The Effect of Self Driving Cars Few See

There’s one question when it comes to the prodigious and relentless development in robotics and tech.

Will they destroy your job or create you a new one?

I’m not sure, but I do know this for certain: thousands of drones are coming to the sky near you.

This is a trend you have to be watching…

The Australian Financial Review reported on the weekend that Australian startup Propeller Aerobotics just raised $1 million from private investors.

They’ve built a digital platform where mining and construction companies can view 3D maps that drones create as they fly.

As the paper says, drones are a fast and efficient way for farmers to check hundreds of hectares of property. Or telecommunication companies to inspect their towers.

Propeller says the problem for industry was not the drone technology but accessing and sharing the data. Hence the reason Propeller built their digital platform.

Propeller says independent drone operators can use the platform for a fee and their clients can then access the information.

That’s the pitch anyway.

It’s very early days yet for Propeller. But the benchmarks are already being set overseas anyway.

The Economist reported back in July on the development of a drone called Riser. Riser’s job is to inspect aircraft that have suffered a lightning hit or bird strike for damage.

At the moment, engineers stand on elevated platforms and physically inspect the entire plane to get the job done. It can take about ten hours.

Not only does the airline have the expense of the job, the plane is out of action as well.

Riser cuts the time of that process down to 20 minutes.

According to the Economist,

Using this information, a Riser drone can navigate its way around an aeroplane’s surface, keeping a distance of about a metre away from it at all times, and recording as it flies a high-resolution video of what it sees.

The video automatically tags any damage, permitting a human engineer to find it easily and thus decide whether to repair the plane or put it back into service.

Riser can be used for other safety-critical systems as well. Think nuclear reactors and other places you’d rather not go near.

Here’s the rub: all this could save airlines a fortune. How long before these drones spread to more and more industries?

There’s savings coming from elsewhere too. The Australian reports this morning that between road crashes and traffic congestion, the Australian economy loses something like $60 billion a year.

We might get that back when driverless cars hit the road. Apparently they’re not too far away. South Australia will host the first on-road test in the Southern Hemisphere next month. More tests and states are due to follow.

We better get a hurry on. The Australian further reports that Japan and Singapore are beyond trials and ‘will kick off driverless taxi services as early as next year’.

Bring it on. These will dramatically reduce injury, speed traffic flow and cut emissions

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to autonomous cars might be adoption. Apparently a team at Google is studying the invention of the elevator for this very reason.

When the elevator was first invented, people wouldn’t get in them. They were afraid, because you couldn’t control them. This is why in the US elevator men were put in originally to call out the floor numbers. It was to reduce people’s anxiety.

But even that didn’t work in the beginning. So lift manufacturers put a big red ‘stop’ button inside the lift.

But it was never connected to anything. It was just there to give those inside the lift the illusion of control.

The elevator men lasted in NY until 1945, when they went on strike for better conditions. People realised you didn’t actually need them in the lift…

So perhaps the first autonomous cars will have something like a big red button somewhere.

There’s more to this trend. How long before you actually don’t have to own a car at all? Martin Ford in his book Rise of the Robots says that it’s highly likely that, at least in high density urban areas, cars will become a shared resource. Not only that, but Google ‘hopes to smash the prevailing owner-operated model for the car’.

As Ford says, in the future you’ll simply reach for your smartphone and call for a self-driving car when you need it.

How the world looks when this finally comes I have no idea. But there’s one implication we can tease out.

Think it through…

If you don’t have to buy a car, that’s a possible $30,000 you would have newly available to spend on a mortgage instead of buying a car.

Land prices would rise to include such a windfall.

This relentless innovation is another example of why over at Cycles, Trends and Forecasts we’re expecting huge wealth to be created over the next 10 years. Real estate can and will go higher.

If you want to know how to take advantage of that, click here.


Callum Newman,

Associate Editor, Cycles, Trends and Forecasts

Join Markets and Money on Google+

Originally graduating with a degree in Communications, Callum decided financial markets were far more fascinating than anything Marshall McLuhan (the ‘medium is the message’) ever came up with. Today Callum spends his day reading and researching why currencies, commodities and stocks move like they do. So far he’s discovered it’s often in a way you least expect.

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