Neil Salmond has the same fascination as I do with the prospect of this technology – the autonomous vehicle – that is already being incorporated into automobiles. He passes along a few videos that give you a taste of one virtual proposal: the PAT (People And Things), out of Toronto.
Here’s the slick version (worth playing just for the hypnotic soundtrack):
And here’s what the experience might look like from the inside:
As unlikely (or unnerving) as a driverless car may seem, it’s on its way, probably sooner than we’re expecting. (Another story here.)
Neil also has a friend (another Neil, named McGuigan) “who has given robotaxis at least as much thought as me and just published this little list of their local implications” – here. He takes speculation in some intriguing directions.
- The car insurance industry will cease to exist. These cars aren’t going to crash. Even if there are hold-outs that drive themselves, insurance would be so expensive they couldn’t afford it, as no one else would need it.
- If the cars don’t crash, then the auto collision repair / auto body industry goes away. The car industry also shrinks as people don’t have to replace cars as often.
- Long-haul truck driving will cease to exist. Think how much money trucking companies will save if they don’t have to pay drivers or collision and liability insurance. That’s about 3 million jobs in the States. Shipping of goods will be much cheaper.
- On that note, no more bus drivers, taxi drivers, limo drivers.
- Meter maids. Gone. Why spend $20 on parking when you can just send the car back home? There goes $40 million in parking revenue to the City of Vancouver by the way.
Some of my thoughts: How many cars will we actually need if a relative handful out on the road full time could replace the millions that remain inactive 95 percent of the time? And what happens to the space, particularly parking lots, that is freed up?
Good-bye not just taxis and meter maids but even transportation cycling?
What about the legal implications, especially once it’s clear that the technology does a better job of driving than human beings? Should we even allow people to have control of their cars if it results in a higher rate of accidents, especially fatalities, than would otherwise occur? Will liability insurance skyrocket for hands-on driving, accelerating the move to automation? Or will the political resistance override the risks?
And since transportation always impacts land-use and urban form, what’s that mean for how our cities will be shaped?
We welcome the speculation.