The future of the self-driving electric car.

I’ve been following the trend of self-driving cars for some time now. It is by far one of the most interest trends. I feel it is going to create lots of new opportunities for entrepreneurs and change the face of our urban landscapes.

Here’s what I see is going to happen:

In the next few years, slowly but surely self-driving cars will be commercialized and introduced into society. At first it will ride alongside other cars. They will have to obey speed laws. As a possible solution, routes and lanes will be converted to only having self-driving cars, increasing speed of commute.

At this stage, personal transport will transform. There will be a category of cars that will only be self-driving, looking different from a normal car. It will have space in it to do whatever you want to do: sleep, work, watch a movie, etc.

During this stage, the question starts to arise. If my car can drive without me (needs no driver), then what CAN my car actually do? What functions will it have.

An obvious one: no more parking issues. If you quickly want to slip into a shop in a city district, your car can simply drive around the block and pick you up again. What about times when you are busy for longer? Your car drive on and find the nearest parking. Due to the fact that you won’t need to have cars parked in busy city districts, you’ll start to see the parking spots being removed and moved to specific locations, freeing up a crowded city for people.

A problem with this however, is that there will be more cars driving around, creating unnecessary pollution. So here is where it gets interesting.

The self-driving electric car.

Electric cars are perfect compliments to self-driving cars. The parkades will not only act as a spot for your car to wait, but will also be recharging stations. As was shown with Tesla’s Supercharger stations, a lot of the energy to recharge cars can be generated through solar power. If the demand outstrips the supply for solar power, and traditional power stations be used to recharge, it is anyway more efficient energy-wise than a car’s internal combustion engine.

I suspect we’ll also see quite a lot change in terms of the urban “sprawl”. Without having to live close to metro stations or other public transport, there’s no reason not to live further away, because in a self-driving car you are not losing as much time. Live another 30min away in a more beautiful and affordable place, and do your morning e-mails, feed reading, etc in that extra 30min.

Tesla and Google?

Due to the fact that I believe the self-driving electric car is a certain future, I wonder who’ll be at the forefront of achieving the various complexities. The most obvious combo that comes to mind is Google and Tesla, for various reasons:

Tesla are owning the electric car market, making cars that people want that “just happens to be electric.” The other piece in this puzzle is the fact that Larry and Sergei both invested in Tesla.

What will Google do? The obvious piece is that they will provide the self-driving technology. However, the other factor they can bring to the table is their strength in data and algorithms.

If your car drives off to go recharge at the nearest parkade, when should it start driving to come fetch you again? As was shown with Google Now and their traffic maps, they’ll know. If you set a time for when you need your car, it will know when to start driving from the parkade.

Opportunities for entrepreneurs:

- Be the company that allows you to rent your unused car for personal transport for other people. (so far I see Uber or Zipcar moving into this direction).

- Buy up land just outside cities than be used for self-driving cars to park and recharge/refuel.

- Design efficient algorithms for self-driving to expend the least amount of energy while idling/driving around waiting for you.

- Design algorithms for these parkades to effectively get cars in and out.

- What will people do in cars differently than at home? Are there services that will work better in self-driving cars?

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What do you think? Is this a given? What opportunities do you see that will be created with self-driving electric cars?