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Old 06-26-2014, 07:49 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
12,436 posts, read 11,937,287 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
I suppose for purposes of this post we'll assume that driverless cars do end up being safe, despite the tendency for software and hardware to be susceptible to bugs, hacking, crashing and misuse/abuse in the real world.
Perfectly safe? Of course not. Safer than humans? Yes. Around 90% of accidents are due to driver error, not road conditions, so really a computer doesn't have to be that good to improve on our safety record. It just has to not get drunk, tired, or distracted, all of which seem rather easy for obvious reasons.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
How do you guarantee five-minute wait times? The only way to guarantee quick on-demand cars in the diverse terrain of the American suburb would be to put them everywhere, which is a massive infrastructure problem. Where do you park all these remote cars when not in use? I assume that, if everyone takes an autonomous car to work, one person per car, there are just as many cars on the road during rush hours--and those cars have to be somewhere in between rush times. Where do you put them?
1. I don't think five-minute wait times could be guaranteed. But Uber currently does this already in many major cities without even having automated cars, so I don't think this is an impossible practice as the supply ramps up.

2. If we operate on a subscription service, and it's just you, it would be a waste of money for a standard four-door car to pick you up. Google is already experimenting with two-seaters, and it's likely one-seater cars for solo commutes would also be built. Obviously these wouldn't take up much space, either in a parking lot or on the road, when compared to conventional cars. They'd probably be the size of a motorcycle or smaller, and given they're automated, they could park themselves into very tight spaces (as opposed to motorcycles, which are essentially treated as cars regarding parking despite the smaller footprint.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
Why don't you need garages or parking spaces? If people start using automated cars instead of their own cars it's because it is more convenient--and if it's more convenient to use an automated car, they will drive more--even if it's the car, not the driver, doing the driving. More vehicle miles traveled=more congestion on roads. More demand for cars=more places needed to put them.
Certain types of driving will become more common. For example, you could live four hours from your work, and have a "sleeper car" - allowing you to rest on the way into work in the morning. So exurbia should expand out the whazoo.

On the other hand, I don't think this leads to more congestion overall, for several reasons.

1. Most cars will be smaller, hence take up less space on the road.
2. Automated cars can be "synced" to drive with only a few feet of space between them, essentially turning them into single-passenger cars on a train running on a surface road.
3. Automated cars won't break suddenly like humans do when there is some kind of apparent obstruction. hence the major reason for traffic jams will be absent
4. A major proportion of urban traffic (up to 40%, by some estimates) is due to driving to find a parking space.
5. If you work in a downtown area, being dropped off at a commuter rail or BRT stop may now make more sense than driving all the way into the city.
6. There is no reason to drive your car to a gas station/car wash/service station at all any longer.
7. In a world with automated cars, there will be more automated deliveries done by vehicles with no passengers at all. Ultimately this should drop the price for things like Amazon.com deliveries. And I expect the current trend towards less and less consumer shopping outside of the home will continue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
Why would someone in a self-driving car get out of the car to take transit instead of just taking the self-driving car the whole way to their destination?
I could see congestion pricing being implemented in more CBDs where mass transit is effective. Could you imagine how long the queue of automated cars would potentially be lining up around a skyscraper at 5PM? Particularly if people are waiting around for "their" car, rather than just taking the first one in a line.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
The pre-automobile city didn't have room on the roads for cars, they were taken up by people and low-speed animal-drawn vehicles. And why couldn't a robotic car inadvertently run over someone?
Of course it could, but from everything I've read it's already less apt to do this than a human driver. Minus the "rain" issue, automated driving is already safer than human driving. It's just still too expensive to be fully commercially viable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
The self-driving car is probably the wet dream of those who want to see suburban sprawl continue as long as possible. It means people can spend their commute home watching movies, playing videogames, eating dinner, or otherwise amusing themselves. But it wouldn't change the form of suburbs a bit, because you still have to provide room for all the cars--they're just robotic cars instead of human-driven cars.
I broadly agree with this, but as I said, there's no reason that the "car" of the future will be a big honking SUV.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
I suppose I can't figure out where you are assuming all these cars will go when not in use. If they're just driving around, not only does that mean the streets are as crowded as rush hour 100% of the time, it means they're also consuming fuel! Wouldn't cars running 24/7 actually require a lot more gas, making pollution that much worse?
I never said that 100% of cars would be in use at all times. And I never said that 100% of cars would be rented. I see it more as being a gradual reduction in car ownership. Urban families who today use mass transit to get to work, and use their cars only on evenings and weekends won't own cars at all. Many suburban families who now own 2-3 cars will own 1-2 cars instead. It's a difference of degree, not kind.

