Changes within the world of automotive technology could have a hugely positive impact on social wellbeing.
Not so much in London (although it will) but out in rural areas where I live, I see people waiting for buses, come rain or shine. I often think how much extra time it all takes for these people to simply maybe even get into the local town and just the overall extra hassle. Why is this? I take a different view on rural areas in the United States where I think it gets far more complicated.
Most of these people at the bus stop won't want to drive. The cost of car ownership is too high, and even getting a licence presents cost and time barriers. Let’s face it, there is a young generation that also feels the same. I was sat at the weekend with a friend who raced F1 and his young son in the next room has pretty much zero interest in cars, let alone the hassle of having to drive one.
Recently I have been at various communities such Ebe Vale in Wales. With the dawn of a new era in autonomous vehicles we might actually be able to benefit the lives of many people that have not had the access to transport which actually they should. Maybe driverless cars shouldn't just be for the people with money but an actual human right?
Why does it cost so much to get across London or any other city in a cab? Why do we have to pay so much to travel to family by train just because we cannot afford a car and the insurance? Some of the train fares I see are not far off the cost of car insurance anyway!
Picture this: Samsung or Apple decide to build an Automatic Pod. Let’s face it, it feels like a roadmap from our cell phones anyway. Built not only for the city but for your rural village (like where I live) in the middle of nowhere. That same rural village the bus goes through once a day and it costs £40 return in a cab to the nearest town which probably in fuel is actually £1. The same rural village has a lady called Sue who is 89, insures her car to do about a few 100 miles a year and probably even she questions whether she should be driving or indeed wants to? See I know Sue, Sue is my neighbour and I clean her car but also watch her drive off. Sue owns an iPad and frankly gets tech - sort of, but enough to get through.
Imagine if I could say to Sue, tomorrow: ‘Sue instead of you driving to the hospital for your appointment, being extra stressed, Samsung or Apple are going to send you a pod to pick you up’. Imagine if I said: ‘that pod is going to pitch you advertising on your journey so it's free’. Sue would probably say she would rather pay for it to cut the advertising and listen to a piece of music or watch something. Sue’s life would be opened up to a whole new world. Not only that but also Sue’s friends. In fact Sue’s worse case is that she gets to boss the pod around - with the money she loses on fuel, insurance and depreciation (because Sue still thinks you need to own and update your car every four years) she would be better off.
There may also come a point that through just getting older, Sue won’t be able to hold a licence, like many people. So instead of Sue feeling isolated further and even contemplating the possibility she has to move, autonomous cars will help empower her life.
If Elon Musk and others have their way, we will watch empty Teslas and others driving around cities, the country and towns empty, being hailed for us at the next person who needs to use them. They will be owned by someone like me but used in my down time. So I argue that while my car is heading off to someone like Sue to use but I am 10 miles away, why cannot my vehicle give someone a lift for free? Or maybe just a token coffee?
The NHS has its relationship with taxis and volunteers. I have seen the tender bids by taxi companies for NHS Trust business to get patients to appointments and then home. It’s shocking trust me: really shocking! My mother in law, who is a good egg, offers to drive patients to appointments when she has spare time. I couldn't tell you how much that costs, but knowing my mother it law it will be the minimum because she wants to help. So how about the NHS has access to the Samsung pod? The Apple pod? Imagine how much on a UK level can be saved but the patient quality goes up.
Either way, people at the bus stop, people like Sue will have a whole new life opened up to them, more options, more things to make them smile and for me that's a good thing. If that's here in the UK, then imagine what can happen in other countries where just getting the basics out of life is a challenge.