Driverless cars are coming. And they’re coming fast.
The Detroit Auto Show is currently taking place in the US as the world’s largest consumer electronics tradeshow and follows electronics and technology tradeshow CES, which wrapped up just last week. Both have a huge focus on driverless car technology.
Nissan has come out with one of the boldest statements, claiming it will “launch more than 10 vehicles with autonomous drive technology in the next four years”.
Toyota has committed $1 billion to developing the artificial intelligence behind driverless cars. Ford has bragged about its upcoming sensor for autonomous driving which they say will be the most advanced in the world, allowing cars to create a real-time 3D map of their surroundings.
Big tech companies such as Google are spending big too as they look to head into the driverless car market, estimated by Lux Research to be worth as much as $87 billion worldwide by 2030.
That $87 billion is exactly why the worst kept secret in the auto-world is that Apple is building a car.
Tesla boss Elon Musk said in an interview yesterday he even thinks it’s pretty obvious that Apple is working on its own electric, driverless car, and it will probably be very good.
“It’s quite hard to do, but I think companies like Apple will probably make a compelling electric car. It seems like the obvious thing to do,” Musk said during the interview. “It’s pretty hard to hide something if you hire over 1,000 engineers to do it.”
When pressed if he thinks Apple’s serious about building its own car, Musk said, “Yeah, I do. This is an open secret.”
But while driverless cars have mountains of benefits for car owners, including the ability to save thousands of lives every year, it’s worth remembering a CEDA report from last year about the effects it’ll have on Australian jobs.
In short: Anyone in a driving job will be jobless by 2035.
Already, the likes of Mercedes-Benz have trucks that can operate highways without a driver in development for a 2018 release. They’ve even started testing them on German autobahns. Once laws catch up and the technology is completely polished, truckies are going to be in serious trouble.
Similarly in the taxi industry. The current war between Australian taxi unions and Uber seems pointless when you realise that in 10-15 years time, most forms of hire car won’t even have a driver. Uber has already said that they intend to replace all their drivers with driverless cars as soon as possible, and that includes in Australia.
This autonomous vehicle replacement has already started in places like mines, where Rio Tinto currently has 69 driverless trucks in operation.
It’s all worth remembering when you see how quickly the likes of Tesla, Mercedes-Benz and Google are developing.