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We'll trade deaths with cars against jobs, says Zipcar co-founder

A future with self-driving cars is "right upon us" and the economic and safety case for them is strong, according to the co-founder of car-sharing business Zipcar.

Speaking to CNBC at the Infrastructure Investor Global Summit in Berlin, former chief executive Robin Chase said that driverless cars would be seen sooner rather than later.

"I think in the medium term, we are seeing from the car industry and manufacturers that they will start selling the first ones in 2018, 2019, 2020, which is right around the corner," she said. "But we will see those in dense metropolitan areas – we call it 'level four' – where they will be... geo-fenced, gated, and that will happen in cities, I think, first."

Chase said she believed the transition to shared, self-driving cars would happen "very quickly because of economics."

"If I'm a fleet owner of taxis or buses or shuttle buses, I will definitely want to get the driver out of the equation, from (an) economic perspective it's much cheaper," she said.

"And if I'm a passenger and a user I will choose those because they will be so much cheaper than owning my own, so I think economics is going to drive the transition and I believe it will happen very fast in metropolitan areas."

Acknowledging political headwinds associated with loss of labour, Chase went on to home in on the safety aspect of a driverless future.

"Around the world there are 1.2 million car deaths each year, and ten times that amount of injuries, so we are trading ten million injuries and deaths with cars against the jobs and I know in the long run… we will care to reduce those deaths."