Will Self-driving Cars Kill Luxury Cars, and Car Ownership Itself?

Will Self-driving Cars Kill Luxury Cars, and Car Ownership Itself?

A BigThink piece by AgeLab director Joe Coughlin has been republished via the Milken Institute Center for Successful Aging. 

Dreams of the driverless car are primarily focused on how the robotic technology will usher in a new era of safe, seamless transportation. Less discussed is what social values, industries, and activities will be displaced or made obsolete...

Consider luxury. The luxury car of 2016 looks very different than it did ten years ago. Today, luxury in the automobile is defined more by software than horsepower... These sorts of technologies contain the promise of making driving safer than it’s ever been. But because they come at a significant price, automakers feel more at ease lumping them in with a bevy of luxury features rather than implementing them into — and raising the cost of — their entry-level models.

In and of themselves, the current crop of driver assistance technologies may not seem overwhelmingly exciting. A warning beep from the console that tells you when you’re about to back into a light pole is plenty useful, sure, but mundane in its usefulness. Yet these sorts of tools are the baby steps, so to speak, toward more comprehensive autonomous vehicle technologies (i.e. self-driving cars), and toward social acceptance of such technologies. They are both a way for developers to refine the technology and for consumers to grow used to the idea of a computer taking over the act of driving.

The irony is that these “luxury” technologies may be the beginning of the end of the luxury vehicle itself -- and the end of personal vehicle ownership altogether.

When the brightest-eyed autonomous vehicle advocates talk about self-driving cars transforming society as we know it, what they’re imagining, first and foremost, is the death of car ownership...

Read the full article here.