If you had a chance to “drive” to work tomorrow without having to touch the steering wheel or press down a pedal, would you do it? Technology is getting closer and closer to making this a possibility. Think of the amount of time commuters everywhere could gain back – without having to actually think about driving, commuters
can now safely take a phone call, catch up on the news, or maybe even nap (if you’re the type to put complete trust into driverless technology).
Nissan has recently pledged to introduce driverless cars to the market by 2020, which is conveniently timed with recent data that Americans simply love driving less. With the American love affair with the automobile drawing to an end, maybe giving “drivers” the option of not having to actually drive is the next natural step. Data from the Federal Highway Administration reports that annual miles driven per person is down over 10 percent in some cases (like in North Dakota), while the dip is a bit less pronounced in other states (such as in Texas and Wisconsin). Being a Wisconsinite myself, I can unquestionably say that I’m driving now more than ever.
But despite states like Wisconsin, the data shows a clear driving decline, despite the recovering economy and a growing population. Fewer teens are getting drivers licenses, but even for those that have that precious piece of ID, the automobile is simply not the symbol it once was – it no longer means freedom. In many large cities, public transportation can provide just as much freedom as a car, if not more (shelling out $20 for one day of parking made me wish I had taken the Metro in D.C.). And further displacing the car are online stores (Amazon.com has infinitely lessened the pain of my holiday shopping), retired Baby Boomers who are turning in their licenses, costly gas, and cars that are – simply put – just too expensive to own (I try not to think about how much I spend on gas, registration, insurance, and regular maintenance every year). “It’s all economics,” said Sean McAlinden, economist with the Center for Automotive Research in a recent AP article.