This just in: Driverless cars are no longer a thing of the future or something seen on TV. According to Automotive News, they will be found on Ontario’s roads early in 2017. Ontario issued its first permits for autonomous vehicles late in November, allowing such vehicles owned by the Erwin Hymer Group, University of Waterloo and Blackberry to be tested on the Canadian province’s roads. So what might that mean for the future of ground transportation?

At EmpireCLS, we value innovation and look forward to what the future holds, with the understanding that both the automotive industry and the luxury industry must keep up with technological momentum. However, given our three-plus decades of experience in both spheres, we know that high-tech innovations are really only beneficial if used wisely. Here’s what we can reasonably expect:

Safety Statistics: According to the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey (NMVCCS), the leading critical reason of a crash was overwhelmingly attributed to human error, as 94% of accidents were the fault of the driver. The National Safety Council also found in 2014 that more than 35,400 people died in car crashes due to alcohol, speeding and distracted driving. It’s possible that automated vehicles capable of switching between “autopilot” and manual modes could avoid such consequences, i.e., safely steering fatigued or intoxicated drivers home.

Environmental Impact: Another factor to consider is what kind of impact will driverless cars have on the environment. According to research conducted by the Department of Energy (DOE), automated vehicles may reduce energy consumption in transportation by 90% – or have an adverse effect and increase it by close to 200%.

Commercial Potential: As mentioned above, we’re all for technological innovation – as long as it benefits the customer. We imagine that most vehicle buyers would thrill to the availability of self-driving cars that keep them safe, reduce environmental damage and allow them more free time during their commute. But as a luxury chauffeured transportation company, what we can’t imagine is a driverless car service fleet – not ours, anyway. No matter how convenient automated vehicles become, no amount of tech can replace the tailor-made experience that each of our chauffeurs facilitates for our guests.

Our streets might look drastically different in just the matter of a decade or two – or driverless cars might get sent right back into the realm of sci-fi.Permits for driverless cars gives various companies and research groups the opportunity to test these vehicles in real-life situations among public traffic. In addition to the above companies who plan to test in Ontario, vehicles manufacturers such as General Motors, Toyota, Ford and Volkswagen have already announced sweeping strategies to develop autonomous technology for future models. Testing will continue as driverless cars will be included in everyday traffic in Ontario, eventually answering some of the questions we have about the future of transportation and the impact it will have on our daily lives.

No matter what the future brings, EmpireCLS is committed to providing you with the finest luxury travel service possible. Although much of the impact of automated vehicles is yet to be determined, we can guarantee that our signature high safety standards, five-star fleet and inspired hospitality is here to stay.