Self-driving cars and home buying

self-driving cars
Self-driving cars (infographic from crowdcompanies.com)

Technology has made homes more efficient and environmentally friendly, while also making them more comfortable.  Technology has made the business of real estate become increasingly easier through electronic communications and electronic signatures.  Technology has also made finding a home much easier too.  It’s obvious that the real estate industry has been greatly impacted by technology, but will the self-driving cars technology impact real estate?

A curious article that appeared in a recent issue of Appraisal Journal suggests that self-driving cars will eventually influence real estate (A Largely Unnoticed Impact on Real Estate-Self-Driven Vehicles; Appraisal Journal; Winter2017, Vol. 85, No.1, p51-59).  The authors, Levine, Segev, and Thode, discuss how self-driving cars will likely become a standard on our roads, as well as likely changing the way we think about where we live.  There is a suggestion that the wide spread adoption of self-driving cars could bring about a suburban renewal.  As self-driving cars become more abundant, some suggest that would influence some home buyers and their decisions on where they choose to live.  The concept of owning a self-driving car could make the choice a little easier to opt for the less expensive suburban home with more land.

However, you should consider that owning a self-driving car might not make your suburban commute more convenient.  For many home buyers, a reason to move closer to an urban area is to reduce the commute time to their jobs.  For some, the thought of increasing their commute time even by ten to fifteen minutes (by virtue of an extra metro stop) is unacceptable.  Sitting in your self-driving car is not much different than sitting in a metro car or bus.  So the notion that owning a self-driving car could spawn suburban growth may not hold water.

Owning a self-driving car won’t make the suburban commute less expensive.  Many home buyers decide to live closer to their jobs to save money and energy.  The self-driving car is like any other car, such that there are operating costs.  Regardless whether your self-driving car is electric, gas or hybrid, there are fuel costs.  There will be maintenance costs too.  And of course, you need to a place to park it like any other car.

Even the value of commercial real estate may not necessarily be affected by self-driving cars.  These vehicles won’t reduce travel time to the store, nor would they make any business more convenient than another.

Let’s face it, self-driving cars isn’t the internet.  These vehicles are a convenient way to travel for sure, but they won’t change how we communicate.  Nor will they change the basic requirements we seek from our homes.

However, a government policy shift, much like the policies favoring designated car-pool vehicles and mass transit, could tip the scales in making the self-driving car the vehicle (no pun intended) to changing the real estate landscape.  Creating special lanes for self-driving vehicles could reduce commute times, thus reducing fuel costs.  Requiring dedicated parking for self-driving vehicles could also influence commercial real estate.  However, like the impact of designated car-pool vehicles, a major impact to our lifestyle is unlikely from self-driving cars.

Choosing where you live is a personal decision that is impacted by many external factors, including quality of life.  Of course the self-driving car is a technological advance that is surely to affect how you travel.  However, it is doubtful that owning a self-driving car will largely impact your quality of life and how you decide where to live.  In fact, the authors of the above mentioned article point to a 2016 Kelly Blue Book survey that indicates that a majority of Americans prefer “cars that are not fully autonomous and retain some ability for individual control.”

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Domestic robots in home

domestic robots in home
It’s time for domestic robots in home (infographic from tumotech.com)

Today’s smart homes are still a far cry from the futuristic visions of the last century.  Home automation has certainly advanced over the last one hundred years.  Think about the washer and dryer, and even the personal computer.  It’s time for domestic robots in home.  If you’ve seen episodes of the 1960’s TV show The Jetsons, you remember how Rosie the Robot cooked, cleaned and was a companion for Elroy.  Rosie’s legacy has set the bar very high for domestic robots – and we are approaching that standard rapidly!

Many home automation tools that were developed through the 1960’s were not available to the average person because of costs and/or technological limitations.  Consider that remote controlled television was developed in the 1950’s, and color television became widely available during the 1960’s.  The personal computer as we know it was developed in the 1970’s, but wasn’t widely available until the 1980’s.  However, as home automation rapidly progressed with the technological jumps of the last half of the twentieth century, devices became more affordable and common place.  Fast forward fifty years, virtual reality is the home entertainment trend and many refrigerators have more computing power than the PC’s developed in the 1970’s!

Today we take for granted many of the automated systems in our home.  What takes minutes with the help of our modern appliances, took hours with early rudimentary counterparts; and most likely an entire day without any automated assistance.  Certainly the average person fifty years ago would not have imagined their home being automated by programming their appliances, and certainly not on a cell phone.  The 1962 and 1964 World’s Fair introduced the futuristic smart home to the average person; and to some extent, we’ve already surpassed those expectations.  We were introduced to the idea of a centralized “brain” that controlled the home in 1962; and computerized appliances and time saving devices in 1964.

As smart homes advance, robotics will be an integral part of your life.  In fact, you can buy a robot today.  Of course, you’ve heard of Roomba the floor cleaning robot.  Roomba’s parent company, iRobot (irobot.com) also sells a pool cleaning robot and other robotic devices for the home.  There is the Litter-Robot (litter-robot.com) to clean after your cat.  And although they’re not like robots portrayed in the movies, there are humanoid robots for sale today that can be programmed for simple tasks.

Tumotech (tumotech.com), the online magazine about future disruptive technologies and innovations, declared the rise of domestic robots in a May 12, 2014 article The robot revolution – The rise of domestic robots.”  Initially, it is thought that advances in robotics will allow robots to clean homes, take care of the lawn, be a security patrol, and even tend to those who are ill.

As robotics and other technologies rapidly develop and merge, it is conceivable that we will have humanoid robots doing much of our daily tasks and interacting with us as companions in twenty years!  However, having humanoid robots in the home may not be as wonderful as we anticipate.  In their chapter “If I had a Robot at Home… Peoples’ Representation of Domestic Robots,” psychologists Scopelliti, Giuliani, D’Amico and Fornara suggest that robots taking over our daily tasks and moving in to our homes may be detrimental to our self-esteem and personal identity (Designing a More Inclusive World. Edited by Keates, Clarkson, Langdon & Robinson, Springer, 2004).

Copyright © Dan Krell

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