Google's Driverless Cars Will Drive Down Real Estate Prices

Margie is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

In my last column on the majorly disruptive technology of Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) driverless car, I outlined 5 ways that we all will benefit from this innovation. Due to my sheer excitement of the prospect, before in my next column diving into the challenges of implementing the technology, I want to offer you some additional ways that both you as individual and we as a society will benefit. (the two certainly go hand in hand don’t they?)

My original 5 (again outlined here, were)

  1. Car ownership won’t even be necessary
  2. Cheaper insurance
  3. Less demand for medical care
  4. Seniors will be much more independent
  5. Productivity of society will increase dramatically

Let’s Add On To Society’s Benefits

  1. Cost of roads will drop precipitously
  2. Cheaper gas prices via less demand for fuel
  3. Better use of land
  4. Fewer lawyers (hooray!)
  5. Drunk driving becomes so passé (and who benefits)


Traffic in major metropolitan areas can be horrendous and time consuming. Ever waited to turn right for twenty minutes because the old lady in front of you needs a two mile window of zero traffic before she’ll make a move? Ever wait to merge right onto a four lane road, all traffic in the two far lanes, and the moron in front of you seems to lack a three dimensional model of the world, and not even a long blare of your horn can jog her memory?

And how do we respond as a society, we yell at our politicians, “to widen the roads!” or “Build an overpass!”

Well let me tell you something, roads cost a lot of money. Not only would robotic cars be in constant communication with each other, allowing the cars to merge much more easily and safely thus insuring the flow of traffic, but they would be able to drive much more closely together. No more need to widen the roads. Yes, they would still require maintenance but the transportation budget for both Federal, State, and City would drop dramatically (and with it our taxes)

Cheaper Gas Prices

As many of the benefits of the driverless car will stem from efficiency, I’ll follow suit with my words.

There will be less demand for gas due to three factors I can think of.

  1. Robotic cars driving down the freeway can use convoys, the minor gaps between the cars mean less air drag, and therefore less consumption of fuel. Chinese owned Volvo, with their own driverless technology has already demonstrated this possibility on freeways. This is the process referred to as “drafting” and is a strategy commonly used by cyclists in a race to use less of their own energy.
  2. With traffic moving more efficiently there won’t be gas and energy wasted in gridlock.
  3. Let’s say you are headed to the grocery store. You call the robotic cabbie, unbeknownst to your friend two blocks away is going to the same destination. Via Google Plus, an icon pops up on screen. “Share ride with Joe?” You accept, now your ride is cheaper because you split it, maybe they cab company charges an extra few cents for the ride, so they make more, and the demand for fuel is cut. Don’t get out of the store at the same time, no problem, you don’t have to wait, just take separate cars home.

Better Use of Land

City streets might become several feet more narrow because parking would not be required. This leaves room for more trees in the neighborhood enhancing both quality of life and air.

Those massive parking lots you see everywhere, at the mall, the airport, outside the grocery store? There will be no need for them. This will free up massive tracts of land for new businesses, for parks, or even living space (apartments, etc.) With a growing population and thus demand for land, the rate of increase of property would slow or even fall making home ownership more affordable for all, etc etc. 

Fewer Lawyers

Society loses vast amounts to dishonest people, some of which are, of course, lawyers.

Google assumes its driverless technology deployed in mass can rid the world of 90% of accidents. Less accidents for ambulance chasers to run after. Also, the sensors, video, and read outs of the respective cars will in most cases show exactly who, or what, was at fault reducing time and friction in court.

Drunk Driving

With almost no one owning a car, it becomes a relic like crime. "James got arrested for drunk driving? How quaint."

All those don’t drink and drive commercials get replaced by ads for Anheuser-Busch InBev “Thanks Google, this Bud’s on us!”

Seriously, demand for alcohol will increase with the deployment of driverless technology. Of course, throwing up in the back seat of the robotic taxi might earn you a $50 cleaning bill, but that’s exponentially better than the 10k it costs to defend yourself against a drunk driving offense. (again, bye-bye lawyers and costs to society)

Expect to find alcohol producers on the same side of the aisle as Google.

Coming Up

I have explored only a few of the myriad of benefits that driverless technology might offer us. Yes, it IS that disruptive and awesome and I encourage you readers to feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section about your feelings/ vision.

In the next column of this series, I’ll be discussing who stands to lose from this technology and why it’s no sure bet. 

margiecfl has a long position in Google. The Motley Fool recommends Google. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!

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