Report Explores How Self-Driving Cars Could Change The World


Self-driving cars could boost online business revenue by $140 billion a year according to a consulting firm. It’s one of a number of projections made by McKinsey & Company, though some of them are ambitious projections to say the least.

The figure is based on the idea that the average driver would gain an extra 50 minutes a day by no longer having to be at the controls, half of which would likely be spent on the Internet. That leads in turn to the estimated increase in ad revenue and online purchases.

The big problem with the claim is that it appears to assume such activity would be in addition to, rather than in place of, other Internet use. For example, for people who are using the Internet for a specific purpose rather than filling time, getting online in their car could simply mean they spend less time online at work or home, so their total ad views would not change.

Even if they did spend more time online, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the amount they spend on online goods would increase proportionally. People may only need or want a certain amount of stuff, and even if they’d like to buy more, they only have so much money.

Some of the other forecasts are more viable, at least once you accept the hypothetical premise of self-driving cars catching on. For example, they note that auto insurers might have to rethink their business if their main risk switches from human error to technical faults. There’d also be a shift in demand from traditional car repair staff to people with electronic engineering skills.

McKinsey also forecasts that if self-driving cars sell well, the traditional loyalty to auto brands might drop away, with people instead being attracted by tech brands.

The report predicts it’ll be 2025 to 2030 before ordinary consumers start driving autonomous vehicles and that mass adoption won’t take place for another decade after that. It estimates that at this point the number of crashes will decrease enough to save $190 billion a year in healthcare costs and property damage.

Perhaps the biggest forecast of mass adoption meaning small changes add up to a big effect comes with parking. McKinsey calculates that because autonomous vehicles can park themselves closer together than with human operation, the equivalent of 5.7 billion square meters of parking lot land would become available for other uses.

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