Several leading experts predict that children born this year will never have to get a driver’s license, according to Motor Trend. This prediction makes sense due to the fact that most industry leaders predict that self-driving vehicles will become commonplace on our roads in 10 to 15 years. The director of Google’s autonomous vehicle team has also posed that his main goal is to make sure that his 13-year-old son never has to learn to drive a car. This would mean that autonomous vehicles would be commercially available by the end of 2020 – an ambitious goal (that probably won't happen).
The potential for autonomous automobiles
The thought of our children or our children’s children never driving a car seems almost absurd given the history of the automobile industry. Cars have always been, and arguably will be, a field of interest that sparks nostalgia, excitement, and good times. For many, driving a car is where the fun in cars sits. Many people don’t just drive to get places; they drive to have fun, to enjoy the experience. So then, if our children never have to drive a car, won’t they miss out on that unique experience?
Well, we have to look at the situation from a couple of different perspectives. It seems highly unlikely that in 16 years, regulations will state that all cars must be self-driving. This would mean that there will still be options for those of us that want to drive cars or drive classics. In 16 years, however, it is highly probable that technology and regulation will allow for self-driving cars on the road, or even regulate that all new cars be self-driving due to improved safety.
Would having no human drivers be better?
Our children may then have a choice to drive a car, but they will probably never have to drive a car if they don’t want to. As a parent myself, I personally hope my children never have to drive a car for one main reason – safety. The crash rate for young drivers (16-19) is 2.7 times higher than for any other age group, according to the California DMV. In general, people are not great at driving, but teens are especially not great at driving. 94% of all motor vehicle accidents are because of human error. That means that 94% of all accidents could hypothetically be stopped with the implementation of autonomous vehicles (ideally).
Having a computer drive your car will be much safer than driving a car yourself. That's not an opinion, but a fact.
We also have to look at this from another perspective, free time.
Driving a car is arguably one of the most time-consuming tasks we do on a daily basis. Self-driving cars will bring us hours back to our day, stopping us from having to keep our eyes on the road. For kids of the future, I am hard-pressed to imagine that the majority of kids would want to drive a car undistracted rather than sit back and relax – probably on their smartphones, but that’s another issue entirely.
So, will our kids have to get their driver’s licenses? Probably not, but I don’t see the option of driving cars fading anytime soon. The future of automobiles will likely be autonomous, but the choice to drive a car will remain just that, a choice.