Factbox: Future impact of self-driving cars - study

Wed Aug 15, 2012 1:05am EDT
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(Reuters) - Consulting firm KPMG and the Center for Automotive Research in Michigan released a report this month about how close the industry is to rolling out self-driving cars. They see the first such vehicles hitting showrooms in 2019, with a more developed infrastructure by 2025.

However, KPMG and CAR said the implications of a totally driverless car that doesn't crash would be huge:

* Automakers cut weight from cars and trucks as crashless cars do not need to be made with as much reinforced steel or as many safety devices like airbags. That would lower vehicle costs, speed up vehicle development time and boost fuel efficiency.

* Automated cars would drive in tighter packs because computers would control their speed and spacing. That would mean smaller roads were necessary and result in the elimination of shoulders and guardrails, leading to a significant reduction in the $75 billion spent annually on roads, highways and other infrastructure.

* With computers controlling the cars, driving would be more efficient and thus faster, leading to less congestion on the roads. Fuel consumption would decline and companies that rely on just-in-time delivery could reduce inventories even further.

* Automated cars also would allow for the elimination of traffic and road lights in many cases. That would slash energy use drastically.

* Driverless cars would mean a change in the way drivers are insured, and could even end the need for car insurance.

* Hospitals would lose more than two million crash victims sent annually to U.S. emergency rooms.

* Crashless cars would mean auto repair shops see fewer damaged cars, meaning they would need to shift their business model to serving the aftermarket needs of existing cars that lack autonomous driving systems.   Continued...