Cost of Driverless Vehicles

The cost of a driverless vehicle is difficult to gauge. According to Todd Litman in Autonomous Vehicle Implementation Predictions: Implications for Transport Planning, he does indicate that the automated vehicle may reduce travel time and the associated costs; however, Litman is quick to follow up with an extreme increase in vehicle costs (Litman, 2017, p. 7). He explains that “such technologies can add thousands of dollars to vehicle purchase prices and hundreds of dollars of annual fees”, noting that an electronic device package might increase the vehicle price by more than 5,000 dollars, not including the associated navigation systems (Litman, 2017, p. 7). He links automated vehicles to the previous development of automatic transmission, noting that it “will take one to three decades to be incorporated into middle- and lower-priced models” (Litman, 2017, p. 7). Overall, the Litman view is a negative one, indicating that the average consumer won’t have the financial situation to purchase an automated vehicles for decades until the technology becomes cheaper to implement into more affordable vehicles.

However, in Cost-based analysis of autonomous mobility services, a different conclusion is reached: “while the cost of private cars and rail services changes only marginally, autonomous driving technology allows taxi services and buses to be operated at substantially lower cost, even more cheaply than private cars” (Bosch, Becker, Becker, & Axhausen, 2017. p. 8). Specifically, they found that the cost per kilometer on a private vehicle would increase from 0.48 to 0.50 CHF with the implementation of autonomous steering, the cost for a taxi would decrease from 1.92 CHF to a remarkable 0.32 – buses also enjoyed a substantial reduction, decreasing from 0.89 to 0.40 CHF (Bosch, Becker, Becker, & Axhausen, 2017, p. 7). This seems to imply that while private ownership of a private, autonomous vehicle may be unfeasible for the great majority of people for several decades, the use of automated public transportation will become much more affordable for the average consumer. Indeed, the same report indicates that the primary cost component of automated public transportation will shift to “cleaning efforts” – it suggests that “developing viable business models for shared AV fleets will entail solutions to require that customers behave appropriately while on board (e.g. video observation of passengers)” (Bosch, Becker, Becker, & Axhausen, 2017, p. 11).

Regardless of this potential paradigm shift from personal vehicles to public transportation, there are still several major hurdles to overcome. Beyond the personal attachment one might possess for their own personal vehicle, the potential automation of the public transportation industry does not necessarily increase the overall convenience when compared to private vehicles. Litman again takes a negative view, noting that the time involved in waiting for a taxi might still be prohibitive, especially during periods of frequent use, and also follows by stating that while automated public transportation may be cost effective for people living in dense urban environments, “people who live in suburban and rural areas, who usually commute by car, or who for other reasons drive high annual miles will probably choose to own a personal vehicle (Litman, 2017, p. 20).


Litman, T. (2018). Autonomous Vehicle Implementation Predictions: Implications for Transport Planning. Victoria Transport Policy Institute.

Bosch, P., Becker, F., Becker, H. and Axhausen, K. (2017). Cost-based analysis of autonomous mobility services. Transport Policy, pp.1-16.