Electric cars will change the way we move - and how we make a living
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Electric cars will change the way we move - and how we make a living

We are facing a full-scale shift in terms of how we get around our cities. And if your job has anything to do with transportation, you need to be thinking about it now.

Car manufacturer. Rental company. Mechanic. Insurance company. Urban designer. Government. Property developer - anyone whose job assumes that we move people around in a certain way.

Full charge ahead: Tesla cars power up at a charging station.

Full charge ahead: Tesla cars power up at a charging station. Credit:CHUCK BURTON

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has it right. Electric cars are here to stay and the Turnbull government should support the industry to get traction in Australia.

In an autonomous future, the cost per trip will go down so much that it would be ridiculous to own your own car. Instead, you access the vehicle you need at any given time from fleets of roving, on-demand vehicles.

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Heading to work in the morning? Hit a button on your phone and a single-person pod shows up to take you there.

Heading to the mountains? Order that SUV. No parking. No tickets. No drink driving. No maintenance. No depreciation. No insurance.

What GM, Tesla, Uber and other car manufacturers are all acutely aware of is that autonomous vehicles are an existential threat and a massive business opportunity.

Last year, Intel projected that the economic opportunity from self-driving cars will be $US7 trillion ($8.75 trillion) by 2050. By 2035 - the base year of the study - they're saying it will already be up to $800 billion.

We're looking at a dramatic transformation of motor vehicle usage. Right now, under the human car model, many of us own our own vehicle, park it at our home and drive it to work.

Even though that work commute represents most of our travel, we have an SUV because once a year we go skiing and we need to be able to fit all the kids and the gear into the car. We're at risk of drink driving, theft, speeding and parking tickets - and accidents.

In the future, nobody will have their own car. And when you go to a new city, you just plug into that city's autonomous transportation system, rather than renting one.

So how does this shift affect the industries mentioned above?

For car manufacturers, if they're not quick enough to market with a viable autonomous offering, they're done.

Insurers will now have to cover fleets of cars, and not the individuals who drive them. And the risk profile of an autonomous vehicle is dramatically different - and lower - than that of a human-driven vehicle. The Intel study suggests about 585,000 lives could be saved around the world by the shift to autonomous vehicles between 2035 and 2045.

Governments will need to think about how they generate tax revenue to maintain road infrastructure.

Australia's vast distances mean thousands of truck drivers are employed to transport goods - they may end up out of work and needing to be retrained.

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The federal government needs to consider these massive challenges. The conversation needs to start now. The transportation hurricane is coming and everything changes with it.

Kaila Colbin is the director of the Singularity University Australia Summit.