The days when 15-year-olds learn to drive on a desolate stretch of road soon could be a thing of the past: We’re speeding along in the era of the driverless car.

You’ll continue to drive, but slowly, gradually, over the coming decade the car will take over. It will handle parking, braking when you’re too close to another car and, possibly, shuttle you when you’re simply exhausted.

Don’t skip buying a new car, because none of this will happen overnight. Also, don’t fret that a future filled with driverless cars, drones and robots leaves no place for humans. There always will be the need for human touch, because people can solve problems in ways no robot can.

In UPS’s Routes to the Future whitepaper, we looked at key trends that will affect businesses over the next decade. Here are the four phases for the new driving area:

  • Phase I: Many people equate driverless cars with “The Jetsons” cartoon, but we’re already in the first phase of “passive” autonomous driving. Many new cars now come equipped with sensors and advanced electronics that give drivers audible warnings when they’re crossing lanes or following too closely.
  • Phase II: Limited driver substitution has just begun and probably will run through 2018. In the next few years, the driver remains the primary operator, but limited functions such as enhanced cruise control and self-parking will be handled by the car’s computer.
  • Phase III: From 2018 to 2022, we’ll experience complete autonomous capability. New cars will accelerate, brake and steer themselves, but drivers still will take over in the event of an emergency or system failure. Read: Drivers still have to pay attention.
  • Phase IV: The fourth phase will kick in around 2024, with all new cars sold in the second half of the decade incorporating full autonomous capabilities that can function without any human intervention. By 2030, expect 25% of all vehicles on the road to be fully autonomous. Of course, older cars will still be on the road – some people will hang on to their cars as long as they can – so the two types of vehicles will be forced to coexist.

This evolution will affect everything from urban planning to logistics. New business services and sectors will emerge, while some established companies will see their business model come under pressure.

Here are potential changes we’re thinking about:

  • Fewer accidents: Could car accidents become a rarity? KPMG, the audit and professional services firm, estimates the adoption of self-driving cars eventually could reduce accidents 80% in coming decades, to just one accident for every 1.6 million miles driven by 2040. By 2030 or 2040 accidents may become so rare that stand-alone car insurance could become a thing of the past. Auto coverage simply could be a rider on your homeowner’s policy.
  • Smaller vehicles?: Fewer accidents also means cars could become lighter – and cheaper. No longer will safety-conscious parents feel compelled to drive mammoth SUVs. (It remains to be seen how this will impact warehouse-store shopping trips.) As self-driving cars become cheaper to build – and then to operate – we’ll see new alliances formed between traditional automakers, Silicon Valley players who understand software interfaces and the ride-sharing services that are eager to deploy fleets of autonomous robo-taxis.
  • Robo-Taxis? If the fares for any future fleets of urban taxis became inexpensive enough, city dwellers might choose to forgo automobile ownership. (Think about this as an Uber model on steroids.)

If that sounds like bad news for automakers, fear not. Yes, moving from a culture of car ownership to one where we use urban taxis could mean fewer vehicles in circulation. But if the future is filled with robo-taxis being driven around the clock, they’ll need to be replaced more frequently.

While Americans today hang on to their car for an average 11.4 years, frequently used vehicles will need to be replaced every three years. That’s good news for carmakers.

When we think about the future of self-driving cars, we realize they’re not just about getting around any more than a smartphone is just about making calls. They will create a new ecosystem of activities and services that change the way we live our urban lives. They will offer solutions to longstanding problems that plague today’s cities and challenge us to consider a host of new societal, technological and ethical questions.

We’re excited to be along for the ride.

Kelly Brock is the director-marketing for the industrial products and automotive segment at UPS.