Driverless carsFriday, May 25, 2012 16:11
For a while now, I’ve been talking about how public transport should work ideally in private conversations with my wife. This is because I think privately owned motor vehicles are terribly inefficient. They’re idle the vast majority of the time, they transport too few people for the road area they occupy and consequently waste too much energy. I for one was shocked when I first learned than more than 50% of the area of a typical city is devoted solely to roads. But in practice, privately owned vehicles are so convenient compared to the alternative of public transport that, except for the very densest of cities, they’re the method of transportation of choice despite their inefficiencies.
So all this has remained my personal pet peeve. (I guess I’m also personally biased against cars because I dislike driving.) Until now, at least, because with the advent of Google’s driverless cars, suddenly my vision of an efficient public transport system now seems almost like the inevitable future. Some relevant links to consider:
- This news item about Google being granted a license to operate driverless cars in the state of Nevada early this month kicked off a lot of articles and blog posts about the effects this development will eventually have.
- This article about a reporter’s account of being transported in one of Google’s cars reveals that a lot of work remains to be done. Google’s engineers wouldn’t allow the car to be driven away from the fixed routes it was trained on and the computer handed back control to the humans at a few moments when it was unsure about what to do.
- Still, it does seem that the kinks will be worked out eventually and this blog post points out how the widespread deployment of driverless cars could drastically reshape our urban geography.
Of course, driverless cars would also alter our lifestyles. Freed of the need to pay attention to the road, time spent in transit would be extra time to spend as you wish, whether working, reading, watching videos or even sleeping. I predict that with transport becoming vastly more efficient, this would drive down transport costs and raise effective standards of living. And of course, cities would be more beautiful and more pleasant to live. This truly would be the next revolution to look out for.