Self-driving cars – the next step in the connected cars universe – will change not only how we interact with transportation, but with cities, parking, shopping malls, hotels and other aspects of the urban landscape. Consumers are putting car manufacturers to the test – surveys show that in addition to vehicle safety, questions of privacy and cybersecurity prevail.

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There are a lot of people that are asking: is a connected car the same as a self-driving car and that question is quite valid. I would say the self-driving car is a subset of the connected car. In fact, they are probably – you are probably – driving a connected car without even knowing it.

The level of automation in cars has increased dramatically in the last 10 years. And so everything from connecting Bluetooth connectivity to having GPS in your cars – there’s a lot of infotainment systems and navigation tools that have been built into the cars already. So without even knowing, you’re probably driving a connected car.

Now a self-driving car is the next step. Not only are you really taking advantage of the connectivity in terms of safety and navigation and entertainment, but you are now relying on the automation to not even have to drive the car.

Now the question is, would this be benefiting just urban areas or rural areas, and it really can be both. In fact, there is, I think, a lot of excitement for talking about what this means in terms of the urban landscape and what this means for those that could not drive before.

So let’s imagine there is somebody who lives in Las Vegas but works in Los Angeles. You can get into your self-driving car in LA at the end of the day, sleep, and end up in your home in Las Vegas. So what that means is that you don’t really necessarily have to live in an urban setting.

You can work wherever your employment location is, but then allow for more mobility because now you don’t have to actually drive. You can sleep; you can read; you can do whatever you want. So, it really does free up a lot of time for those who may not want to drive – or could not drive – before, including elderly citizens, including those that are younger.

And if you have a self-driving car that can go and park itself, the parking does not really have to be in Downtown City – it can be somewhere far away. It can drop you off at your destination, go park itself, and come back and get you, and so the number of parking spaces that have been dedicated really will change. Shopping malls will dramatically change. Hotels will change, because now you don’t have to have those roadside hotels. You can sleep in the car while you are being driven by the self-driving car.

So, it really does change how we think about how we interact with the cities, how we interact between where we work, where we play, where we sleep. And also the distance we were able to traverse is changing, because you can go further without having to stop, because it is no longer limited by the human capability.

The future that I’m describing – let’s say where you live in Las Vegas and commute to Los Angeles – I don’t believe that is here today. That might be something that a lot of people are scared about – that you can just completely tune out and what does that mean? It is not here today – however it is coming soon. And so I think the questions that we are raising today are very important to think about: What kind of societal impact does that have, how safe are these vehicles, and, really, when are we ready?

I think it is important for the consumers to be asking these questions and then really kind of putting these manufacturers to test when you are purchasing and making the decisions. In fact, there have been several surveys that are being done to really test how does it really impact a consumer decision: Does privacy matter to you? Does cyber security matter to you? Or is the fact that you’re getting a self-driving car or some kind of automated system – does that really override any safety concerns?

The surveys are telling us that the general public is concerned about privacy, is concerned about what kind of data is being collected, and how it’s being used. It is concerned about whether the vehicles can be hacked.

Is there a cybersecurity concern, and in the end, is there a concern about vehicle safety? I think of course the vehicle safety is paramount. It is the number one question that we’re all really grappling with in the question about connecting vehicles.

However, I will say that the privacy and cybersecurity question is right up there with the vehicle safety question because it is so really connected to the overall experience of the consumer; and the manufacturers are really taking advantage of the value that the data being collected by these vehicles can provide.

These are questions that I think everyone in the near future will be really grappling with.