How Coronavirus Might Impact Society and, Ultimately, Driverless Vehicles!


Lately, it seems like people are spending a lot of time pondering what society will be like post-Coronavirus. While everyone is craving going back to the world we knew, we are also acknowledging that the world will never be the same. I appreciate that there have been many articles (like this one and this one) that present some of the societal shifts that could happen as a result of this pandemic and I figured I’d take it a step farther and see what it might mean in the driverless industry. Here are some of the big trends (relevant to driverless vehicles) that I’m seeing:

  • Car sales are shifting to an online marketplace (link here);
  • Shopping for groceries, clothes, and everything else is massively shifting online, which is reducing our individual car ownership, but putting heavy reliance on goods delivery (link here);
  • Since workplaces are encouraging working remotely, shopping has largely shifted online, and most public places are closed, people are driving much less (link here);
  • People are scared to ride public transit and take shared rides due to the close proximity to others (link here);

While many of these changes are out of necessity today, it’s very possible that they will instill long-term change. So what does this mean for driverless vehicles?  It’s clear people are eager for the driverless delivery of goods, which is a great opportunity for building consumer acceptance for driverless vehicles, in general. And this massive reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is reminding people of a cleaner, safer world – could this create longer-term impacts? Better environmental policies? On the other hand, this does not bode well for shared, driverless rides – though I’m hopeful this is not a long-term impact.

I hope our society can be thoughtful about how we re-open our society…not just with regards to the sharing of germs, but with our policies, our businesses, and our individual practices. Let’s think about the world we want and become proactively try to make it happen. Shared, electric, driverless vehicles – how do we get there? Encourage shared rides, incentivize electric vehicle usage, create supportive driverless regulations, discourage single occupancy vehicle usage (and vehicle ownership, in general), and continue to demonstrate and communicate driverless vehicle success stories. While the technology continues to be advanced, these are all important foundational elements.

About Lauren Isaac

Lauren Isaac is the Director of Business Initiatives for the North American operation of EasyMile. Easymile provides electric, driverless shuttles that are designed to cover short distances in multi-use environments. Prior to working at EasyMile, Lauren worked at WSP where she was involved in various projects involving advanced technologies that can improve mobility in cities. Lauren wrote a guide titled “Driving Towards Driverless: A Guide for Government Agencies” regarding how local and regional governments should respond to autonomous vehicles in the short, medium, and long term. In addition, Lauren maintains the blog, “Driving Towards Driverless”, and has presented on this topic at more than 75 industry conferences. She recently did a TEDx Talk, and has been published in Forbes and the Chicago Tribune among other publications.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top