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At Forbes.com, business consultant Chunka Mui characterizes the coming driverless revolution as a potential $2 trillion disruption. Car design will change, with less emphasis on steel and airbags. Overall car sales may drop substantially as car sharing becomes far more convenient. (No more will you have to figure out how to get to the car sharing lot. Your car will automatically come to your house.) Auto financing companies, personal-injury lawyers, and emergency medical personnel will all likely see a decline in business. Local governments will lose major sources of revenue because of reduced moving violations and parking citations.
Currently it is legal to operate a driverless car only in Nevada, California, and Florida. But as these vehicles become commonplace, demand for a regulatory U-turn will increase. So Mothers Against Drunk Driving will morph into Mothers Against Driving, a crusading organization determined to get America’s deadliest assault weapon off the streets for good by advocating legislation that makes it illegal to operate traditional vehicles. It will be joined by countless other organizations whose interests are served best by mandatory driverlessness.
Granted, legislation mandating self-tracking vehicles is not likely to pass quickly. But give credit where it’s due. Years before anyone else had even realized what was at stake, Google was mapping out the coming discourse, paving the way for a future in which driverless cars are a virtuous and inevitable mark of progress, and traditional cars are, like cigarettes and military-style semi-automatic rifles, dangerous goods whose legal status is up for debate. Buckle up, America! We’re in for a safe, efficient, and oppressively intrusive ride.