Friday, July 26, 2013

The Driverless Car - A Vision of the Future Lost In The Past

I just don't see this as the panacea that the Google geeks do.  For one thing the people who are really emotionally wedded to cars want to drive, not ride.  And the transition issue alluded to is a huge one - how safe will you feel in your driverless car when most of the other cars on the road are still being driven by the same yahoos we have now?

Self-driving cars seemed futurist a century ago; today, it seems out of touch to focus on cars at all. Americans are buying fewer cars, driving less and getting fewer licenses as each year goes by. Rates of car ownership are decreasing. Bikeshare, rideshare and carshare programs are gaining in popularity and acceptance, as are transit-oriented communities. 
So why continue to design and plan for a car-based society? Transit innovation is possible, and is indeed inspirational, in many non-North-American cities. The TransMilenio bus rapid transit system in Bogot√°, Colombia, for example, comes to each bus stop every 10 seconds and carries close to 40,000 passengers per hour, 1.6 million per day. (Every 10 seconds — can you imagine?) In the United States, it feels like all that innovation is connected to the automobile with app-enabled carsharing, ridesharing and even the renting out of one’s driveway for extra revenue. While this sort of invention is a welcome addition and helps reduce the problem of one person driving alone in one car, it has the potential to lessen our belief in public transit as a public good as greater numbers of people turn to these customized solutions for getting to work.
 Car share is something that I think will be huge in the coming century . . . and I suspect we'll spend a lot of the next century undoing some of the damage done during the second half of the 20th century's headlong embrace of the car culture.  Better transit and land use planning is going to be of far greater import than driverless cars.

The Segway of tomorrow!


Anonymous said...

Today we have more horses in the world than in 1800, or so says Michio Kaku, the eminent physicist. He was making a point. Physicist he contended were designing the future but only on the past which can't be dismissed.
Cars are not going away.


Anonymous said...

Today we have more horses in the world than in 1800, or so says Michio Kaku, the eminent phycisist at CUNY.
He was making a point. Physicists he contends are designing our future. They design to build on the past and incorporate it in our future. The built past can't be dismissed. Cars, trucks, and horses are not going away.


Gary Reilly said...

I'll take your word on the horses thing; on the broader point I tend to agree. What I don't see happening is the widespread conversion to driverless cars or the other term "personal rapid transit" that gets bandied about by furturists.

They don't solve most of the real problems with auto-centric design and planning.

Some parts of the built past do fade away to faint shadows of their former selves - just look at the canal systems. The D and R Canal in NJ. Even the mighty Erie.