Cars will have to be parked somewhere of course, but it need not be anywhere convenient to human beings. They can also park with only inches of space between them, given they all can adjust each other to let one out. And again, many of the cars won't be the standard four-seaters today, but smaller. This means we're looking at much less parking overall.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
If you're assuming electric cars, how are you generating all the power for the batteries? Coal? Nuclear? Theoretical solar? And, of course, only about one-third of a car's pollution footprint comes out of the tailpipe. Another one-third is the particulates that come off the tires and other lubricating/operating fluids, and the energy cost of building the car and disposing of its mortal remains when it's worn out.
People can use only the size of cars they need for a particular trip. So you won't, for example, see parents who occasionally need an SUV for their kids sports gear always riding in one, but only calling one up for the occasions it's needed. And again, the amount of materials in the smaller cars will be less.
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Old 06-26-2014, 07:51 AM
 
1,319 posts, read 1,071,352 times
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To those who doubt the future appeal of the subscription services the OP imagines, let me mention one additional benefit: CHOICE.

[EDIT: after posting this comment I noticed that a previous commenter has said some of the same things. Great minds!]

Currently when you buy a vehicle, you have decide what function it will serve most often. If you're a manual laborer, or rural or blue-collar type, that's a pickup. If you're a soccer mom, that's a minivan. If you're a city commuter, it might be a compact car, or a hybrid or smart car. But that's not ideal for every trip! No one wants to take a gas guzzler on a long journey by themselves. Or a smart car to the Home Depot. What if you have family in town and want to go to the lake, or the beach, but can't fit all six people in your Camry? Now you have to take two vehicles, and you can't all talk to each other on the way.

This is the basic appeal behind all subscription services: flexibility and choice. When you are ready for a trip (long or short) just tell your subscription app what type of vehicle you want. Passenger capacity? Payload? Fuel efficiency? Luxury? An RV, even? These are all things you could specify, and pay accordingly for the features you enjoy.

Another matter of choice would be carpooling. Want to save a little money on your rental? Specify that you want to share, and the algorithm will pair you up with someone else who wants to share, and has a similar trip in mind (just like Uber, but without having to trust a stranger's driving skills.)

This, among other things, would reduce traffic (despite some commenters' insistence to the contrary.) The other factors are this: They will never, ever circle the block looking for a parking space. They will drop you off at your destination, and go straight for whatever garage has space available, using the least congested road. (My hope is that specified garages will be set up every mile or so for just this purpose.) Or better off, straight to the next nearby renter.

And people won't just drive infinitely, because they still have to pay to use a car. Sure, some amount of usage can be included in certain subscription packages, but people get the sense, in general, that the more they "drive" the more they pay. Although higher gas prices have started to achieve this as well, this realization is still not universally present among car owners, who want to make the most of their purchase.

So I agree with those who imagine this technology re-shaping suburbia (and urbia!) Garages may cease to exist, or else be converted to workshops or living spaces. Driveways will go away, or perhaps become gardens. People can still buffer themselves with all the personal space they want, and can afford, but that space doesn't need to be taken up with cars and their paraphernalia, and our cities don't have to be loaded down with X number of parking spots located within X paces of every establishment, thus allowing for more density, walkability (for the option to get some fresh air and exercise rather than pay for a car trip) and most importantly, sustainability.
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Old 06-26-2014, 08:14 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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While I agree with you comments in general rwiksell, I am not sure that we will ever see automated carpooling take off in a major way, at least not in America, unless there are major cultural shifts, because of the perceived safety issues.

I mean, I am sure that for security purposes, carpools could come with cameras. And if an emergency happened, they could automatically call the authorities, or even lock the doors and drive right to a police station. But I simply do not think that many people would feel safe getting into a car with a total stranger. People today do sometimes share cabs, but the cabbie basically acts as unofficial security. Without him being there, many people wouldn't feel secure.

The only scenario I can think of which is somewhat similar is subway cars in major cities late at night, where the conductor is up in the front car and you're stuck in a car alone with potentially one other person giving you creepy vibes. As it is today, some people are already skeeved out enough about this that they try to take taxis back home late at night.

