Intel: $7 trillion driverless passenger-economy by ’50

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

Fully autonomous cars — those without a human driver behind the wheel — will create a domino effect rippling through nearly all aspects of society and result in a $7 trillion “passenger economy” by the year 2050.

That’s the conclusion of an analysis funded by computer-chip maker Intel Corp., which is heavily invested in the driverless car field. If the projections are accurate, the impact of those vehicles, once they become prevalent in coming decades, could touch on areas of life you haven’t considered yet.

“Autonomous vehicles will reconfigure time and then space, to some extent, and will ultimately to changes in land use and services,” said Greg Lindsay, a senior fellow at the New Cities Foundation, a nonprofit promoting connected cities. “...Just as automobile ownership in the post-war era led first to a reconfiguring of peoples’ lives... then over decades led to a massive reconfiguring of the U.S. in the form of suburbia and malls.”

Intel defines the passenger economy as “the economic and societal value,” including products and services “that will be generated by fully autonomous pilotless vehicles.” It will most likely lead to a sharp decrease in the ownership of personal vehicles as people begin to adopt the mentality of “mobility-as-a-service” in which they arrange for transportation on an as-needed basis.

While it will take decades to reach full integration of driverless vehicles, the projected $7 trillion global value will come from three major areas:

■43 percent, or $3 trillion, is expected to come from business use of mobility-as-service.

■55 percent, or $3.7 trillion, would from consumer use of mobility as service.

■Another $203 billion would be generated by new pilotless vehicle services and features.

“Ride-hailing companies, such as Uber and Lyft, are pursuing pilotless fleets with the ultimate goal of (eliminating) the need for drivers and converting what is currently a taxi alternative into, in essence, a public transportation network of shared vehicles...,” the report reads. “Some cities may choose to own the vehicle networks not unlike existing public transportation.”

Automakers would be forced to shift their focus from sales to individual consumers to the ride-sharing and car-sharing economy.

“Carmakers may ultimately vie to operate particular networks of vehicles for particular cities — not unlike cities in China today where local taxi franchises are assigned to particular carmakers (also partially owned by the cities,” the report reads. “What is clear is that carmakers will themselves become fleet operators. With electrification, new market participants may challenge existing incumbent car manufacturers for these franchises.”

Companies will no longer be handcuffed by driver shortages, as pilotless fleets boost efforts for industries like package deliver and long-haul transportation. Of the $7 trillion impact predicted by Strategy Analytics, $3 trillion will be generated by businesses utilizing mobility-as-a-service.

Apartment buildings, hotels and condominiums will likely provide driverless vehicles to tenants and guests as an amenity, and companies could do the same as a perk for employees.

For those who want to hang on to their personal vehicles, there will be new opportunities to capitalize on all of that time when cars are not in use. One study estimates those vehicles sit idle 92 percent of the time, and Personal Vehicle Sharing Networks would allow owners to make their cars available for ride-sharing.

With the ability of passengers in driverless cars to utilize their ride time more efficiently, the idea of longer commutes may not be so daunting.

“Eventually, you’ll see changes in land use, where you start to see, perhaps, the rise of massive new exurban suburbs where people are willing to commute two or three hours a day each way because of how they are able to use their time,” Lindsay said.

And those longer commute times, where passengers inside the vehicle are no longer required to have their eyes on the road, create all kinds of opportunities for on-board productivity or entertainment.

“The enhanced safety offered by pilotless vehicles will enable the vehicle to finally become a media and entertainment hub,” the report reads. “The number of screens in vehicles will expand and the use of heads-up displays for rich media and other content presentation and viewing will grown steadily.”

That sounds like good news to Jim Daniels, manager at WoW Electronics in Eastpointe. The company has been installing electronics in vehicles, old and new, for nearly a decade and a half. And the prospect of autonomous vehicles becoming a moveable entertainment center is intriguing.

“I think that might be a boost for us with people having the ability to spend more time with the technology,” he said. “If the car is driving itself, you could have the whole family in the back seat watching movies or going on the internet.”

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