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Old 06-26-2014, 04:45 PM
 
Location: Laurentia
5,593 posts, read 6,372,358 times
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I agree with most of the points Wburg makes above, and he asks some good questions that need to be answered; there are myriad disadvantages to automated cars that are glossed over by its advocates and by urban planners. Due to all of the disadvantages I outline below and that have been mentioned before, I don't believe fully automated cars will ever become the norm. There is a niche that fully automated cars can fill, but filling these niches mostly solves urban problems, not suburban or rural ones, and urbanites are the least car-dependent group as it is. The automation technology will certainly be a boon to taxis and rent-a-car businesses, much like computer technology has helped them already only more so.

Partially automated cars, where drivers can switch to and from automatic mode at will, will be far more useful and versatile to most people, particularly those in suburban and rural areas that like to own their own vehicle under their own full control for reasons of security and personal enjoyment (yes, some people like driving, as foreign as the concept may seem to the urban planners). In the current age where people have been rightly spooked by malevolent corporations and police state surveillance, people won't be apt to turn over such an integral part of their lives to a faceless bureaucracy outside of their control; they will (correctly) perceive a threat to their safety. Drivers will feel much safer owning their own vehicle and being in full control of its automatic mechanism, and they will be able to enjoy driving when it suits them. A further advantage of this technology is that a solo driver can take a picture, capture video, or write down something when it suits him, and engaging the automatic pilot for that brief time will enable him to do that without losing control of the vehicle as he would now. His car can also function as a kind of private "sleeping car" during trips that bleed into the night; when he wants to sleep he can engage automatic mode, and then switch it off when he wakes up ready to drive. So in short, owning a car capable of both modes at the will of the driver offers the best of both worlds, and barring government interference in that area (whether on its own or at the behest of corporations), it is probably what most people outside of downtown areas will end up with.

To the question of how automated cars will change suburbs, automated cars as such wouldn't change anything, since the only difference is that a machine is driving instead of a human (a possibility I don't go for myself, but I digress). The OP's scenario is one in which we essentially trade out owning our own vehicles for a very convenient taxi service under the ownership and control of someone or something else (perhaps most ominously a government...), which is a completely different scenario and one I don't think most suburbanites would go for, considering that most of them really like owning and controlling their own vehicle; it's part of the attraction of the suburban package. Even if most suburbanites go for taxi service instead of private vehicle ownership, all other things being equal suburbs will still retain their advantages of larger yards and a more intimate, less crowded, and safer environment than the cities.

The aforementioned partially automated cars will enable people to extend their commute times to well over 3 hours while they sleep, which will be a boon to the super-commuters. This will also enable those in rural areas to commute into the city, thus expanding "penurbia". It is likely the exurbs will also expand in such a scenario.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rwiksell View Post
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.
You also have to factor in that U.S. population has tripled since the 1930's, so even if vehicle miles per capita remained the same the roadways would need to be three times larger. Also, from 1985 to 2006 freeway lane-miles increased by 5% compared to a 25% increase in population, a per capita reduction of 16%; that's a recipe for massively increased congestion, and that's exactly what we have experienced. Those who use "induced demand" as an excuse for ever-increasing congestion do not account for the existence of uncongested roads - after all, according to these people capacity will fill up on any road until it is congested no matter how high the capacity is. This predicts that every single road will be congested, which is obviously not the case. Many rural freeways and divided highways have had capacity increases from 2/4 lanes to 4/6 lanes followed by a significant drop in congestion and increase in speed and mobility.

That is because there is a natural level of demand for driving and trips that people want to go on, which is around the level of actual demand in rural areas but is artificially depressed by traffic congestion and poor road quality in urban areas. When capacity is expanded driving will rise until the natural demand level is reached. It should be noted that congestion typically lessens when capacity is expanded in urban areas because the gain in capacity usually outstrips the rebound in demand, particularly if planners account for induced demand effects when they design a solution to the road's congestion problem. If you design an improvement to fit current traffic, an increase up to the natural level (say an extra 50%) will dampen the gains and not completely solve the problem; when you design it you have to accommodate that extra 50% too, and when you do the congestion problem is solved. Concurrent expansions of capacity in other parts of the system lessen the effect of drivers diverting to the less congested highway because other highways are equally less congested.

Induced demand can be overcome rather easily if you have proper planning, so it is no excuse for letting roadways languish in congestion and poor quality; those who use this excuse are usually lazy or are against driving, but "because induced demand" sounds better than "we should punish drivers" or "it's too hard for me/us".