For exactly the same reason, I don't see automated mini-buses taking off, and I think that people would want even on a self-driving bus or rail system some sort of "attendant" who patrols the cabin.
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Old 06-26-2014, 08:55 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
But I simply do not think that many people would feel safe getting into a car with a total stranger. People today do sometimes share cabs, but the cabbie basically acts as unofficial security. Without him being there, many people wouldn't feel secure.
I thought of this, actually. The people who are currently cool with services like Uber, of course, will be fine with it. For the rest, I think it would be perfectly conceivable to equip some self-driving cars with plexiglass dividers, like those in cabs, or even more opaque materials for greater privacy. These could be 4-seaters divided front-to-back, just like a taxi, or even side-to-side, creating a private bubble for each individual seat. There is no reason why a rider in such a vehicle would necessarily feel constrained by this.

That's another beauty of the subscription service business model. All these varieties of vehicles make sense when they can be called up through an algorithm, on a rental basis. It allows a level of need-based customization that seems fantastical today.
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Old 06-26-2014, 01:43 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
Perfectly safe? Of course not. Safer than humans? Yes. Around 90% of accidents are due to driver error, not road conditions, so really a computer doesn't have to be that good to improve on our safety record. It just has to not get drunk, tired, or distracted, all of which seem rather easy for obvious reasons.
Computers have a different set of vulnerabilities than humans. But they're still vulnerable.

Quote:
1. I don't think five-minute wait times could be guaranteed. But Uber currently does this already in many major cities without even having automated cars, so I don't think this is an impossible practice as the supply ramps up.
Uber does this in many major cities, but only in the parts of town that are fairly densely populated--and generally they are either orbiting or taking up parking spaces. Is this business model scalable to a majority of drivers? I'm not so sure about that. In the 1930s, futurists envisioned the high-speed highways of the future where motorists would effortlessly speed to their destination with never a traffic jam, because the highways would be wide, separated from the street, and designed for higher speeds than city streets. It didn't work out that way.

Quote:
2. If we operate on a subscription service, and it's just you, it would be a waste of money for a standard four-door car to pick you up. Google is already experimenting with two-seaters, and it's likely one-seater cars for solo commutes would also be built. Obviously these wouldn't take up much space, either in a parking lot or on the road, when compared to conventional cars. They'd probably be the size of a motorcycle or smaller, and given they're automated, they could park themselves into very tight spaces (as opposed to motorcycles, which are essentially treated as cars regarding parking despite the smaller footprint.
Which is the bigger waste of money--a standard four-door car, or four one-door cars to carry four family members going to the same place? A one-seater car doesn't take up a quarter the space of a four-seater. Essentially, it sounds like they'll take up about the same size as a non-automated car of the same person capacity. And considering cars currently park in spaces with maybe 1-2 feet between them, you're not going to save a whole lot of parking spaces in the aggregate. Maybe 25% more spaces? They still need to park somewhere.

Quote:
Certain types of driving will become more common. For example, you could live four hours from your work, and have a "sleeper car" - allowing you to rest on the way into work in the morning. So exurbia should expand out the whazoo.
Sounds pretty dreadful. I assume it wouldn't come with a bathroom...you'd show up for work with bed-head and a full bladder.
Quote:
On the other hand, I don't think this leads to more congestion overall, for several reasons.

1. Most cars will be smaller, hence take up less space on the road.
2. Automated cars can be "synced" to drive with only a few feet of space between them, essentially turning them into single-passenger cars on a train running on a surface road.
3. Automated cars won't break suddenly like humans do when there is some kind of apparent obstruction. hence the major reason for traffic jams will be absent
4. A major proportion of urban traffic (up to 40%, by some estimates) is due to driving to find a parking space.
5. If you work in a downtown area, being dropped off at a commuter rail or BRT stop may now make more sense than driving all the way into the city.
6. There is no reason to drive your car to a gas station/car wash/service station at all any longer.
7. In a world with automated cars, there will be more automated deliveries done by vehicles with no passengers at all. Ultimately this should drop the price for things like Amazon.com deliveries. And I expect the current trend towards less and less consumer shopping outside of the home will continue.
1. What would allow cars to be smaller than their current size? Wouldn't smaller cars address the same issue?
2. Congestion is a self-creating problem. Adding more capacity via "syncing" means more traffic until capacity is again reached. And they aren't single-passenger cars, they are each still autonomous, and can still hit each other. All you're doing is trading space for the possibility of even more catastrophic accidents when one car gets a Blue Screen of Death.
3. No, they'll break like computers do.
4. So your solution is autonomous vehicles which will just stay on the road? That's more driving, not less--or just as much need for parking.
5. Why? Why not just stay in the car vs. a mode switch? I can just take a nap in the car, after all.
6. But the car still has to be refueled/washed/service, now it's just someone else using it. That car doesn't run on magic fairy dust. And it's going to get pretty funky if people take naps in there.
7. Unless the car also has another robot inside, they aren't going to be able to complete that delivery.

