What will self-driving vehicles mean for your used car?

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5 min read

Imagine getting to and from the grocery store without ever having to touch your car’s steering wheel.

Thanks to the autonomous car, this is a probability for the near future. With companies like Tesla, Acura, and Audi containing semi-autonomous features (also known as self-driving) it’s not absurd to wonder if driver-required driving will one day be obsolete.

So what are autonomous cars, what do they mean for the world as we know it—which involves actual cars, used and new—and will car value change over time?

what are autonomous cars?

In a recent article from Synopsys, the autonomous car is defined as, “A vehicle capable of sensing its environment and operating without human involvement. A human passenger is not required to take control of the vehicle at any time, nor is a human passenger required to be present in the vehicle at all. An autonomous car can go anywhere a traditional car goes and do everything that an experienced human driver does.” This sounds incredibly cool, but also incredibly daunting.

when will autonomous cars arrive?

It’s 2022, which in and of itself seems enormous in terms of our planet and its life forms. But according to a study by IDTechEx, autonomous driving will outlaw human driving by 2050. (We’ll do the math for you: that’s only 28 years away.) Semi-autonomous driving has been around since 2014, when it was first featured in Tesla’s Model S car. What does this tell us? That we’re already six years into the world of semi-autonomous driving, autonomous driving is predicted to take over in less than three decades, and that, thanks to technology, the world is moving at a much faster pace than we can keep up with. Phew.

how will self-driving cars impact life?

As incredible of an innovation as autonomous cars are, it’s common to consider how this would impact our current lives as we know it. For better or worse, removing drivers from cars gives us the power of choice. While autonomous cars give us the ability to choose where to go, we also have the choice to spend more time freely—whether in the home, socializing, or preparing a list of places for our autonomous cars to go next. Here’s some ways autonomous cars could permanently impact our lives:

  1. Reduced car accidents. One of the most significant qualities of autonomous cars is that they can communicate with each other. In an article from McKinsey & Company, autonomous cars could reduce accidents up to 90%. In 2012, the overall cost of roadway accidents was $212 billion—that would have potentially saved the US economy $190 billion.
  2. Reshaping the future. Less parking spaces = more space for urban planning. And creativity. And a whole lot of other stuff. What will become of the streets, lots, and locations as we know it? Autonomous cars could impact all of that.
  3. Potential economic growth. Driving is available solely to those that can physically drive. But with autonomous cars, everyone has the ability to be in charge of their car on the road. This could open up new avenues for physically or otherwise disabled folks and get them into the workforce.

will autonomous cars impact the price of new and used cars?

Historically, the automobile industry reacts slowly to technological change. While innovative companies like Tesla have definitely influenced other manufacturers to design self-driving cars, seeing this change reflected on a consumer level could take years. This delay only benefits new and used dealerships with driver-involved cars on their lot. However, if driverless cars are being used via an application or remote server, eventually, there will be no need to own your own car—hurting sales at any type of driver-involved car manufacturer.

However, just because autonomous cars arrive doesn’t mean every person will turn to an autonomous car the moment they become available. It also doesn’t mean that new and used car manufacturers will become obsolete. While autonomous car prices will drop as technology advances, it’s safe to assume most people are not willing to pay a premium for a car they do not drive, whether they have the cash flow or not.

bottom line

Autonomous cars are not a fantasy or an idea floating around in space. They are real, and will arrive somewhere in the next 30 years. Car companies like Tesla already contain semi-autonomous features, and while autonomous cars could bring great benefits to our world— like lower pollution, a change to reshape urban planning, and more job opportunities—they could also change the car manufacturing industry since there will be less of a need to own a car, autonomous or not.

While it’s not fully clear how autonomous cars will impact current car value, new innovation will only bring change. Whether you’re thinking about selling your used car, or making room for the first autonomous car, this could be the best (and most stable) time to sell your car for cash.