Quote:
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.
A lot of people like to have a big car, or like to be used to driving a big car so that the occasions when they do need a big car doesn't cause a huge disruption to their routine.

Quote:
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.
That is a possibility, but there are others that should be considered. With the vast increase in unconventional oil production, which promises plenty of oil but at a high price, gas prices may remain high but steady for decades, much like they are now. There is also the possibility that even if gas prices rise steadily, if economic and income growth kick in at a long-term rate of 4-6% (much like several developed Asian economies), incomes may rise to the extent that high gas prices would be less and less of a burden, much like they are not a burden to the affluent today.
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Old 06-26-2014, 06:44 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
12,416 posts, read 11,917,166 times
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Originally Posted by Chango View Post
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.
The polls I have seen suggest somewhere between 33% (low result, from a poorly worded poll put together by the automotive industry) and 50% of Americans are okay with self-driving cars right now. Some show significantly higher results, but these are online polls and thus I think skew a bit younger and more tech than the general population.

That's pretty much fine for initial uptake I think. Remember that If we're talking about 30 years out from now in contrast, there will be plenty of people who do not remember an era in their adult life when there weren't self-driving cars. Comfort with the technology should rise with each generation, just like many baby boomers are still not particularly good with computers, but virtually everyone under the age of 40 displays some comfort with them. I'm guessing my daughter (who is almost five) might have to learn to drive, but I'm not sure my son will ever have to if he doesn't want to.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rwiksell View Post
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.
From what I understand, a large proportion of the popularity of SUVs is the perceived "safety" of them by parents. This is both due to the added height off the road and the feeling that if in an accident, the sedan you hit might get trashed, but your car will be okay. If self-driving cars are really much safer there will be a huge uptake by parents when they are commercially available and affordable.
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Old 06-26-2014, 07:33 PM
 
Location: Youngstown, Oh.
4,893 posts, read 7,654,530 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rwiksell View Post
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.
If traffic laws remain unchanged, and self-driving technology is truly infallible, then roads will become safer. But, it's been suggested in this thread and others that, when self-driving cars are the norm, speeds can be increased, and driving lanes can be narrowed, allowing for a more efficient use of roads.
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Old 06-26-2014, 08:01 PM
 
9,520 posts, read 14,819,994 times
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Originally Posted by JR_C View Post
If traffic laws remain unchanged, and self-driving technology is truly infallible, then roads will become safer. But, it's been suggested in this thread and others that, when self-driving cars are the norm, speeds can be increased, and driving lanes can be narrowed, allowing for a more efficient use of roads.
I wouldn't expect speeds to be increased on city streets, but you can do some nice things on major roads if you have automated and predictable cars which can communicate with each other. For instance, consider that it's possible to have cars driving at sub-second following distances at 60+mph right now, but it's both dangerous and unstable; one perturbation for someone getting on or off and it flips to stop and go. Automated cars could manage that and avoid and/or damp the perturbations, effectively greatly increasing highway capacity. Also consider at-grade intersections; with co-operating cars you could manage them without either stops or traffic lights (though it could get a little hair-raising for the passengers, and you'd need grade-separated pedestrian paths; this one's probably unlikely)

All this is in the pretty far future though.
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Old 06-26-2014, 08:14 PM
 
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I don't have any problem with the idea of self-driving cars, but I don't think they will have all that much effect on the built environment of cities--they seem primarily like a means to reinforce the status quo of suburban sprawl. And I do kind of have a problem with the status quo of suburban sprawl.
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Old 06-26-2014, 08:19 PM
 
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Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
I don't think a rental is that inconvenient if you can really have one arrive within five minutes. There's also still numerous hassles one presumably would have owning an automated car.
I see people as irrational. My roomate was given a car for work, that included maintenance, and gasoline. He had to pay a small stipend for personal miles per week, but his superior made it very clear to him that all he should put down is token miles to keep the auditor happy. If he put his real personal miles he would make everyone else in the office look bad.

I thought that this was one of the greatest work perks I had ever seen. The only problem was that on no condition could he take the car out of the metro area. I said who cares, when you want to leave the city you just go rent a car. Even if you rent a car for 30 days per year, it will cost you a fraction of maintaining and licensing a car 24/7.

Sure enough he bought a car. Furthermore, I think he wasn't totally out of the ordinary.

So unless you can break people's pre-conceived notions, the majority won't go for it.
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Old 06-26-2014, 08:28 PM
 
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People aren't irrational, but they are creatures of habit. Owning a car has become a societal expectation, a transition into manhood. Saying you don't own a car, or don't want one, is a rejection of one of the most fundamental tenets of our society.

