In an autonomous future, when your car drives itself and your commute becomes 25 minutes of nap time, it's easy to imagine cars being wholly self-sufficient. They'll never need service, never break down and never need to go back to the dealership.
Not so, says John Krafcik, CEO of the Google Self-Driving Car Project. Speaking at the 2016 J.D. Power and NADA Automotive Forum, taking place ahead of the New York International Auto Show, Krafcik broke down some of the many implications of fully autonomous cars. That is, cars that rely on no human input in getting from point A to point B.
Among the many repercussions of this technology is the potential to drastically increase usage of a given car. Your average American automobile spends the vast majority of its time sitting idle, parked. Krafcik thinks that will change.
"Self driving cars are going to be more expensive physical assets, so we're going to find a way to use them more," he said. Ways like ride-sharing, where your car could participate in a service like Uber and potentially earn you some extra money while you're at work or even asleep.
Because of this, Krafcik sees average annual car usage skyrocketing to upwards of 100,000 to 150,000 miles. "I think there are going to be positive implications for a lot of dealers," said Krafcik, "And for the OEMs, thinking about that duty cycle is going to be very different."
This is something of a counterpoint to the opinion of many, that autonomous cars and ridesharing will drastically reduce overall sales and service opportunities for auto manufacturers.
Krafcik made many other interesting points talking about autonomy, including Google's reliance on vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) communications. Or, more specifically, Google's lack of reliance.
"We're really not dependent on external infrastructure to get around the world," he said. "While we love the idea of V2V and V2X -- that'd be super-helpful for us -- we're not relying on them. You can't have a truly autonomous car if you're reliant on V2V or V2X, because there will be times when those go down."
V2V and V2X communications enable cars to warn each other about inclement conditions and accidents, so that they can more efficiently route around them. These systems will require extensive network infrastructure in cities to deploy, expensive infrastructure that will likely take decades to deploy. Government incentives like the Smart City Challenge will certainly help, but it's clear that Google's not waiting around for municipalities to catch up.
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