GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- One day, you'll take your car to work without ever touching the steering wheel. Rather, it'll take you to work.
According to experts discussing the topic in Grand Rapids, that future is closer than you think, and it will change how we live, work, and play in West Michigan.
The Grand Rapid Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its 2016 transportation and mobility summit on Friday. The speakers came from places like MDOT, Uber, and Supply Chain Solutions. The takeaway: Driverless cars will change everything -- and they're already doing it.
Lauren Isaac of WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff is a manager of sustainable transportation. "Most of the automakers, Google, Tesla, they are all saying that these cars will be publicly available in the 2018 to 2025 time frame," she said.
The first big changes may happen to semi trucks, in part because they typically drive on the freeway instead of in busy city traffic. "The freight industry, that is where most of the buzz right now is, because they have so much to gain in terms of eliminating the driver and the cost associated with that," Issac said.
Just as Amazon already employs automated robots in its warehouse, automated semi trucks will be able to drive inches apart, increasing the miles per gallon. The trucks will also be able to go 24/7. MDOT says the truck convoy system will be tested on a Michigan highway this year.
For the average person, self-driving cars will drastically change how we get around. "The best way to describe it," explains Isaac. "Imagine a world where you have a chauffeur at all times."
This means you can work while you commute. If you work 9 to 5, you can clock in the moment you get in your car. You will no longer park your car; instead, the car will drop you off at the front door and then park itself. If the car can't find a spot, it might just drive home.
The car will be able to be sent out to pick up the kids from soccer practice without you. It can be sent to pick up the groceries you ordered at Meijer.
And according to MDOT, another advantage of self-driving cars, and especially cars that can talk to each other, is that they can can eliminate 80 percent of accidents.
For a city like Grand Rapids, self-driving cars will change the city landscape. Parking lots won't need to be next to businesses, as people can get out anywhere and the car can go to the lot.
"If you look at the current state of downtown Grand Rapids, there is a lot of focus on people getting around in your cars," explained Bill Kirk, mobility manager at Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. "There is a lot of focus on parking. Ten years from now, it won't be nearly as big of an issue."
Now, there are some kinks that still need to be figured out, like Michigan weather, as well as liability issues, but those are being figured out at test tracks across the country and even at a driverless track at the University of Michigan.
The experts say change is happening so quickly that a 4-year-old today may never have to drive a car in the future.