Self-Driving Cars Predicted to add $7 Trillion Annually to Global Economy by 2050

A Waymo self-driving car on the road in Mountain View.
A Waymo self-driving car on the road in Mountain View. - Courtesy Grendelkhan, Wikimedia Commons
A new study by Intel predicts steep exponential growth in the value of self-driving vehicles in the coming decades, reaching $800 billion in 2035 and a staggering $7 trillion of added economic value annually by mid-century. To put that in perspective, $7 trillion is twice the size of what the German economy was in 2016 and close to five times the size of the Canadian economy in 2016.

The study gauged the economic impact of both consumer and business uses of self-driving cars. The first commercial uses of self-driving vehicles are expected to be in developed countries and will heavily impact home and business deliveries and long-haul trucking.

Driver shortages will increase the pressure on business to implement self-driving solutions with the UK already facing a qualified truck driver shortage of nearly 100,000 and the US predicted to face a qualified truck driver shortage of 200,000 by 2025. Much of Europe and Asia are also facing driver shortages currently or will in the near future. In 2017 10% of India’s national fleet of trucks sat idle due to a lack of drivers.

Otto's self-driving truck
Otto’s self-driving truck – Courtesy Steve Jurvetson

Home delivery of goods via self-driving vehicles could decimate what’s left of the retail industry. For example, why go to the mall when you can have five pairs of shoes or shirts delivered at marginal cost, pick the ones you like and then send the rest back? In such a scenario online sales facilitated with same day autonomous delivery will dominate the consumer economy.

Intel believes that in 2050 consumer use of self-driving vehicles will account for close to $4 trillion of added annual value with business use such as self-driving long-haul trucks making up the further $3 trillion. A quarter of a billion hours of individuals time could be freed-up annually that is currently spent sitting behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Asia is predicted to take up the bulk of the self-driving economy, producing 47% of the revenues by 2050 with Europe and the Americas producing 24% and 29% respectively.

Between 2035 and 2045 their conservative estimate is that self-driving cars will save nearly 600,000 lives thanks to accident reduction and save $234 billion in the related costs of those accidents.

Some of the more speculative scenarios envisioned include autonomously-driven healthcare and treatment pods, entertainment pods and platooning hotels. Business could offer self-driving hotel cruises that could take customers on continent wide journeys.


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