Posted by: crudbasher | April 5, 2012

Implications of Google’s Self-Driving Cars

Let’s take a deep dive into Google’s self driving cars. I believe they will change our society dramatically, including the education system.

Here is the most recent video. In it a man who is 95% blind uses a Google self driving car to run errands. Now, it is a carefully controlled test, so treat this as a glimpse of what is coming. Even so, it’s pretty cool.

People have a hard time looking at this and seeing the wide ranging implications of this technology. Let me explain where I think this is going.

  • At first, this technology will be expensive. Therefore it will be used mostly in situations where the person could not drive on their own. Namely the blind, or physically impaired in some way.
  • Self driving cars will rapidly become much safer than manual drive cars. This is because the car will be able to connect up with other cars around them for improved situational awareness. Also, the car will be much much faster at coping with emergency situations. It will brake immediately, and be able to choose the optimum response in any situation. The car will be able to use night vision systems and radar systems to be able to function well at night and in bad weather. All of this provides a much safer experience.
  • By being much much safer, the medical related costs of traffic accidents will drop hugely. This will help keep medical costs down overall.
  • The cost to insure these kinds of cars will plummet because they are so much safer. This will drive adoption of these cars by everyone.
  • Taxi services will rapidly adopt these cars as they can slash their labor costs.
  • A big advantage of this technology is it gives you back the time you spend driving each day to do other things. Some people commute an hour to work each way. That’s 1/12th of their entire day is spent just driving. Getting that time back will dramatically increase productivity for anyone in an information related field.
  • While the cost of insurance will drive purchases, the number of cars actually needed will drop. Most households in the US need two cars, because they have to stay with you wherever you go. Right now my car is in the parking lot and my wife is at home with her car. If we had a self driving car we would only need one as it could go back home after taking me to work.
  • Not needing to keep your car at work means many fewer parking lots. We can reclaim all that land to do something useful with it.
  • Cars like this will make car pooling work much better. The central dispatch system will actually offer carpool cars when you request one. The carpooling ones will be cheaper of course.
  • Overall there will be many fewer cars on the roads. In return, we won’t have to constantly expand the road network. The economic and ecological benefits will be dramatic.
  • Self driving cars make fractional ownership or rental programs really work. You can just rent a car for the day and get whatever kind of car you need. If you are doing yard work, you can rent a pickup truck. If you are moving, you can rent a moving truck. If you are taking a bunch of kids out, you can rent a minivan.
  • Self driving cars make local delivery services much more economical. Pizza delivery drivers will be an endangered species. Restaurants can just rent cars on demand.
  • I foresee a fleet of rental cars in strategic locations around a city. You use your phone to call for one and it’s there in a matter of minutes.
  • The actual interiors of cars will change. The front seats will be able to face backwards (which is actually safer in crashes) so you can chat with your passengers.
  • Eventually these cars will cut into demand for air travel. You can start out in your car at night and sleep while it drives. In the morning you are at your destination without having to fly and you can schedule your trip when it’s most convenient, not when the plane is leaving.

I saved how this will affect education for last.

  • You don’t need school buses anymore. You can just rent a fleet of cars to deliver the kids. The US has a fleet of 144,000 school buses. Imagine if those resources were redirected to the classroom.
  • Because you don’t need school buses, you don’t to have everyone at school at the same time and leave at the same time.
  • If everyone doesn’t have to be there at the same time, you can have a more individualized schedule for each student.
  • Field trips can be arranged easier. Each student just meets at the location.
  • Children will be able to travel independently of their parents. Of course you don’t want a 9 year old to be able to order their own car, but the parents will be able to use them to help them out. For example, you can send the kids to the grandparents house for the evening. The car would be programmed not to deviate from that route no matter what the kids say. 🙂

Overall then, this technology will change many things about society, almost always in good ways. Still, many people will lose their jobs, or have their jobs made obsolete. It is therefore more important than ever that we come up with a learning system that develops people to their full individual potential. Mass public education just isn’t designed to do that.

Self driving cars are just one of many technologies that will radically transform society in the next 10 years. That is why when you look at education reform you have to look at conditions outside the school system as well as inside. Circumstances matter.



  1. I think the biggest thing about self-driving cars is your point that there will be far fewer of them. I imagine subscribing to a car service, and perhaps not even owning one (which helps off-set the higher cost). This also means that our infrastructure is about as big as it will ever need to be (since there will be fewer cars on the road.). Great post.

    • Indeed the infrastructure is a big as it needs to be for cars. I wonder if you can say the same thing about the public school system? Hmmm.

      Thanks for commenting!!

  2. […] world, directly in your field of vision. Google has a number of research projects going (including self driving cars) and a video on their Augmented Reality project was just […]

  3. What are all the lawyers/judges that make a living off of DUI violations going to do? So much for sobriety check points as well.

  4. Well, that video was pretty cool. Maybe it’s a sign we’re one step closer to SkyNet taking over everything, assuming that’s not the case this is really exciting. How cool was that to see a blind guy being able to drive to Taco Bell and complete a drive-thru order? Amazing, and think of the possibilities for people with other disabilities, the elderly, etc.

    Also, what cool music in this video, I’ve been a fan of The Album Leaf forever and “We Need Help” is such a fitting song. Inspiring stuff, Google.

  5. You hinted at a downside however.

    Add taxi drivers as one more out of work part of the American economy replaced by automation.

    In a world where so much work is done for us, work is fast becoming the wrong way to apportion resources in our society.

    • You are correct Jeff that taxi drivers will be put out of work. Also, truck drivers, bus drivers, etc… Probably the only drivers left will be NASCAR. lol

      Disruptions like this have happened before but not on this scale and not as fast. I agree with you that it will certainly cause changes in how society functions.

      Thanks for commenting!

  6. […] the the technologies I have been following is self driving cars. (see Implications of Self Driving Cars.) I came across this interview with Sergei Brin, one of the founders of Google (who are pioneering […]

  7. […] first though was that this is amazing technology. I have spoken at length about self driving cars and how much of a disruptive technology it is. Without rehashing it all here, one of the things I […]

  8. […] Implications of Google’s Self-Driving Cars […]

  9. […] Here’s a big post I did last year called The Implications Of Google’s Self-Driving Cars. […]

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