Friday, October 21, 2016

What Will the Rollout Look Like?

As seen on Twitter today, here are a few thoughts from Tony Dutzik, a senior policy analyst at Frontier Group, a progressive think tank. He was ruminating about the path we may or may not take toward automated vehicles:

Fleets/networks have two big advantages over individual ownership.
  1. Fleets/networks can deploy a lot of vehicles in a defined market quickly. Turnover in personal ownership model is slow and scattered. 
  2. Fleets/networks are far better equipped to capture efficiency/utilization gains from automation than individuals.
In other words, there is a strong case for shared/mobility-as-service models benefiting disproportionately from automation. It’s not for nothing that the first deployment of (sorta) autonomous vehicles was with Uber in Pittsburgh. Even Tesla itself is planning for its autonomous vehicles to be part of a proprietary ride-sharing network. And the fact that most mass automakers have shared mobility partners suggests they get this, too, at least enough to hedge bets.

Does that mean the fleet/network model will inevitably win out everywhere? Heck no.

Why? Look around. Our existing transport system is already loaded with inefficiency, irrationality and waste. Path dependencies and bad policy could make the automated future look as problematic as the manually driven present.

But we need to understand how automation can change the game if we’re going to pull the right policy levers to get a better result. Policy nudges – taxation, pricing, parking policy, access restrictions, etc. – can go a long way to move things toward "heaven.” Automation provides a sense of urgency to do those things, many of which we should’ve been doing all along.

If advocates and officials get educated and organized, automation can be lever to achieve long-awaited public-interest goals.
When self-driving cars are everywhere in 10 years or so, remember you read this here. If it hasn't happened in the way that's most spatially and energy-efficient, you'll know what went wrong.

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