Driverless cars will be immune to hacking

The future belongs to the autonomous car

The self-driving car is only a matter of time. From the point of view of stressed commuters, a dreamlike idea: the autopilot takes over the annoying daily routine drive, the stop-and-go in traffic jams and the long motorway trip on vacation. Meanwhile, the driver and front passenger can surf, read, sleep or talk on the Internet.

Little by little, more and more cars will drive by themselves. That could change our world more than we are aware of today - our cities, streets and parking lots, our ideas of mobility, but also our world of work. It would be all the more important that we adjust to this early on and that politics and society take the changes into account. Because the automotive revolution will not only produce winners.

Self-driving cars: safer, faster, cheaper

Autonomous cars bring more safety - by far the most important pro argument. In Germany, the police recorded around 2.5 million accidents in 2015, nine out of ten of which are caused by human error. Without the human factor, they would disappear and with them countless injuries and thousands of traffic fatalities. In addition, there would be less damage to property, so that the premiums for vehicle insurance would also have to fall significantly (theoretically by 90 percent).

The robot cars also significantly reduce traffic jams: traffic jams are caused by accidents, sudden braking, gawking or driving up too close - all errors that a computer is immune to. Fewer traffic jams are a benefit for society as a whole, because traffic jams currently cause economic damage running into billions (although the exact estimates differ significantly).

1. Less asphalt, more space to live

Autonomous cars never get tired or unable to concentrate. They drive more precisely and reliably than humans, keep their lane very precisely, can drive closer together and thus take up less traffic space overall. Do we still need three or four lane roads through the middle of the city or do we need a few lanes less? The latter would be a great benefit if the cities used the space that is freed up for wide cycle paths and footpaths, spacious green areas or for cafes and restaurants. Future-oriented urban and transport planning would have to take these questions into account in order to make today's investments appear sensible in 20 to 30 years.

2. Parking spaces? We don't need anymore (in front of the door)

The search for parking spaces is a problem that consumes a lot of time and fuel, and that is so great that the administrative language even has its own word for it: "parking search traffic". This is no longer necessary with robotic cars, because they drive the passengers to the front door and drop them off there - and then look for parking spaces somewhere nearby. If the owner wants to drive off later, he calls the car on his mobile phone, which picks him up at the front door a few minutes later.

So it won't matter whether the parking lot is right next to your own apartment. On the contrary, one day we might ask ourselves why we actually want to accept the sight of sheet metal all the time. Maybe then we will find that cars are better off in large parking garages, in which they can move by themselves without us as a chauffeur. This frees up valuable space in your own street, where children, for example, can play safely - without scratching the neighbour's Mercedes.

3. The autonomous car sharing fleet takes over in cities

For many occasional drivers, the following already applies: Why buy your own car when there is car sharing? If the carsharing cars can soon drive themselves, that will completely revolutionize mobility as we know it today. It doesn't matter whether I call my own self-driving car or a car sharing car on my mobile phone - it takes me from A to B at the same time. The trend is that the car is losing its meaning as a status symbol already noticeable today.

A nice side effect: the more we switch from privately owned cars to a fleet of car-sharing vehicles, the fewer vehicles need to exist overall. On average, a car stands still 92 percent of its time. During this time, it could bring other people from another A to another B. Fewer cars mean less space consumption, fewer parking spaces and fewer resources overall.

In such a system, customers could pay for the journey itself, running costs for their own vehicle - which are incurred while it is stationary! - fell away.

4. Still, private cars (and human drivers) will be around for a long time

Finally, add a little water to the wine: robotic cars also bring a number of questions and problems with them.

Self-driving people: There will still be people who own their own car and want to drive it themselves. But sooner or later that will lead to debates. But if robotic cars are demonstrably safer and have been established for a few years - do we then discuss whether human self-drivers have to pay higher insurance premiums? Or a risk surcharge for your car? Or will human driving be banned entirely because it is too dangerous?

Jobs: How will the auto industry think that fewer cars are needed overall? Not to mention the taxi drivers, bus drivers, train drivers, truck drivers? Greater efficiency also means that jobs will be eliminated. We also have to find answers to this - even a slow transition must be planned as early as possible.

Ethics: An autonomous car can - like every driver today - come into a situation in which an accident can no longer be prevented, but only mitigated. So if it can evade left and right, but would hit people in both cases - what criteria does the computer use to decide which option to choose? Who programs the algorithm beforehand according to which ethical standards?

And finally, security: the most important argument in favor of robotic cars only applies if they can be safely protected from hacker attacks. So we still have to think about a few things before we drive cars that are smarter than us.