Quote:
I could see congestion pricing being implemented in more CBDs where mass transit is effective. Could you imagine how long the queue of automated cars would potentially be lining up around a skyscraper at 5PM? Particularly if people are waiting around for "their" car, rather than just taking the first one in a line.
"queue"? Americans don't use that term. Maybe you aren't familiar with American cities during rush hour, but that's basically what we are used to already. So there is no need to imagine it.

Quote:
Of course it could, but from everything I've read it's already less apt to do this than a human driver. Minus the "rain" issue, automated driving is already safer than human driving. It's just still too expensive to be fully commercially viable.



I broadly agree with this, but as I said, there's no reason that the "car" of the future will be a big honking SUV.
And there's no reason that the "car" of the present or recent past had to be a big honking SUV either, except people with low self-esteem wanted to be seen getting out of them. In a society where materialism and "stuff" matters, who makes the better impression--the guy who gets out of the little self-driving taxi that smells like pizza and body odor, or the guy who gets out of the super deluxe magnum luxury vehicle? So it's a self-driving luxury SUV instead of human-driven; the principle and the fashion is the same.

Quote:
I never said that 100% of cars would be in use at all times. And I never said that 100% of cars would be rented. I see it more as being a gradual reduction in car ownership. Urban families who today use mass transit to get to work, and use their cars only on evenings and weekends won't own cars at all. Many suburban families who now own 2-3 cars will own 1-2 cars instead. It's a difference of degree, not kind.
A lot of those urban families already don't own cars at all, and they already use taxis to get around--the only difference is a human-driven car vs. a robot-driven one. And I'm not seeing how this plan would so easily permeate the suburban market--there is still the issue of access to the suburbs and timing.

Quote:
Cars will have to be parked somewhere of course, but it need not be anywhere convenient to human beings. They can also park with only inches of space between them, given they all can adjust each other to let one out. And again, many of the cars won't be the standard four-seaters today, but smaller. This means we're looking at much less parking overall.
I don't see how it adds up to that much less--and it still has to go somewhere. Car size varies with fashion and economics--compare a Model A to the big luxury cars of the 1950s, then the mini-cars of the 1960s and 70s to the SUVs of the 1990s, and the current wave of "city cars."

Quote:
People can use only the size of cars they need for a particular trip. So you won't, for example, see parents who occasionally need an SUV for their kids sports gear always riding in one, but only calling one up for the occasions it's needed. And again, the amount of materials in the smaller cars will be less.
Not sure how that differs from modern car-share/rental model for people who don't own cars.

And you still haven't addressed the issues of energy consumption and pollution--these cars aren't going to run on magic fairy dust, and just because the renter doesn't have to fuel or maintain them doesn't mean they don't require fuel and maintenance.
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Old 06-26-2014, 02:56 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
Computers have a different set of vulnerabilities than humans. But they're still vulnerable.
Undoubtedly true. But the question when it comes to automated cars taking off isn't if they're 100% safe, it's if they will be safe enough to convince people to switch to them. By 30 years from now, the answer should be yes for virtually everyone, and those who still object are probably going to be dying off pretty rapidly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
Uber does this in many major cities, but only in the parts of town that are fairly densely populated--and generally they are either orbiting or taking up parking spaces. Is this business model scalable to a majority of drivers? I'm not so sure about that. In the 1930s, futurists envisioned the high-speed highways of the future where motorists would effortlessly speed to their destination with never a traffic jam, because the highways would be wide, separated from the street, and designed for higher speeds than city streets. It didn't work out that way.
You raise a valid point here that there may be unforeseen limitations. I am personally doubtful there will ever be enough capacity offered by rental systems to deal with rush-hour commuters, because by definition this means the rush-hour cars will be sitting around not making money for the rest of the day. Thus I presume people who absolutely need to own a car to get to work on a 9-5 basis will continue to own cars for the most part, which includes most people in the suburbs.