I bought a car because I had to have one for work (not to commute, but to transport people and things) and they wouldn't provide one for me. Once I switched jobs, I stopped driving to work and walked or took transit instead. I still have the last car I had when I had the old job, and drive it occasionally, but my plan is to junk it the next time it needs significant repair (anything over the replacement value of the car, which is probably like $1000) and get a Zipcar membership. Sometimes I use it when going out at night if it's too far to walk, but sometimes I use Uber because I don't want to lose my parking space. I don't think I would be too worried if the Uber driver was a robot. But I still don't think that robotic cars will have a dramatic effect on making our cities more walkable or similar to traditional cities. That's done by people using cars less, and the idea behind the robotic car seems to be to make people want to use them more.

Oh yeah, kids and robot cars. Do people think parents will let their 11 year old take a robot car wherever they want, unsupervised?
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Old 06-26-2014, 10:46 PM
 
5,772 posts, read 13,724,871 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
The lives of suburban children will be very, very different from now with automated cars. Even though most parents currently say they would not let their kids get into an automated car alone, that is bound to change if the high safety record continues and as people have growing comfort. Once that cultural barrier is breached, suburban kids will have essentially as much freedom as suburban adults do to travel where they want (parental controls permitted, of course). There will presumably be a lot more of a market for after-school clubs which occupy kids until their parents get home from work, for example. Teens might spend a lot less time online as well - as they can just head right over to their friend rather than text them.
Interesting picture of what might be. I really wonder about the last part, though (in bold). Up until a generation or two ago, teenagers, and even much younger children, walked to the homes of friends in their own neighborhoods, or would get together and roam the neighborhood in groups. There are probably a number of reasons that there is less of this kind of socializing now, but I suspect that at present the culture surrounding electronic communications is a significant reason.

Unless kids emerge from their deep immersion in this electronic world, I don't know that they'll be more likely to go visit friends face-to-face. If a kid today won't walk a couple of blocks to a friend's house because he'd rather send a quick text message, I don't see why the same kid would be any more inclined to get into a car and ride to the home of a friend who lived across town.

Last edited by ogre; 06-26-2014 at 11:42 PM..
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Old 06-27-2014, 12:33 AM
 
2,880 posts, read 4,615,119 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ogre View Post
Interesting picture of what might be. I really wonder about the last part, though (in bold). Up until a generation or two ago, teenagers, and even much younger children, walked to the homes of friends in their own neighborhoods, or would get together and roam the neighborhood in groups. There are probably a number of reasons that there is less of this kind of socializing now, but I suspect that at present the culture surrounding electronic communications is a significant reason.

Unless kids emerge from their deep immersion in this electronic world, I don't know that they'll be more likely to go visit friends face-to-face. If a kid today won't walk a couple of blocks to a friend's house because he'd rather send a quick text message, I don't see why the same kid would be any more inclined to get into a car and ride to the home of a friend who lived across town.
The freedom to do so might be one. No public transportation to deal with. Door to door travel. Of course, we're totally envisioning privilege here. This service will cost money. There would be control though. Online scheduling would only transport to the specified address with credit card billing. Kids are less restricted with cash for a bus, which they could take anyeffinwhere.

This is all speculative fiction in the end. Fun though. Other effects on suburban life would perhaps be less parental engagement in extracurricular activities, if they can just trundle kids off in a driverless cab rather than transporting them.
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Old 06-27-2014, 06:25 AM
Status: "Summer!" (set 16 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
86,990 posts, read 102,554,590 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wburg View Post
People aren't irrational, but they are creatures of habit. Owning a car has become a societal expectation, a transition into manhood. Saying you don't own a car, or don't want one, is a rejection of one of the most fundamental tenets of our society.

I bought a car because I had to have one for work (not to commute, but to transport people and things) and they wouldn't provide one for me. Once I switched jobs, I stopped driving to work and walked or took transit instead. I still have the last car I had when I had the old job, and drive it occasionally, but my plan is to junk it the next time it needs significant repair (anything over the replacement value of the car, which is probably like $1000) and get a Zipcar membership. Sometimes I use it when going out at night if it's too far to walk, but sometimes I use Uber because I don't want to lose my parking space. I don't think I would be too worried if the Uber driver was a robot. But I still don't think that robotic cars will have a dramatic effect on making our cities more walkable or similar to traditional cities. That's done by people using cars less, and the idea behind the robotic car seems to be to make people want to use them more.

Oh yeah, kids and robot cars. Do people think parents will let their 11 year old take a robot car wherever they want, unsupervised?
Since most people on this forum aren't parents, probably they do think that!
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