Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Self-Driving Future

This article on the possible realities of self-driving cars is breaking my brain today. Some choice quotes:’s knowledge can at least guide [city] planners in what not to do. Not to put big investments in things likely to become obsolete. Not to be too clever in thinking they understand the “smart city” of 2025. They need to be like the builders of the internet, who made the infrastructure as simple and stupid as they could, moving innovation away from the infrastructure and into the edges where it could flourish in a way that astounded humanity.

Fewer people will drive for a living. At the same time there are more bank tellers today than in 1970. They just don’t cash your cheques and give out withdrawals much any more. This topic deserves a great deal more verbiage, of course, but the kicker is this: These professional drivers are killing several thousand Americans every year while doing their jobs. Only doctors kill more. While the economic disruption is not an illusion, there is no way you can justify artificially preserving a job that is killing so many people. It’s a bit like arguing everybody should smoke so that tobacco farmers don’t lose their jobs.

Sharing cars for solo rides does not reduce miles driven or the number of cars made, but it does vastly reduce the amount of parking needed. Sharing rides reduces everything. I go much further in my vision to bring ride sharing to the level of dynamically allocated self-driving vans which replace today’s mass transit with something much more desired by the public and much more efficient at the same time.

One thing that many people don’t realize we won’t need [when cars are both self-driving and electric] is charging infrastructure. The great thing about robocars is they go where the energy is. The robocar will drive to the transformer substation which is packed with charging points — you don’t need to put charging stations in parking lots or houses.
There's more where that came from.

Plus these two articles by Dave Roberts at Vox on related topics: 1.8 million American truck drivers could lose their jobs to robots. What then? and Shared vehicles could make our cities dramatically more livable. He has his own brain-breaking quotes, like this one:
Consider: U.S. coal mining employment hit a high of 449,000 in 1920 and has declined ever since (with some ups and downs — the last peak, in 1980, was 229,000). It is now down to 80,000. Coal mining has lost around 150,000 jobs over 30 years or so, around 50,000 in the last five years. And that is considered a social and political crisis worthy of presidential attention.
All that contrasted with 1.8 million truck drivers, distributed across all politically meaningful regions, who will likely be losing their jobs in a 10-year period.

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