The Future of Big City Public Transport – Autonomous Transport Network

Major car manufacturers around the world are announcing their intentions of releasing fully autonomous cars as early as the 2nd quarter of 2019, we are wondering what the effects of fully autonomous vehicles will be on the future of public transport, especially in big cities across the world.

What future public transport might look like?

Here in London the Transport for London can be used with a NFC top up card called Oyster, which allows commuters to easily tap and access buses, trains, trams, underground (subway) and even river boats & a cable car service. Now imagine the network introduces a fleet of autonomous vehicles that can also be accessed using the Oyster card. Or maybe there will be a subscription service which allows users to use any one of those forms of transport within a certain zone each month for a fixed monthly cost? Such a network could be run on existing NFC card technology or mobile phone app.

Another great feature to the subscription service is accessibility to transport networks and the ability to still rent other self-drive vehicles from car clubs which could offer cars, motorbikes or vans for people with driver’s licenses. This also makes sense for longer road trips or when a van is needed to transport goods.

No need to drive

This all begs the question, will people even need a drivers licence anymore? If cars just drive people around autonomously, then the need to pass your driver’s test becomes less relevant and in the long run it may become redundant. I know I will still want to drive, but just imaging driving around cars which have no drivers… it will be very strange. I also feel many older people will be a little hesitant to put their trust in a self-driving car, I can’t even get myself to enter my credit card details on my smartphone to use its mobile pay option. However, such things seem to be completely normal for younger people and I guess self-driving cars will just become the norm. Which makes me feel incredibly old, and now I understand the rejection of past technology by the older generation – like the fear of using microwave ovens to heat up food instead of a stove. The microwave was also a device which made people more lazy in time and I can certainly see self-driving cars and a network of easy to access transportation making people more lazy. Hopefully they will use the extra time and money saved to sign up to a gym membership.

The big upfront cost of buying a new vehicle may also make the idea of a monthly subscription for access to an autonomous vehicle a better deal for most people.

Autonomous, Self Driving Vehicle Economy

Sadly for many people working in the taxi and private hire industry and possibly other forms of public transport, the introduction of self-driving vehicles may mean their professions will become redundant. However in terms of maintaining a modern autonomous public transport network, there will be a need for humans to run such networks, be it from the technical side or cleaning and maintenance. So there is a clear opportunity for new lines of work in a fully autonomous public transport world.

Environmental benefits

It’s safe to assume that all autonomous vehicles will run on electric, which may have a positive impact on the environment. However, we are yet to see how the production and disposal of batteries will affect the environment in the long run.

The knock on effects of big change will always bring positives and negatives to the world.

So many more questions

With big change, comes much confusion and questions. How will public transport bodies deal with legal aspects of allowing people to access self-driving vehicles, what kind of waivers will people be willing to sign off. Also how will issues be dealt with when things go wrong?

Sometimes we fear change, but time helps us do exactly the same and change ourselves. So even with some worries of an autonomous future, we still welcome the changing horizon of the world’s automotive and public transport future.

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