WASHINGTON – When members of Congress are sworn into office in January, some of them, or at least their lower-paid aides, are almost assuredly going to be getting to work in a driverless cab or, “AV for or autonomous vehicle,” as you will soon be calling it.

Yes, it’s here – a transportation revolution of unimaginable proportions that goes way beyond Google’s Waymo AV cab service debuting next month in Phoenix.

But 99.9 percent of Americans have not thought about what AVs are going to mean to your lifestyle in the next five years.

  • You may never own one – or any other kind of car again.
  • Getting from here to there will be much cheaper and faster for individuals, families and cargo.
  •  No matter what you think today, everyone will use them – everyone.
  • The day of people getting paid to drive anything on wheels – cars, trucks, buses, limos, tour buses – will be over.
  • “Mass transportation” will be something found only in museums.

It may seem like this you’ve been hearing about this potential for a long time without all that much happening. In reality, developments have been on overdrive for a decade – just out of your view. For instance, Google has been working fast and furious on Waymo for 10 years, clocking up over 10 million test miles with over 5 million of those miles recorded in 2018 alone.

And that’s just the beginning. Waymo has also done 7 billion computer simulated driving miles of driving in 25 cities.

Waymo driverless car

Waymo driverless car

Now these AVs are coming out of the shadows and very much into your view. The only thing holding this story back from being the biggest thing in America is our own limited imaginations.

This budding industry will “change everything,” insiders say, beyond your comprehension.

How many AVs are on the road today? Probably less than 1 million. In six years, there will be 60 million.

Remember how you missed the Amazon’s Initial Public Offering where people who invested $1,000 in 1997 were rewarded with $1,341,000? There will be dozens of IPOs like that will dwarf Jeff Bezos’ Amazon’s record-breaking fortune because of how big the profits from sales of cars and technology and innovation resulting from this new industry.

Expect Google’s Waymo to cost about the same as an Uber ride, which is a ripoff given the price of the ride is mainly the human element. But Google’s counting on people wanting the daredevil “experience” of taking driverless cars initially. Later the prices will come way down. Even Uber will be forced to go driverless or go out of business.

Think of the take-out food possibilities, the turnaround for Amazon deliveries, the ability for low-cost pick-up and drop-off service anywhere and everywhere with no tipping and no parking hassles. Some envision this is the revolution we’ve been waiting for to end the commuting nightmare. These AVs could be built for smart commuting in mind.

The big breakthroughs in technology are the things that look like police sirens on the roofs of these cars. These are not there to scare you but to scoop up massive amounts of location data to keep these babies driving safely. And so far there is little doubt that we human beings have been doing that for the last 100 years.

Have there been accidents? You bet. Just over 100. But most were minor and caused by other cars, bikes and pedestrians. By contrast, there were 40,000 traffic-related deaths in the U.S. last year. Researchers say 94 percent of those accidents are caused by human error.

So, how big will this thing really be?

Most experts agree it will be bigger exponentially than the birth of the automobile itself.

Car insurance will need to be totally reworked. Traffic laws will need a major overhaul. Depending on the kinds of cars produced and how people will use the AVs, it could mean cleaner air and less pollution. Think of how it will free elderly people to get around with less care and expense.

Just last week, Ford showed off in a Miami demo the progress it has made in the last year with AVs. From all reports, it’s really advanced.

Next up for Ford is Washington, then Detroit, Pittsburgh and Miami for actual consumer testing. Then comes the launch of its commercial service of robot taxis and delivery vehicles in 2021.

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