumers were able to enjoy the freedom of driving at a lower price than ever before, since the ability to produce more cars in a shorter amount of time caused prices to drop. Now, a century later, with the introduction of self-driving cars, Google seems poised to spark another innovation that just may change the face of the automobile industry once again.
Sergey Brin, one of Google’s co-founders believes the company’s driverless cars will be available on the consumer market within five years. Already, prototypes have been seen in places like California, successfully navigating the roads without anyone sitting behind the wheel. The promise of this technology is clearly significant for several reasons, and we’ll examine two in detail below.
More Options for Elderly and Disabled Drivers
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a study and found that 13% of all traffic fatalities involved elderly drivers. The reasons for this are varied and may include the reality that as people become older, they’re more likely to struggle with issues related to coordination and balance that may make driving more difficult than it once was. Also, people who are disabled might not be able to drive at all.
In 2012, the Los Angeles Times reported that one of Google’s self-driving cars opened up a transportation opportunity for a person who would have no hope of operating a car under normal conditions. The man was legally blind, but able to use a Google car to grab a meal from Taco Bell and go to the dry cleaners to pick up his clothes. The event was promoted on Google’s Google+ account and mentioned how the company has now safely finished more than 200,000 miles of testing with the vehicles. If things continue to progress favorably, things like advanced age or a physical impairment may not have to dictate whether a person has the ability to get around independently via a car.
The Possibility for Lower Insurance Rates
Recently, companies like Progressive have been enticing drivers to become eligible for a discount by proving they can drive safely. The catch is that interested persons must agree to have a gadget installed that can detect things like speed and braking patterns whenever a car is driven. Rates fluctuate accordingly. Drivers with habitually safe behaviors enjoy better rates, while those who tend to drive more dangerously will probably notice increased premiums.
Once Google’s cars become more common on the roads, they might represent the next phase of the chance for lower insurance rates. Since routes are carefully programmed in before a self-driven car goes out on a journey, it seems that the foundation is in place for a better experience than a person might have if he or she didn’t know how to get to a destination and had to look at maps or fiddle with smartphone apps for navigation help. Although it’s still too early to say, it makes sense that if a person chose to buy a driverless car, he or she might also get the advantage of lower premiums, because the risk of having an accident may go down, especially in the case of younger or less experienced drivers.
Given these two possible scenarios, traditional car manufacturers may need to look at ways to compete with the technology that exists in self-driven cars, too. If that’s the case, Google may launch a product that not only offers plentiful opportunities, but changes the way we purchase automobiles a few years from now, too. Even Henry Ford probably didn’t fully realize that sometimes, reality is even more fantastic than the gadgets seen in science fiction movies.
Stacy Hilliard blogs for business blogs and is a full-time writer. Interested in pursuing a business in the auto industry? You may be interested in the mba offered at Northeastern University.