Self-driving cars projected to create $7 trillion `passenger economy'

The race to create self-driving cars is on and since nobody would have to drive, with autonomous cars around, it could lead to a ''passenger economy'' worth $7 trillion by 2050, according to a new report by Intel and analyst firm Strategy Analytics.

According to the study, self-driving cars would free up 250 million hours of commuting time per year, providing the backbone for a thriving $800 billion industry by 2035, when the study expected fully autonomous vehicles to start proliferating globally.

According to Intel its interest in the sector was driven by other paradigm shifts like the adoption of smartphones and personal computing. Intel added tech advancements had seen late adopters fall by the wayside, and it might happen again soon.

''Companies should start thinking about their autonomous strategy now,'' Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said in a release promoting the study. ''Less than a decade ago, no one was talking about the potential of a soon-to-emerge app or sharing economy because no one saw it coming."

"This is why we started the conversation around the Passenger Economy early, to wake people up to the opportunity streams that will emerge when cars become the most powerful mobile data generating devices we use and people swap driving for riding.''

According to the US tech giant, a ''passenger economy'' will create massive opportunities for new businesses as people transformed from drivers into riders with time - rather than a steering wheel - on their hands.

Some seemingly way out predictions from the research include what was called ''car-venience'' applications such as onboard beauty salons in cars, as also mobile health clinics and treatment pods. The research even visualises that self-driving vehicles could ''platoon'' together to form pod hotels.

Krzanich also predicted an ''unlocking of cognitive surplus'' which would give people back, time spent driving, to think and do other things. Self-driving cars could potentially free up over 250 million hours per year of commuters' time in the world's most congested cities.