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  • Writer's pictureDr. Mark Lee Levine, Professor

Driverless Vehicles and the Influence and Impact on Society

For some time we have been undertaking research and the examination of how the artificial intelligence employed with Driverless Vehicles (DV) is and will continue to impact various segments of our society. In particular, we have looked at this issue as to how DV will impact real estate, public and private sectors of our economy, and related issues. This TIP looks to some of the larger issues that have arisen for many businesses where the DV is or where be employed in the coming years. The impact of these changes with DV has already begun to influence changes with various businesses.

But, first, a bit of background on DV:

The term to describe a vehicle, be it an automobile, truck, bus, tractor, or other means of transporting goods or people, that is employed or intended to be employed WITHOUT a driver, might be labeled as a DV. However, in many references, today, other terms are used for such vehicles. These terms may include, for example, a self-driven vehicle (SDV), an automated vehicle (AV), a vehicle driven with artificial intelligence (AI), or other labels to connote the employment of means, such as artificial intelligence, to drive or guide the mechanism in question. For purposes of this note, the reference employed to encompass all of the aforementioned terms—and others employed for this reference—will be referred to as Driverless Vehicles (DV).

These DV may be of all types, sizes, and uses in moving goods or people. Some are very basic and many are futuristic in their design. One of such future DV includes the following Mercedes-Benz:

Of course, there are many questions raised as to these DV. They include, among other issues:

  • Who is creating these?

  • Where are they being created and employed?

  • Are there many of these DV now placed for use in various countries?

  • Who owns them?

  • Will they be sold to members of the public?

  • How are they regulated?

  • Who oversees them, if there is no Driver?

  • Who is using these vehicles?

  • Will these DV replace the current human-driven vehicles we use today in business and personal endeavors?

  • Are they safe?

  • How much do they cost? Do people save money using the DV?

  • Will these DV be employed in place of current uses, commercially, such as for deliveries, farming, etc.?

  • What will change in our society, if these DV are used in place of current vehicles?

  • Will, we not direct/drive our own vehicles? If not, will we order a vehicle, a DV, when we need one?

  • Who will own and handle all of the vehicles that we now self-direct?

  • Will only big companies own vehicles?

  • Can I own my current auto, truck, etc.?

  • If I continue to own my own vehicle that I drive, who will repair it?

  • If DV comes into play, when will this happen?

  • What happens to the existing “old” vehicles that we have been driving?

  • Are these new vehicles shared with others?

  • Are the new vehicles similar to most cars used today, i.e., combustible engines or are they electric, etc.?

  • Who will decide if and when these DV come into play?

  • What companies are developing these DV?

  • Is the government part of the DV development?

  • Which countries are involved in DV development and technology?

  • What will happen to all the businesses and people that are now, directly or indirectly, employed or otherwise tied to non-DV, such as the vehicles used today?

The above is only a small smattering of the myriad of issues that the topic of DV can bring to mind for all of us. With more thought, more issues arise. Will there be insurance for the DV? Who issues it? Who is responsible for the safety of those involved with DV? What law applies as to who must make certain that the DV is safe? What if something goes wrong with the technology and a DV bus crashes?

Again, more thought about DV means more unanswered issues that must be addressed.

Thinking of businesses, such as real estate, as mentioned at the outset of this Note, which businesses are benefitted from DV and which businesses will be damaged with the advent of DV? (This issue, alone, would capture the time and effort of many days and many people. However, if DV are coming to fruition, which is clearly the case, one would be inclined to ask: How do we plan for these DV in all areas, be that involving personal decisions or business issues, private or public?)

As to real estate and other businesses, one might ask:

What disruptions, concerns, and implications exist for real estate in the short term, mid-term, and long-term outlook?

Below are a few illustrations of some of these issues to provide a taste of the many areas that will be and must be examined in detail as to DV impacting every aspect of our life.

Consider the following:

What Driver?

What if a driver is no longer necessary to allow an auto, a bus, a truck, or other vehicles? How would this impact the use of real estate, personal, and commercial uses?

How would such change influence the choice of a residence, job, parking, zoning, types of services currently employed to support the use of the vehicles, etc.?

How about taking a simple shuttle, now generally being driven by a human being, but recent uses of DV make it clear that many shuttles will be Driverless.

Consider that, this shuttle setting is much like the elevator operator who was needed to control the elevator, such a control person is not needed any longer in the elevator.

Passengers boarding an Easy Mile self-driven shuttle in Singapore, Source:

How would such change influence the choice of a residence, job, parking, zoning, types of services currently employed to support the use of the vehicles, etc.?

This Note provides a broad platform to start to address many of these issues as to DV.

In future Tips, we will raise additional points that appear to be very important to the application of DV technology within our society and specifically how DV relate to real estate, such as the disruptions that will be created in the field and the changes in design, planning, layout and use of real estate that is impacted when DV are a large part of our society to move a major part of people and goods within our transportation system.

How soon these changes will take place because of DV remains to be seen.

But, consider the following statements made by many business leaders in our community when addressing DV:

Google said the autonomous cars will be available “relatively soon.”

How soon the driverless cars will be in the driveway “often depends on who you ask.” Tesla and Google were talking about 2018 to 2020 to see a large number of DVs.

Of course, this time horizon has been extended.

Volvo seems to think that self-driving cars are coming within 5 years (and that was 5 years ago)

This issue as to the timing of DV will be important to consider as we see more DV coming into play.

On a specific note as to this influence of DV on the horizon, consider the many issues raised above. In future Tips, we will consider the pros and cons of DV, such as possibly the need for a lesser number of cars, a need for fewer parking spaces, and the implications to these changes, such as the availability of the land that was used for parking that can now be considered for other purposes, e.g., green areas, parks, recreation, etc. What will homeowners do with their “extra” garage that no longer houses the vehicle (s) that were used on a daily basis?

The resolution of these any many other issues will be important to society at large and to each individual impacted by the DV change.


It was mentioned, above, that DVs impact all dimensions of our lives. If one doubts this conclusion, ask yourself: What aspect of our lives, today, is not impacted by computers. Many folks would conclude that ALL of our lives are impacted by computers. If this is a reasonable conclusion to reach, since DV are, effectively, a means of addressing transportation of goods or people by applying, in part, artificial intelligence (computers) to vehicles, i.e., DV, we might conclude that DV will impact our lives.

If all of our lives, today, are regularly affected by computers, it is reasonable to conclude that by applying computer applications to vehicles in the form of DV, all of our lives will be substantially changed and influenced by DV as we all deal with the movement of goods and people each and every day of our lives.


There has been a flurry of books and materials published on this topic of driverless cars. See, for example:

Bridges, Rutt, Driverless Car Revolution

Mui, Chunka and Carroll, Paul, Driverless Cars: Trillions Are Up for Grabs, Kindle Publication Sullivan, Patrick, Getting Ready for Driverless Cars, Kindle Publication

Neckermann, Lukas, The Mobility Revolution: Zero Emissions, Zero Accidents, Zero Ownership, Kindle publication

Lipson, Hod, The End of Traffic and the Future of Transport, Kindle publication.

Simons, Robert, Driverless Cars, Urban Parking and Land, b New York, Routledge, 2020.

By Dr. Mark Lee Levine, Professor, University of Denver

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