DETROIT — Self-driving vehicles will bring transformation that goes far beyond changes to cars themselves, according to a new report from consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
The report, Autonomous Driving: 10 Ways in Which Autonomous Vehicles Could Reshape Our Lives, echoes some earlier predictions, such as increased convenience, improved road safety, easier parking and reduced time spent in traffic.
But the report also envisions a number of other benefits, including sweeping changes to the urban landscape itself.
For instance, self-driving cars could park themselves outside city centers, which the report says could free up 25 percent of the space in urban areas currently devoted to parking lots and structures. That acreage could then be reallocated to extra housing, offices, green space or entertainment venues.
The report predicts that consumers will also see major changes in the use of rental cars and taxis.
Car-sharing services, like Uber and ZipCar have already had an impact on urban transportation, but self-driving vehicles will further change the way we move around cities. For example, we won't be calling an Uber driver in the future; instead we'll call the car itself and tell it where to pick us up.
We can also expect new car insurance models, the report says.
Since the vast majority of vehicle crashes are the result of human error — 93 percent of them, according to NHTSA when technology takes over for human decision-making — insurance rates should drop significantly, with the new model primarily focusing on the relatively smaller number of technical failures.
Even the healthcare system might be affected. Fewer vehicle injuries could result in a reduction in facilities, staff, equipment and supplies.
And how soon will we see all these dramatic changes?
McKinsey isn't saying it's going to happen tomorrow. And, like other sources, the report admits the technology will be developed and implemented gradually over the course of the next couple decades.
But most major automakers are already working on autonomous vehicles to some degree.
As previously reported by Edmunds, General Motors and Toyota have stepped up their development of vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems — an important step toward vehicle autonomy — as have many other manufacturers.
Progress in control systems and sensors has also been significant.
GM says a 2017 Cadillac model will have "Super Cruise" capable of controlling the car's steering, braking and acceleration. And Volvo recently announced that it would begin real-world testing of 100 autonomous vehicles in Sweden — although still with a human driver behind the wheel — in 2017.
Nissan has set the goal of having a version of a self-driving car on the road by 2020. And Mercedes-Benz and Audi recently debuted their latest autonomous prototypes at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show.
Edmunds says: Although many of the predictions may seem optimistic, radical changes are in store once self-driving vehicles hit the roads.