Waymo, the self-driving car startup spun-off from Google late last year, will be deploying its fleet of self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans onto public roads for the first time later this month, the company announced at the North American International Auto Show today.I personally am skeptical that self-driving technology will spread as rapidly as the proponents claim. It may happen faster in the Sunbelt, but up in the north, where the roads can sometimes look like a flat and featureless path of white, it may be more of a problem. There are a lot of roads that are also just black stretches of pavement with no markings, and then there's gravel roads. All of those an even slightly-experienced human driver can effortlessly navigate.
The minivans will be hitting the roads in Mountain View, California and Phoenix, Arizona, where the company’s self-driving Lexus SUVs have already driven thousands of miles over the past few years. Also today, Waymo gave the public its first look at the self-driving Pacificas, which have been under wraps since the deal between Google and Fiat Chrysler was first announced back in May 2016.
But still, driverless technology has the potential to be hugely disruptive, and not just to those who do those jobs. At some level of availability of on-call transportation, people may start wondering if they really need to own a car.
Millions of people are going to be put out of work, and not just those behind the steering wheels. When long-haul trucks can be driven by robots and travel 1,000 miles between refuelings, the truck-stop industry will be in real trouble.
Or imagine vehicles like a van, but with bunks and such. Call for one after work, load it up and it'd be like taking a sleeper train on an overnight trip. You could travel 500 miles or so and wake up at your destination, rested, and with all of your non-TSA inspected (and pilfered) bags.
Our world is going to seem a lot different in twenty years or so.
(Unless Trump manages to destroy it.)