Self-driving cars are just around the corner. Many people worry about the added expense of autonomous technology and the effect it'll have on car prices, but in fact, self-driving vehicles are likely to save owners a good bit of money.
How much? By some estimates, $1,000 or more each year -- and that's just on insurance.
HOW DO AUTONOMOUS CARS CUT OUR COSTS?
Visit nearly any auto show, and you'll see car companies offering an increasing array of autonomous features on new models, like collision avoidance, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assistance. Very soon, you'll be able to catch a glimpse of semi-autonomous vehicles from Toyota and Tesla. Nissan and Mercedes-Benz are furiously working on their own versions, due out by 2020.
Why the rush? Is there any guarantee that people will buy these self-driving cars?
There are many reasons shoppers will, but chief among them are the fact that:
1. Autonomous cars will save lives.
2. Autonomous cars will save us money.
The two are directly related. Consider the many ways that autonomous vehicles will keep our spending and safety in check:
Fewer accidents, injuries, and fatalities: Whether they're due to distracted driving or drunk driving, most accidents are caused by human error. Google's own stats back that up: over nearly six years, the company's autonomous car fleet has had 11 accidents, all caused by other drivers or by a human who was controlling a Google car at the time of the collision. As much as we like to believe in our own infallibility, we cannot drive better than a self-driving car.
Fewer traffic tickets: Autonomous cars don't feel the pressure when you're late for a meeting. They don't try to blow through intersections after traffic lights turn red. As a result, you're likely to pay far less for traffic tickets -- which is good news for your wallet, bad news for city budgets.
Lower insurance costs: No one likes paying insurance. It's mandatory, it's expensive, and the first time you use it, it gets even more expensive. But with autonomous cars, there will be fewer accidents, fewer payouts for injuries and deaths, and premiums will almost certainly drop. (Some analysts have even predicted that in time, auto insurance will go the way of the dodo.) According to insurance start-up Metro Mile, insuring a human-driven Tesla Model S is $1,942 per year, but the cost of insuring a self-driven Model S would fall to $388. The cost of a more mundane Honda Accord would fall from $1,158 to $232. On average, Metro Mile predicts annual premiums on autonomous vehicles to be around $1,000 cheaper.
Lower fuel costs: Autonomous cars will get from Point A to Point B using maps. (BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen know this, which is why they recently banded together to buy Nokia's map-making service HERE for $3.1 billion.) Those maps don't just show roads, they also keep tabs on construction, traffic, and other factors that affect the driving environment. When they see a traffic jam, they suggest alternate routes. That keeps you moving along the most efficient route, which saves you gas -- and money.
Less need to own a vehicle: The most controversial, hotly debated side-effect of autonomous cars is what they'll do to new car sales. As the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute pointed out back in February, self-driving vehicles could spell the end of the auto industry as we know it.
Why? Because most trips that family members make in their vehicles don't overlap -- in other words, mom may need to go to work, and son may want to spend time with friends, but more often than not, their driving schedules don't overlap, so in theory, they could use the same car. The only problem is, mom's car is in the parking lot at her office building, and son is at home. Autonomous cars could get around that problem by allowing mom to send the car home when she's not using it. UMTRI says that this phenomenon could cut down on the number of vehicles households need and slash U.S. auto sales by 43 percent. In the process, you'd save the cost of buying and owning another car.
Autonomous car critics: is this enough to change your mind? What would it take for you to consider buying an autonomous car? (Besides hacker-proof telematics systems, of course.) Share your thoughts in the comments below.