Researchers at Cornell University conducted a survey of just over 1,000 households in late 2014 and found the average person was willing to pony up $4,900 extra for a fully autonomous car or $3,500 for partial autonomy. While many drivers may not be ready to give up control, autonomous cars are definitely on the way. 

This technology may seem like science fiction, but according to manufacturers, we are staring down the barrel of an autonomous car revolution. The perceived leader to bringing a car to market is Tesla Motors. Their cars have had partial autonomous features and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has committed to releasing an autonomous car next year. General Motors has partnered with Lyft and Uber has partnered with Volvo and these partnerships will likely be your first look at an autonomous car. Uber and Lyft’s business model look much stronger without having to pay a driver for their time, so you have to expect rapid utilization as soon as the technology is safe.

One of the most jarring aspects of autonomous cars will be a lack of controls. Ford, Google (their autonomous cars are now under the Waymo brand) and others have said that they don’t plan to put pedals or steering wheels in their autonomous cars. Both have said to expect their autonomous cars to be on the road by 2020. Remember the Ebola scare here in Texas? That was 2014 and it seems like yesterday. That is how close most of the car companies say they are to releasing the next generation of transportation. Waymo announced that they’ve driven a million test miles since last October. We’re getting very close.

Will things change overnight? Of course not, but expect radically different transportation options in your life. Your office won’t need a giant parking garage because your car may head a mile away, catch a recharge, and will be back at your office at your command. Or maybe your car will work for you and drive other passengers around town during the day and you’ll get a cut? It’s likely many people will choose to not own them and only rent a vehicle as appropriate. Forget a third family car, your teenager can just request an autonomous pickup and you won’t have to worry about them texting while driving. Eventually you won’t even need to go Walmart when an autonomous Walmart delivery van will drop off your goods within a few hours. 

It’s highly possible, and even likely, that your kids in elementary school will never get a driver’s license. I can hear the words, “Back in my day, you had to drive yourself to school!” being spoken at holiday family gatherings. Speaking for myself, I can’t ever see myself giving up driving my own car, and I’ll certainly enjoy seeing a certain few of y’all behind the invisible wheel of your autonomous car. 



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Wilson Calvert
Author: Wilson CalvertEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Columnist / Director of Operations
I am a long-time Houstonian and am obsessed with cars, soccer, traveling, bourbon and airplanes. I write a regular car review column for The Tribune and travel articles a few times per year.