Could self driving cars replace local air travel? It's a question I was asking myself this week. Having traveled from Ottawa to NYC for our company retreat.
Air travel is not the glamours as it was once was. Those images from the 60s and 70s of lovely meals and ample legroom are no more.
We are now packed into a plane as close as possible. Every year they sneak away another 4-5cm of legroom. Hell, I've heard some airlines have worked out how to stack seating! Sounds like a comfy idea doesn't it?
Don't forget what you have to go through to even get on a plane. Have to arrive 1-2 hours before your flight to get through security. Security has been getting slower and slower and more and more invasive; Metal detectors, full body scanners and pat downs! There's nothing more enjoyable that walking through security with no shoes or belt.
I had to drive 30 minutes to the airport. My flight was about 1h of flying time. I arrived about 2 hours before hand to ensure I got through security. I also spent another 30 minutes at customs waiting in line. So for my 1 hour flight, I spent 3-4 hours total traveling. Since there are a limited number of flights I had to base my schedule of the flights available.
Now what if I had taken a self driving car? First let us assume that a self-driving car travels at the same speed as current cars. We'll also assume it takes the same amount of time to pass through customs at a land border. The drive from Ottawa to NYC is about 6.5 hours. So it would be about a 7h drive with a border crossing.
Now lets look at the advantages of taking a self driving car. First and foremost you can leave when you want. No more getting up at 4am for a flight or taking a 1am red eye. You can time your travel around your schedule. You'd get to skip the circus that is airport security.
I think i'd pick the self-driving car. More room, more flexible schedule and no unwanted pat downs. Sure the total travel time is a bit longer, but you can make good use of that time. Get it a few hours of work, or watch a movie. With the extra space you can actually be productive.