Teenagers driving car
January 6, 2017

UC engineer: Many of today’s children won’t learn how to drive

Some of the youngest children in America right now will never drive a car as a result of automation, according to a prediction from a leading robotics and automation researcher.

Speaking with The San Diego Union-Tribune, Henrik Christensen, from the University of California San Diego’s Contextual Robotics Institute, said not only will many of today’s toddlers never manually operate a motor vehicle, automation will also revolutionize the entire idea of car ownership, making driveways and garages obsolete within the next 20 years.

Christensen’s comments came ahead of a large robotics conference at UC San Diego where the most difficult automation challenges are slated for discussion. How to bring about the widespread adoption of driverless cars is expected to be among the biggest topics.

“My own prediction is that kids born today will never get to drive a car. Autonomous, driverless cars are 10, 15 years out,” Christensen said. “All the automotive companies — Daimler, GM, Ford — are saying that within five years they will have autonomous, driverless cars on the road.”

Benefits of Automobile Automation

In addition to eliminating the driving experience from the typically American lifestyle, automobile automation will also change the way we think about everything from car insurance to parking. In fact, Christensen predicted that driverless cars will eliminate the need for parking garages.

“There would be no need to have parking garages in downtown San Diego. In theory, you’d get out of the car and say, ‘Pick me up at 4 p.m.’ Long-term — we’re talking 20 years into the future — you're not even going to own a car. A car becomes a service,” the robotics expert said.

In speaking with the San Diego media outlet, Christensen also addressed the potential labor impacts of increasing automation in society. He said while robots will allow for the US to bring back production jobs from overseas, the amount of jobs coming back will be far less than the amount that left over the past few decades. Some service jobs, he noted, will be completely eliminated.

“There will be fully automated, driverless transportation in this country by 2020, and that will eliminate some jobs now held by workers like truck drivers and taxi drivers,” Christensen said.

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