Self-driving cars could create a massive new $7 trillion economy
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Self-driving cars could create a massive new $7 trillion economy


The race to create self-driving cars is on—but what happens when they’re everywhere and nobody has to drive?   

That could lead to a “passenger economy” worth $7 trillion by 2050, according to a new report by Intel and analyst firm Strategy Analytics.

While the name of the potential new market is lame, the amount of cash it’s estimated to drive is not: the study predicts self-driving cars will free up 250 million hours of commuting time per year, providing the backbone for a thriving $800 billion industry by 2035, when the study predicts fully autonomous vehicles will begin to proliferate globally. 

Intel cites other paradigm shifts like the adoption of smartphones and personal computing for its intense interest in this potential sector; tech advancements have killed off late adopters before, and it will again soon, according to this logic. 

“Companies should start thinking about their autonomous strategy now,” Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said in a release promoting the study. “Less than a decade ago, no one was talking about the potential of a soon-to-emerge app or sharing economy because no one saw it coming.”

“This is why we started the conversation around the Passenger Economy early, to wake people up to the opportunity streams that will emerge when cars become the most powerful mobile data generating devices we use and people swap driving for riding.”

“Companies should start thinking about their autonomous strategy now”

The $7 trillion estimate is broken down into a few potential revenue streams, the largest of which at $3.7 trillion is “consumer mobility-as-a-service,” i.e. providing people with transportation via car-sharing and ride-hailing services as private car ownership is phased out. Business mobility-as-a-service, which would conceivably replace current trucking and freight standards, is estimated to produce $3 trillion.   

The remaining $200 million of the revenue could come from “new applications and services” — but with new innovations, there’s no telling how valuable this could be.  

The study also predicts that the increased safety levels that will come from autonomous vehicles will wind up saving more than $234 billion in public safety costs and save over half a million lives between 2035 and 2045, providing even more value.

Intel has certainly embraced the autonomous future; the company established a $100 million fund for self-driving development back in 2012 and made an even bigger investment with the purchase of automotive imaging company Mobileye for a whopping $15.3 billion back in March

Intel doesn’t have a plan to actually manufacture its own vehicles — instead, it’s building a platform it hopes to market to the industry at large — the company’s partnership with BMW on its iNext platform is an early example of such an arrangement.

While this study shouldn’t be considered a gospel truth, its projections are more than just wistful conjecture from an (extremely) invested party in the space. There’s a major paradigm shift on the road ahead — and its sure to shakeup our economy as much as it will our driving habits.  

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June 3, 2017
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