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Schumpeter: The driverless road ahead

October 18, 2012

THE arrival of the mass-produced car, just over a century ago, caused an explosion of business creation. First came the makers of cars and all the parts that go into them. Then came the garages, filling stations and showrooms. Then all sorts of other car-dependent businesses: car parks, motels, out-of-town shopping centres. Commuting by car allowed suburbs to spread, making fortunes for prescient housebuilders and landowners. Roadbuilding became a far bigger business, whereas blacksmiths, farriers and buggy-whip makers faded away as America?s horse and mule population fell from 26m in 1915 to 3m in 1960.Now another revolution on wheels is on the horizon: the driverless car. Nobody is sure when it will arrive. Google, which is testing a fleet of autonomous cars, thinks in maybe a decade, others reckon longer. A report from KPMG and the Centre for Automotive Research in Michigan concludes that it will come ?sooner than you think?. And, when it does, the self-driving car, like the ordinary kind, could bring profound change.Just imagine. It could, for a start, save the motor industry from stagnation. Carmakers are...

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