Every industry, company, product, and service in the modern age is dependent on transportation. Employees must travel to work, office supplies cannot be made in the office, factories are not built by neighborhoods, and cows can’t grow up in the back of the restaurant. Transportation is the backbone of the global economy, and for the last 100 years, all types of transport used fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas). Two technologies, automated self-driving vehicles and green energy vehicles, will significantly cut the costs of delivery, jobs, and air pollution in the coming years.
All types of transport; cars, trains, public transportation systems, even robots and drones (robots that fly) are moving towards automation and electric energy. Automated robots are already used in factories, but the tech is not yet good enough for government regulators to allow self-driving cars and drones in cities. Some experts (for example, Elon Musk) say this technology is already safer than human drivers, but others disagree. The timelines on when these technologies will fully develop is not clear but in the coming years, good or bad, we’re going to see big changes in the transportation sector. The video below shows American car company Ford Motor’s latest developments for automated technology. They have a self-driving car and robot system which work together to deliver packages.
Automation and Employment
One thing to remember about self-driving cars is that the hardware needed is already good enough, the AI software is what needs to be improved. We all know software costs are expensive upfront, and then once developed, almost free after that. A Tesla Model 3 with autopilot (self-driving ability) sells for $39,500. This is about the average price for a new car in America, and the Model 3 includes everything needed to be an automated vehicle (except the software). In other words, the hardware needed for electric vehicles and self-driving cars is not an expense to think about at all.
Now, the next question to ask is how much money could be saved if drivers were cut out? What’s the benefit to companies if they use this new technology? Let’s consider Uber, the U.S. taxi company, which takes 25% of the money from Uber rides. The other 75% is paid to the drivers, who of course need to pay for gas and other fees that come with owning a car. Uber’s 2019 revenues hit $4.1 billion. If they were using driverless technology, the 75% difference would be around $3.025 billion (of course, Uber would now have to pay gas or electricity and other car expenses).
Businesses don’t typically like to see less profit, and people don’t like to make less money. Once self-driving technology is perfected, drivers will have no way to “work harder” and add more value to their company. At the end of the day, automated vehicles and the technology costs behind them will be much lower compared to paying workers.
Green Energy, Gas Prices and Greenhouse Gas
Electric vehicles will also be killing off fossil fuel vehicles. Electric and gas vehicles cost about the same price but electric vehicles cost about half as much to power than gas cars (In America, and many other countries). These prices will only continue to drop as renewable technologies continue to advance.
Who is working on these techs?
Tesla is a technological leader, and the company has bigger plans than selling cars, however, every major car company, every major economy, and even huge tech companies like Google and Baidu (the Chinese Google) are working to create self-driving, electric vehicles. The timelines on when we will use these are still uncertain but at this point, it’s very clear the change has begun.