As driverless cars become more capable and more common, they will change people's travel habits not only around their own communities but across much larger distances. Our research has revealed just how much people's travel preferences could shift, and found a new potential challenge to the airline industry.
Imagine someone who lives in Atlanta and needs to travel to Washington, D.C., for business. This is about a 10-hour drive. A flight takes about two hours, assuming no delays. Add to that the drive to the airport, checking in, the security line, and waiting at the gate. Upon arrival in D.C., it may take another 30 minutes to pick up any checked bags and find a rental car—and even more time to drive to the specific destination. The average person would estimate a total travel time of four to five fours. Most people would choose to fly instead of driving themselves.