Beware of These 3 Potential Downsides To Self-Driving Cars

The twin technologies of electrification and autonomous vehicles promise to revolutionize the way we drive forever. Having a self-driving option in your car seems like a great way to relax or carve out time for other tasks. But the proliferation of self-driving technology could have some unintended consequences. Possible downsides include less control over your own mobility, less control over your lifestyle, and higher housing prices in many towns.

Local real estate prices may go haywire

A model leans against a futuristic Chevrolet Astro prototype on stage at an auto show in 1969.
1969 Chevrolet Astro III Prototype | Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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Just because the future is here does not mean you can afford it. For example, General Motors currently has the most advanced hands-free driving software. You can even buy a Chevy Silverado or GMC Sierra that can tow a trailer in its “self-driving” mode. This is an industry first but will cost you a pretty penny. GM limits its Super Cruise technology to the very top trim of its pickup trucks, such as the $78k Sierra Denali Ultimate Edition.

Other industry leaders in self-driving technology, such as Tesla, charge nearly as much for a vehicle. A time is quickly approaching when most wealthy drivers have self-driving vehicles while the rest of us still have to act as our own chauffeurs.

In his book, Why We Drive, Matthew Crawford warns of dramatic shifts in real estate prices during this upcoming era. Think of it this way: If you can afford a fully self-driving luxury car, spending four, five, or even six hours of your workday commuting is not that bad. You can fire up your hotspot, get a bunch of work done, and schedule any necessary face-to-face meeting for the two or three hours you are physically in the office.

Where does that leave those of us who can’t afford self-driving cars? Some folks may have to commit to two-hour commutes–each way–to both afford a house and remain competitive in their career. That’s going to mean a lot less time with friends and family, or time available for important hobbies such as fitness.

You may get stuck on sponsored driving routes

A couple stands next to the 1961 Ford Gyron concept car on stage at the Detroit auto show, a white curtain visible behind them.
1961 Ford Gyron | Archive Photos via Getty Images

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Imagine you can afford a self-driving car. You hop in after a long day at work, punch up your home address, and press the “drive” button. Around 6 PM, you’re getting awfully hungry, and then your infotainment screen plays an advertisement for Mcdonald’s. You look out the windshield and see the golden arches approaching, and you automatically press the “make a stop” button.

This may sound like dystopian fiction, but automakers are already discussing new advertising/sponsorship options with their shareholders. Sponsored driving routes are an option that several are suggesting. This may seem like a harmless extension of navigation apps that display advertisements. But at least if Google Maps or Waze tries to take you through a business district while you are driving yourself, you can choose to stay on the highway.

If you have a cheaper self-driving car, subsidized by sponsored driving routes, you may find it much more difficult to diet, save money by shopping less, or even make a lifestyle choice such as avoiding your favorite bar.

You may not be able to afford to drive yourself

A woman in a helmet stands next to a 1969 Italian concept car with no roof on the stage of the Turin auto show, a black background behind her.
1969 Autobianchi Runabout (Fiat XI/9 prototype) | Archive Photos via Getty Images

A final danger of self-driving cars may not come from automakers, but from your insurance companies. Eventually, self-driving vehicles could be safer than human drivers. Human drivers may even introduce a dangerous element of uncertainty that makes self-driving vehicles on the same road less safe.

Insurance companies may someday offer an incentive–a lower premium price–for people who let their cars do the driving. This sounds like a great deal. But as the market adjusts, driving yourself may get increasingly expensive. In the distant future, taking your steering wheel into your own hands and having some fun could be a privilege only the most wealthy drivers can afford.

Next, read about a possible alternative to the combustion ban or see the shortcomings of self-driving cars yourself in teh video below:

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