As to more general availability of rentals, I expect it will vary depending upon the density of the area and the number of potential customers who demand rented cars at off-peak hours. But I wanted to look at "extreme" scenarios where a button-pressing rental arrived with no hassle.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
Which is the bigger waste of money--a standard four-door car, or four one-door cars to carry four family members going to the same place? A one-seater car doesn't take up a quarter the space of a four-seater. Essentially, it sounds like they'll take up about the same size as a non-automated car of the same person capacity. And considering cars currently park in spaces with maybe 1-2 feet between them, you're not going to save a whole lot of parking spaces in the aggregate. Maybe 25% more spaces? They still need to park somewhere.
I never said that cars would only be single seaters - people could rent four-seaters when they needed them. But even if they were all single-seaters, this should reduce traffic.

Why? Because people currently spend a lot of there time in their cars alone. Over three-quarters of work commutes are in a car alone. The average work commute is now around 25 minutes each way, and the average amount of time driving per day is around 100 minutes, so half of all driving time is spent commuting. You cannot tell me that if you shrunk down all of those cars to Smart Car size or smaller that would not have an effect on road congestion.

Even if you then suggested that each individual person in a family would take a separate single person car (which again, I didn't), the added road traffic/volume would be at non-peak times, and thus shouldn't add to congestion. And since children can be driven to activities without parental accompaniment, there should be a lot less "family trips" than now anyway.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
What would allow cars to be smaller than their current size? Wouldn't smaller cars address the same issue?
Yes, smaller cars address the same issue. The problem is with owned cars, as rwiksell noted, we tend to overpurchase because of those rare times we need more space, and thus end up driving alone in a car way too large for us. We'd theoretically need to own one of each potential car size to get the same traffic efficiency, which would result in a huge increased need for parking. Being able to select anywhere from a 1-6 seater (for example) with or without extra storage changes the whole calculation, and ensures we only bring the right amount of car for the job.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
Congestion is a self-creating problem. Adding more capacity via "syncing" means more traffic until capacity is again reached.
While this has been a general rule in road design, there are rare occasions where metros have overall decreasing population (meaning less cars on the road everywhere) where congestion limits have not been reached. I see the same general trend happening here, at least for decades. Remember that initially congestion would drop everywhere because the capacity was engineered with humans in mind, not machines. And while there are some people who couldn't drive before who would now (the blind, many elderly, and children) they aren't as likely to be traveling during peak hours on highways. So it may be decades before general population growth increases to the point that traffic becomes an issue again. And even then, given computers have access to real-time data we lack, they could reroute on the fly into the least congested surface streets.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
And they aren't single-passenger cars, they are each still autonomous, and can still hit each other. All you're doing is trading space for the possibility of even more catastrophic accidents when one car gets a Blue Screen of Death.
Presumably when a car "goes dead" it will coast to a stop, rather than having the breaks suddenly seize up. This should be something that the other cars on the road can deal with.

