The development of autonomous vehicles is going fast and represent a major innovation for the automotive industry. Many experts are trying to predict the impact this revolution will have on our economy, mobility, and society. It is already known that AV will probably reduce 60% of CO2 emissions, 90% of crashes and reduce parking spaces by billions square meters. But from a sociological point of view, could autonomous cars bring more equity in the citizen’s mobility ?
First of all, by reducing so many costs (crashes, congestion, parking), not having a paid driver and using sustainable energy as electricity from solar panels, the durability of this vehicles would be increased and the cost of such transportation could be low for the users. This new kind of mobility could facilitate car sharing which is creating a community feeling, reducing the number of vehicles in the street and so reducing stress for drivers as well as pedestrians. With a reduction of pedestrian risks and parking demands, the urban living would be more attractive with more equity in the streets. Furthermore, those kinds of public transportation as showed by the self-drive electric bus «Olli» created by IBM and Local-motors in Washington DC, will provide flexibility in the path chosen by the vehicle and provides convenient vehicles to nondrivers (people too young, old, disabled, impaired). By improving public transit, AV could give the same accessibility to everybody no matter the localization.
From a negative point of view, some experts declare that even if some costs will be reduced, those kinds of transportation will need a lot of expensive equipment (such as sensors, software, wireless networks, testing, and maintenance…). Also, the AV will probably in its early years become a trend wich will lead rich citizens to own their own expensive autonomous vehicle such as luxury Mercedes’ prototypes. Also, robotic equipment means a probability of a system failure and problems of privacy. It is already criticized by many users how new technologies are collecting data without giving any control on them to the user. This effect could increase and get worse, leading to real concerns about hacking or criminal activities in general. Some specialists are also worried about how communities will get adapted to AV, they might only focus on those new vehicles and stop creating conventional and cost-effective transportation such as pedestrian and transit improvements.
To conclude, in term of equity for the citizens, experts tend to say that AV will give flexibility and a better access to public transportation. It will also facilitate car sharing and create a balance between pedestrians and drivers. Moreover, in terms of cost, it is difficult to predict, even if the municipalities will probably save money from crashes, paid drivers, congestion, and parking, all the technology needed is expensive as well as its maintenance. The safety could also become a problem in term of system failure of data hacking.