One early use of driverless cars will be car leasing. It’s already the case that even as uber driving is now displacing the normal taxi service in cities all over the world it will in turn be displaced by uber driverless cars. It will, in effect, be short-scale driverless car leasing. Indeed, Uber itself is said to be planning it already even as it continues vigorously to extend its ‘traditional’ service with part-time drivers.
But once short-scale driverless cars start to become established it will only be a matter of time before they becomes medium- and long-scale self-drive car leasing — that is, for journeys between cities or for other long trips.
So far, car leasing has not developed to anywhere near its potential despite the considerable cost savings that most car owners could make. The reason for this is that the car is the second-most important status good — second only to the home — that people buy. The car — or perhaps two or even three of them — sitting in the drive is a highly visible confirmation of the status claims that the owner makes for himself. Relying on leased cars means that there’ll be no cars in the driveway.
But if the economy of advanced countries for most of their inhabitants continues to flounder then the cost savings of leasing will surely overcome the present reluctance. Besides, if and when car leasing becomes the norm instead of ownership then there’s no reason why a leased car should not be available at different price levels according to brands.
So what is holding back (driverless) car leasing? Nothing it would seem. The most important factor are the colossal amounts of data that a driverless car needs to consult via cloud computing — that is, massive data banks. And this is precisely what is now happening in all the advanced countries. Microsoft and Amazon are the latest to announce plans for large databanks in this country.
It’s all happening a great deal quicker than could have been imagined as recently as five or ten years ago. Ominously though, it doesn’t take a take deal of reflection to realise that car leasing — driverless or otherwise — will make for fewer jobs. Another example of the Principle of Least Effort.