Also, you really shouldn't compare electronic cars to personal computers. PCs are a bad comparison because most of the bugs involved are because we're always installing different, non-approved software onto them, which may be infected with a virus or otherwise incompatible with other software or the underlying hardware. Autonomous cars would be more like say an Iphone (where all software is cleared by the manufacturer) or indeed like existing computer systems within cars, which relatively seldom have errors.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
So your solution is autonomous vehicles which will just stay on the road? That's more driving, not less--or just as much need for parking.
Instead of circling the block for a parking space, a car can drop you off and immediately pick someone else up. Barring this, it can drive itself to somewhere outside of downtown where parking is free and wait for you there. I see no reason it needs to circle the block and wait for you until you're ready.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
Why? Why not just stay in the car vs. a mode switch? I can just take a nap in the car, after all.
As I said, congestion pricing. Hell, we'd probably see more downtowns ban personal vehicles entirely, with only transit and service vehicles downtown, since it would no longer be a significant inconvenience, given the downtown parking garages are likely to be some of the first things which go poof anyway.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
But the car still has to be refueled/washed/service, now it's just someone else using it. That car doesn't run on magic fairy dust. And it's going to get pretty funky if people take naps in there.
Cars could drive themselves somewhere at 3AM to be cleaned and serviced by humans and/or robots, avoiding any significant road traffic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
Unless the car also has another robot inside, they aren't going to be able to complete that delivery.
Possibly. As I said, it's possible that we'll have mailboxes in the future right at the street, which automated delivery vehicles can drop our packages right into. Or we could have Jeff Bezos's drones. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
"queue"? Americans don't use that term. Maybe you aren't familiar with American cities during rush hour, but that's basically what we are used to already. So there is no need to imagine it.
I am American, but I did spend a year living in England awhile back, which is perhaps why I thought it was more appropriate than line. Regardless, it is distinctly different to be waiting for "your" car in front of your building versus walking a few blocks to a parking garage and then waiting to get out. A fair amount of the congestion, after all, is hidden inside the levels of the parking garage itself, not on the street. And most cities do not have "pull over lanes" like airports that cars can sit in for ages to wait for you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
And there's no reason that the "car" of the present or recent past had to be a big honking SUV either, except people with low self-esteem wanted to be seen getting out of them. In a society where materialism and "stuff" matters, who makes the better impression--the guy who gets out of the little self-driving taxi that smells like pizza and body odor, or the guy who gets out of the super deluxe magnum luxury vehicle? So it's a self-driving luxury SUV instead of human-driven; the principle and the fashion is the same.
You may be right. But it seems like for the crowd just a bit younger than me, what cellphone you have confers far more status than what car you drive. I'm not sure if America's love with the automobile will continue into the future. It may be a much more functional relationship.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
A lot of those urban families already don't own cars at all, and they already use taxis to get around--the only difference is a human-driven car vs. a robot-driven one. And I'm not seeing how this plan would so easily permeate the suburban market--there is still the issue of access to the suburbs and timing.
Okay, once again, I'll elaborate a few scenarios I thought I was explicit with:

1. You're a retiree who lives in the suburbs. Your reflexes are getting slow, and you hate driving on highways these days. You decide to sell you old hunk of junk and to go to renting a self-driving car when you need to go shopping or get to the doctors. The same sort of person twenty years earlier might have made the same decision as you regarding taxis, but waited until 80 rather than doing it at 70 as you are doing.

2. You're a stay-at-home mom. With your husband's salary, you have purchased a self-driving car. After it drops him off at the train station, it returns to the house, where you can use it over the course of the day.

3. You're a teenager. Even though you just turned 16, and theoretically could drive, you see no reason to learn. You've been riding around in self-driving cars alone on parent-navigated trips since eight (mostly back and forth to school and activities), and for the last few years they've allowed you freedom to choose your own destinations (within town) so long as you return with the car when it's needed for your parent's commute.

All of these have eliminated the need for one suburban car. Not a rush-hour car mind you, but one for off-peak hours, since they're shared with other people (as a rental in the first case, or with the rest of the family in the latter two).

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
I don't see how it adds up to that much less--and it still has to go somewhere. Car size varies with fashion and economics--compare a Model A to the big luxury cars of the 1950s, then the mini-cars of the 1960s and 70s to the SUVs of the 1990s, and the current wave of "city cars."
You may be right. Minimalism seems to be somewhat "in" now, at least among the younger crowd, but there's no reason to presume the fad will continue. Time will tell.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
Not sure how that differs from modern car-share/rental model for people who don't own cars.
Does the current system really allow you to specify "I want a three-seater with a truck cab" or "I want a one seater," along with delivering them right to your front door?

Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
And you still haven't addressed the issues of energy consumption and pollution--these cars aren't going to run on magic fairy dust, and just because the renter doesn't have to fuel or maintain them doesn't mean they don't require fuel and maintenance.
See here. There's two ways that they save energy. Reduced wind drag by traveling in "platoons" cuts energy consumption by 20%. And if crashes become rare, huge amounts of structural reinforcement currently put into cars can be done away with. Lighter weight also could make electric more competitive, because it would mean lower horsepower is needed. I don't expect them to run energy free of course, but they should be cheaper to run than conventional cars.
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Old 06-26-2014, 03:17 PM
 
Location: Sinking in the Great Salt Lake
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Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
Around six months ago, I'd consider this a likely outcome. But given Google has now built prototype driverless cars from the ground up, with no steering wheels or other manual controls, it seems clear there will be fully-automated cars commercially available to a limited extent within the next ten years. My guess is they'll start out being driven on surface roads in major cities, and slowly get "cleared" for suburban routes and highways as the allowable speed limits are raised via changes in regulation.
I can't argue that Google's driverless cars are pretty impressive technology but that doesn't mean people will buy them en mass. After all, 100% electric cars are feasible for the majority of the country's commuters and are on the market with deep discounts and incentives but they are just not making the industry any money. I think most people will have to be sold the idea in increments before they accept a 100% self-driving car.

