Strange question, isn’t it? It pops up after reading the news that Nevada is the first state to allow the association of a driving license to a car.
Nevada has close to 40,000 km of roads, many of them pretty empty and I guess this is why it has become “the place” for testing driver-less cars. And the driving license is exactly for this kind of cars.
According to the new law passed in Nevada a car can get a driving license and be allowed to drive on its own. Actually, for the first period it will have to have to certified drivers on board but this is a first -important- step on the way for a transportation based on self driven cars.
The advantage, once we will reach that point, is not just more relaxing journeys (assuming you will ever be able to relax knowing that no-one is driving….) but more efficient use of energy, less road congestions, safer traffic.
It is going to be a matter of technology to have 100% reliable cars, and it will come. It is going to be a matter of economics, having it affordable, and we know technology evolution is both about increased performances and decreased price. But it is going to be about perception, about how you and me will feel being driven and releasing control to a (robot) car. And here the bets are open. Clearly, a significant advantage in terms of safety, energy, effectiveness requires a significant penetration of automated cars and I guess it will be some decades before reaching this point.
I still remember the forecasts in the wake of the Moon landing in 1969 predicting flying cars and automated transportation replacing those days cars. Actually, after fifty years we have many more cars and much more traffic problems. The difference is that today we have the technology for enabling the paradigm shift. Not sure we have the willingness to do so.