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Part of Western Governors University

September 6, 2019

Information Technology , Business

How will self-driving cars change businesses?

Steering wheel and view of autonomous vehicle

It seems to be a science fiction movie of the future. The idea that someone can hop into a car, input where they want to go, and then sit back and relax as the car takes them there. Self-driving cars are an extremely hot topic today as the technology keeps advancing to try and make this dream a reality. And many pilots and tests of self driving cars are currently in place. So it seems that this dream could be coming sooner than anyone anticipated.

Google, Tesla, and Uber are just some of the companies that are focusing on autonomous vehicles.

But as self-driving cars become more of a probability, it’s important to understand how this invention will impact other businesses and industries around the world. If you’re preparing to embark on a career, going to school, or considering which industry is best for you, it’s vital to know how new technology could shift your potential field. It also could be worth considering which field to go into that will benefit from new technology like driverless cars.  

Computer science.

Perhaps the biggest field that is being impacted by driverless cars is the technology and computer industry. Someone will need to program these self-driving cars, create software updates and patches, secure them, collect and analyze the data, and keep everything running smoothly. Currently driverless cars are in developmental phases, and computer scientists are needed to do research, run tests, resolve issues, troubleshoot, and more. And as self-driving becomes widely available, there will be an even higher demand. Computer scientists will be needed to create the self-driving technology for different car companies, updates and new programs, security, and more. Every automaker will want to be involved in creating their own line of driverless cars, and competition will foster a need for new features and updates. Computer scientists will find that they have their work cut out for them in this growing field.

The field for technology and computer sciences is growing at an increasingly rapid pace, and it’s hard to keep up with the demand. Software companies from all around the world are involved with technology that impacts the auto industry. Any area of computer science that you choose to go into could eventually lead you to a career with driverless cars. From cybersecurity to data management, there are many ways that computer science fits into the needs of driverless cars. 

If you’re considering studying computer science, now is a great time to get started in the field. With WGU you can get started in your program as soon as next month, and keep up with your work and family responsibilities at the same time.

The hospitality industry.

Who needs motels when your car can keep self-driving while you sleep? While self-driving tech isn’t this advanced yet, there is some debate that as self-driving tech improves, roadside motels could see a hit. Passengers and travelers won’t need to stop at a motel to catch a few hours of sleep on a weekend trip, they can have their autonomous vehicle drive through the night and arrive home without having to pay for a bed. 

On the flip side, the hotel industry could see a boost as people book more weekend vacations or road trips to areas near their home. They don’t have to worry about the drive, and can work or relax as part of the travel. This will encourage people to take more trips, without having to pay for expensive airline flights or worry about commuting, and could be a huge boost for hotels.

Man texting inside self driving car

Airlines.

While flying is still the fastest way to get somewhere, it’s not the cheapest. Experts say that while not immediate, self-driving tech could eventually put the airline industry at risk. People will opt to drive places they don’t need to get to as quickly in order to save money. And since they don’t have to do the driving, they can work or relax along the way, like they would on an airplane. But they’re likely to have more room in their car than they do in an airline seat. While there will be places that they will have to fly, self-driving cars don’t have a way to drive across the ocean yet, airlines may see a huge issue for domestic travel.

Gas stations and convenience stores.

If a self-driving car can refuel while passengers are asleep, or even take itself to a gas station to charge, convenience stores may see a huge dip in sales. Travelers often enjoy a break from the vehicle to stop in a shop for a bite to eat or a drink to help them stay alert, but if they are asleep or have already brought plenty of their own snacks, a stop to a convenience store won’t be necessary.

Similarly, self-driving cars are electric, needing charging instead of gas. Gas stations will see a huge shift in the services they provide when more electric cars are on the road instead of gas ones.

Car dealerships.

It’s possible that driverless cars won’t become a necessity for people to own, they may be a rideshare/taxi situation instead. With less people actually owning vehicles, car dealerships could suffer. Unless there are ways to help cut the costs of driverless vehicles so vehicle dealerships can make and manufacture them, and market them for everyone to own, it’s likely that there will be a huge dip in sales.

Woman waving down a car on busy road

Rideshares and taxis.

Autonomous vehicles could greatly increase the number of rideshares and taxis in use. If you can simply call a driverless car to pick you up anytime, anywhere, why need to own your own vehicle? This self-driving possibility could completely change the way we live, from changing where people choose to live, to how older or disabled people are able to get around. Driving is a huge issue for older or disabled people, but if they're not the ones that have to do the driving in the future, they can utilize autonomous vehicles and still get around where they need to go. No driving involved.

Freight and hauling.

Truck drivers have to sleep, which means they need to stop driving and park. But if driverless technology moves beyond cars and creates driverless trucks, freights can be hauling around the clock, getting things to their destinations faster, but shifting the need for truck drivers. While this could open lots of new jobs within the freight and delivery industry, there is the possibility that it will bring the end to many specific types of workers, like truck drivers themselves.

Feet out window of self driving car

Parking.

Parking structures may be a thing of the past if ridesharing self-driving cars become the norm. These vehicles don’t need to park; patrons simply can call another vehicle when they’re ready to leave. Parking lots will lose relevance, which is how many businesses make additional money. Parking lots and structures take up a lot of room in urban planning as well, and as less spots are needed, the whole layout of cities could change. Similarly, many self-driven cars can self-park, making it possible for parking structures to be smaller and harder for the human-driver to navigate, but simple for a machine-learning, driverless vehicle to work with.

Mechanics.

Mechanics will be in much higher demand with the increase of self-driving cars. These vehicles are likely to be on the road all the time, going constantly. This means they will need more regular maintenance. While individuals are less likely to own vehicles, or to own several cars, the driverless car ridesharing companies will need to get their vehicles serviced and repaired regularly. It could be a great time to become an auto mechanic as these new types of vehicles take the road.

New technology often means a shift away from what we know. But while this will likely eventually lead to a change in businesses and industries, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The advent of new jobs, and maybe even jobs we haven’t thought of yet, are vital for a growing and thriving economy. If you’re considering which career to go into, computer science and other industries that are positively impacted by changing technology could be a great place to start.

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