As for myself, no thanks! I recently ditched my rush-hour slog for the commuter train still actually like to drive the rest of the time. In fact, I like driving even more when I don't drive to work.
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Old 06-26-2014, 03:37 PM
 
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Originally Posted by wburg View Post
In the 1930s, futurists envisioned the high-speed highways of the future where motorists would effortlessly speed to their destination with never a traffic jam, because the highways would be wide, separated from the street, and designed for higher speeds than city streets. It didn't work out that way.
Actually it did work out that way. They just didn't envision how much demand would increase. There are many, many freeways and interstates out there that never get congested. Whether you see this as a good thing or bad thing depends on your perspective.

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Originally Posted by wburg View Post

Which is the bigger waste of money--a standard four-door car, or four one-door cars to carry four family members going to the same place?
...
1. What would allow cars to be smaller than their current size? Wouldn't smaller cars address the same issue?
One-seaters would be available, but only when needed. When traveling with a family of four, just call up a four-seater. The reason cars can be smaller is because, under a subscription system, empty seats can be kept to a minimum. People buy big cars now, in part, because they sometimes need a big car. But very few people need a big car all the time.
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Originally Posted by wburg View Post

"queue"? Americans don't use that term. Maybe you aren't familiar with American cities during rush hour, but that's basically what we are used to already. So there is no need to imagine it.
I use that word all the time, and I'm pretty darn American.
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Originally Posted by wburg View Post
And there's no reason that the "car" of the present or recent past had to be a big honking SUV either, except people with low self-esteem wanted to be seen getting out of them. In a society where materialism and "stuff" matters, who makes the better impression--the guy who gets out of the little self-driving taxi that smells like pizza and body odor, or the guy who gets out of the super deluxe magnum luxury vehicle? So it's a self-driving luxury SUV instead of human-driven; the principle and the fashion is the same.
There will always be some of this, but I don't think it's the main reason why people buy big vehicles. And ever-higher gas prices will minimize ego as a motive.
Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post

A lot of those urban families already don't own cars at all, and they already use taxis to get around--the only difference is a human-driven car vs. a robot-driven one.
The other major difference would be cost. I believe a self-driven "taxi" can be operated more cost-effectively than a traditional one, with a human driver who needs to make a living. Also, in an economy of scale, subscription services can create new efficiencies which are capable of driving down the cost for everyone. If anyone is interested in a more detailed discussion of this, please say so, and we can go there.
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Old 06-26-2014, 04:00 PM
 
Location: Youngstown, Oh.
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Maybe I'm being close-minded, but I don't think self-driving cars are going to be as revolutionary as depicted in this thread, and elsewhere.

Instead, I think we'll see incremental implementation of self-driving technology. We're already seeing this with new cars that have collision prevention features.

But, in addition to the real or perceived technology limitations, there are mechanical limitations, even under the best of circumstances. Sure, a computer's reaction time will be less than that of a person, but that's only a small part of the total time it takes to stop a car traveling at 60 mph, for example.
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Old 06-26-2014, 04:08 PM
 
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Originally Posted by JR_C View Post
Maybe I'm being close-minded, but I don't think self-driving cars are going to be as revolutionary as depicted in this thread, and elsewhere.

Instead, I think we'll see incremental implementation of self-driving technology. We're already seeing this with new cars that have collision prevention features.

But, in addition to the real or perceived technology limitations, there are mechanical limitations, even under the best of circumstances. Sure, a computer's reaction time will be less than that of a person, but that's only a small part of the total time it takes to stop a car traveling at 60 mph, for example.
I'm not sure exactly what's being implied by this example. If a particular accident is 100% unavoidable by a human driver, it might also be 100% unavoidable to a computer. But this isn't a case against computers, it's just neutral.

However, I would argue that there are very few instances in which a sudden stop is required, where a human driver could not have somehow avoided it. Chances are they were following too closely, or not really noticing a potential hazard that a computer would be more likely to monitor, and adjust defensively for.
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