A recent report on the driverless car reports that these cars can navigate safely under most conditions and could become available in the next 5 to 10 years, and driverless cars that can handle all sorts of conditions should be on the road in 10 to 20 years. Because cars will be able to drive kids to school, pick up groceries and help disabled or elderly people get around more easily, experts believe that the number of miles driven and the number of cars on the road will increase.
Last year, a total of 3.1 trillion miles was covered by drivers in the US. With autonomous cars ferrying kids and senior citizens from place to place, that distance will increase by a further 2 trillion miles per annum. If people start sending driverless cars to run errands by themselves, the increase in distance traveled could be as much as 4 trillion miles.
Driving will be less risky and less costly. Driverless cars will reduce traffic accidents and insurance will be cheaper. The time that people using these cars will save and be able to use productively will be the biggest cost-saving factor. A study in the journal of Transportation found that driverless cars will cut travel costs by up to 80% when this factor is taken into account. But the researchers warn that with easy, cheap travel at their fingertips, car owners will travel more miles than ever before.
Many believe that despite this, traffic congestion will be reduced because of safer, faster travel and fewer accidents. But these benefits will only be realized when driverless cars are widely adopted. Some experts say that commercial carpools consisting of driverless cars that can be summoned on demand are the answer. These cars could transport several passengers who are travelling in the same direction on any given trip.
On the other hand, if half the cars on the road are still conventional cars, miles traveled will increase by 30 – 90% even if driverless car sharing is adopted. Policy changes that disincentivize the use of private cars may have to be adopted, and even land use policies may have to change to prevent people from moving out of urban centers owing to easy and fast commuting.