With a national average commuting time of 24 minutes, Americans now spend time than ever driving to work (U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey). Worse yet, being stuck in traffic can be especially stressful, which taxes productivity at the office and erodes quality of life at home. According to Google and a host of other companies, the solution to this is to create a small office on wheels in the form of a self driving car. That way the hour stuck in traffic can be spent taking care of tasks that formerly had to wait until arrival at the office.
Self driving cars have the potential to help Americans make the most of their drive time. Also, most experts agree they can help reduce overall traffic and accidents in the first place, making commutes more bearable. So what’s stopping the self driving car and mobile office from becoming a reality? Consumers, which are the easy part of the equation, need to warm up to the idea of letting a car do the driving as far as safety and efficiency are concerned. Google asserts that that self-driving cars can be programmed to “drive safer than people do,” but consumers will take some convincing on that.
The idea of a self driving car and an eventual mobile office gets tricky when insurance carriers and regulating authorities like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration get involved. Insurance companies will need years to test the idea and figure out the effect on risk and liability. Governmental authorities will need years to form safety requirements and legislation around the concept of self driving cars, how they interact with each other and cars piloted by humans. So while you can look forward to the day you’ll be able to kill 50 emails on the way to work, we’re still 5-10 years away.