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Autonomous cars are set to totally transform our driving habits but they could also have a major impact on society, from city planning to mobility. By Ludovic Lassauce, Director, Business Development, Business Collaboration, Mobility and IoT at Tata Communications

Autonomous cars are set to totally transform our driving habits but they could also have a major impact on society, from city planning to mobility. What is more, driverless vehicles will also spark new business models for transportation and car-centric firms. And as our relationship with driverless cars evolves, this will bring new opportunities that will result of a range of spin-off industries emerging.

While it will be at least 10 years before we see the introduction of driverless cars at scale, it is important to start planning for the automated vehicle age now. Driverless cars will be a major force in the digital revolution, disrupting the world as we know it. However, organisations who have considered how the driverless era will affect them and planned accordingly will have a competitive edge over those who have not.

The Driverless Society

Driverless vehicles have the potential to completely reverse the notion of car ownership. We are already seeing innovative new business models, such as Jaguar’s detachable smart steering wheel which summons cars to the driver’s home as part of a paid subscription scheme. In future, it is possible that no one will buy a car at all. And while the idea of a car that does not need a driver behind the wheel may be some way off, it is possible that maybe we will not even be required to have driving licences in order to jump in a car in future. More revolutionary, some governments may start to prohibit people from driving cars as autonomous cars prove to be safer and more efficient in terms of traffic management.

As well as private ownership, the advent of driverless cars could also completely disrupt the public transport and private hire sectors. A lack of human drivers, coupled with more energy efficient hybrid and all-electric cars could see transport costs slashed. As a result, transportation could become incredibly cheap, or even free.

Daily life could be completely altered as a result, for example, the lack of privately owned cars and the ability to hail a car on-demand could rule out the need for car parks. However, while this may be good news for some, it is important to consider how changing infrastructure could affect an ageing population. New solutions and government-backed schemes may be needed to support those with reduced mobility.

Designing The Future

As the framework needed for cars and public transport evolves, the landscape of the city will change dramatically. Urban planners are already beginning to consider architecture for smart cities and how driverless vehicles will fit into them. Not only will parking areas and road systems be transformed, congestion will be reduced, which will have a positive impact on the environment, especially air quality.

Car design will also develop as vehicles are updated to make use of the space that is no longer taken up by a driver. This will free up more of the car interior for workspaces and in-car entertainment. And if people are no longer limited to owning one car, instead having the use of a choice of pool vehicles, we may see new model types arriving to cater for specific needs and types of journey.

Both smart city design and the introduction of fleets of driverless vehicles will have a huge impact on connectivity demands across the globe, boosting the need for flexible networks that can cope with transferring large amounts of data at high speed. This kind of borderless connectivity will be an essential enabler of the automated vehicle age.

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