As a car enthusiast the news that autonomous technology is rolling into the mainstream won’t come as news to you, but as we live and breath the steps being taken to achieve the nirvana (for some) of self-driving cars, it’s important not to take major announcements like today’s between Jaguar and Waymo - Google’s self-driving arm - for granted.
At the risk of massive hyperbole, today’s news is another step in what is likely to become part of history. Perspective could grow its importance or - more likely - reduce its ultimate significance to a footnote, but that should not diminish the impact that this - and other similar partnerships - will likely have.
A study from Intel and research firm Strategy Analytics last summer gave insights into what’s potentially at stake, both in societal and financial terms.
Highlights included the facts that more than half a million lives would be saved between 2035 and 2045 because of safety advances made by autonomous vehicles, as well as opening the potential for $234 billion (£165 billion) of safety-related public finance savings over the same period.
It also concluded that driverless vehicles will be behind $7 trillion (about £5 trillion) worth of economic activity and new efficiencies annually by 2050, including nearly $4 trillion (£2.8 trillion) from driverless ride-hailing and nearly $3 trillion (£2.1 trillion) from driverless delivery businesses.
Cynical though it may sound, it’s worth pondering which of the two paragraphs above is the greater driver of many governments, regions and cities currently running headlong to open up laws and encourage public testing of autonomous vehicles. Whatever your conclusion, it’s clear that the safety argument is more than enough justification at present, as dissenting voices are largely being drowned out.
There will, of course, be some who are negatively impacted, and not just among driving enthusiasts. The report highlights likely suffering for everyone and everything from professional drivers to destination retail stores, as well as to car makers who potentially fail to make the transition.
Finally, as a footnote to ponder against the backdrop of an ever-changing and ever more complex world, the report also says that there is the potential for 250 million hours of commuting time per year to be cut from our collective lives, although it also cautions that evidence suggests that every transport advance of modern times, from horses to cars to new roads, has actually led to humans simply absorbing the savings by travelling more, rather than revelling in the benefits.