How important are self-driving (autonomous) cars going to be for business in the coming years? This is something a number of consultants and economists have considered for a number of years.
Right now, these vehicles are associated with a higher chance of a serious road traffic accident than many are comfortable with. There have been a number of high-profile fatalities caused by the testing of autonomous cars.
However, their safety capabilities are continually being improved. So once they are sophisticated enough to ferry passengers around safely, what impact are autonomous cars likely to have on businesses?
Andreas Tschiesner, senior partner at McKinsey & Company, has predicted that between 2040 and 2050, autonomous cars will account for 90% of all journeys made in cities. This could see a significant impact on the number of people employed in certain industries.
Tschiesner also predicted that these vehicles will lead to a rise in the number of jobs available, rather than the fall a number of analysts expect. He pointed to the fact that there will be less demand for bus and train drivers, as well as civil servants in traffic departments.
However, more computer scientists will be needed to keep these cars on the roads, and traffic control centres will require staff. Keeping these cars clean will also require human employees, as will fleet management.
One of the most discussed aspects of self-driving cars is how the financial impact they will have – particularly on businesses.
If your business maintains a significant fleet, replacing it with autonomous vehicles can be as gradual a process as you need it to be. The initial outlay for purchasing or leasing these vehicles will be significant, so it may make sense to stagger the replacement process.
However, once you have possession of these cars, you will likely see lower costs. This is because you won’t have to pay for drivers or be tied to the rollercoaster of fossil fuel costs as these vehicles are powered by electricity.
Currently, workers have to travel via public transport if they want to get any work done on their commute. After all, they can’t keep their eyes on a laptop screen while driving. However, with self-driving cars, employees can use their time on the road to carry out certain work tasks.
With self-driving cars, your business could start viewing the daily commute as part of the working day. You could then reduce the number of hours employees are required to put in at the office, which could result in a better work-life balance for them.
This can have the bonus benefit of fostering motivation and loyalty in your workforce. In addition, the more well-rested they are, the better their work is likely to be. A burnt-out employee typically won’t produce the quality of work you need, after all.
Autonomous cars are doubtless going to have an impact on business after they become more commonplace on our roads. Smart business leaders will be the ones exploring this technology before their competitors, which could lead to significant benefits for their organisations.