The race to deliver driverless cars to the masses has reached a pivotal stage – and it’s not just Google and Tesla stepping on the gas pedal. GM recently kicked off its US$500 million investment in Lyft and acquired autonomous-vehicle firm Cruise Automation to build its first fleet of self-driving taxis. BMW vowed to bring self-driving cars to the consumer market within five years. All Tesla vehicles will likely come with the hardware needed for full driverless functionality within the next 12 months. Even major auto suppliers, Delphi and Mobileye, are joining forces to develop a mass-market, off-the-shelf autonomous system for a variety of vehicle types by 2019.

It’s clear that automakers are embracing the advantages of autonomous technology – and so are consumers. Since 2011, public interest in handing the keys to technology has been growing, according to Google Trends reports on most-searched topics. Even governments are preparing for a self-driving future with the introduction and enactment of new legislation and amend related laws – especially in the United States (2011), Great Britain (2013), France (2015), Switzerland (2015), and Singapore (2016).

It’s exciting and, at times, scary to know that driverless cars will be arriving on our interstates, highways, and back roads soon. However, like any technological advancement in history, it will inevitably impact our lives and shift economic power.

3 predictions for a world of cars and trucks that drive themselves

Here’s a glimpse of the opportunity and changes ahead, thanks to the insightful data visualizations delivered by SAP BusinessObjects Lumira software.

1. In the Unites States alone, consumers will collectively save upwards of $1.3 trillion annually.

As autonomous technology prove to be safer than human drivers, it is inevitable that healthcare expenses, insurance costs, and accidents will decline. For the consumer, this benefit means $189 billion less medical expenses from survivable crashes, as well as $226 billion in savings from fewer scrapes and fender benders. Even insurance rates will decrease, putting $14 billion in policyholders’ pockets. As more drivers adopt driverless technology, the savings only escalate with increased fuel efficiency and reduced traffic gridlock.

2. Autonomous vehicles will impact millions of jobs and wages, but not all drivers will be affected.

There are 1.6 million heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers are on the road on any given day. If driverless vehicles replaced truckers, the economy could lose $95 billion in wages. Workers who operate light trucks, delivery service vehicles, and school buses would also feel the effects to a slightly smaller degree. Postal service mail carriers, transit bus employees, taxi drivers, and chauffeurs, on the other hand, will likely be least affected.

However, this news is not all doom and gloom. For example, the trucking industry in North America is facing a significant shortage in skilled drivers due to an aging workforce and the inability to attract and retain younger job candidates. This trend is anticipated to continue until 2024. In essence, autonomous trucks can be considered an investment to address concerns over a declining workforce while expanding services to more customers.

3. Businesses will still need drivers.

Data analysis underscores the necessity of 3.9 million drivers when shipping goods and delivering services. Even though companies will pay $148 billion in salaries to support their trucking teams, they can offset that cost with $1.3 trillion in lower logistics costs.

The truth about autonomous trucks is that they cannot entirely replace drivers. Human operators are still required to navigate the first and last mile of the trip. Plus, they do more than drive: truck operators load and unload shipments as well as plan and adjust routes based on weather and traffic conditions. A machine cannot accomplish this level of intelligent decision-making on its own (at least not anytime soon).

Are you ready for a driverless economy?

While it’s clear that automakers are investing heavily in bringing this once sci-fi concept into the mainstream, it is even more apparent that businesses, governments, and even everyday people need to be just as involved. Before it’s too late, we need to understand the implications of fully self-driving cars and separate the misconceptions from the actual risks and opportunities on the horizon.

How will your business change with the arrival of driverless cars? Visualize your data and drive insights to find out with a free trial of SAP BusinessObjects Lumira.

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