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Old 06-25-2014, 02:58 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Let's say that 30 years hence, as people are now predicting, the majority of road traffic comes from automated vehicles. All cars have had safe automated driving for over a decade. Legislators are actually beginning to ban human-operated cars from some roadways, and it seems likely that once the legacy drivers age out, human-driven vehicles will be banned entirely from public roadways. You can easily press a button on whatever replaces a cellphone, and generally hail a car which will come to your current location within five minutes. People may still want cars as status symbols, but there is no longer any particular requirement to own a car, except maybe for rare people who spend much of their work time on the road, for whom the rental charges would be more expensive than ownership costs.

People have talked extensively about how this would change cities, because it's pretty easily conceivable. Since people can rent cars by the hour, they'll rarely be parked (just used by other people) hence they'll be a lot less of a need for parking spaces, including lots and garages. Due to solving the "last mile" issue with using transit, they could reduce dramatically the need to drive into major urban areas, meaning major arterial roads and highways could be narrowed. Pedestrian safety should be considerably higher, as self-driving cars would be less likely to inadvertently run over people, meaning friendlier streets. All of this isn't new in the grand scheme of things, it's just a return to the classic form of the pre-automobile city.

But what happens to suburbs is a bigger question. Suburbs have been engineered around cars in their current form since the 1920s. Clearly there are some things which could be predicted - for example, it's more likely in the future that new-construction suburban houses will have one-car garages or even no cars at all rather than the 2-3 car garages now common in new construction. But on issues of road patterns and overall housing style, I'm honestly a bit stumped as to the changes. I'd like to hear from the peanut gallery what you'd expect the changes in outlying suburban areas to be.
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Old 06-25-2014, 03:12 PM
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Location: NYC
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I'm not seeing how automated vehicles will mean most drivers would rent vehicles. A rental requires planning ahead, waiting for the car to arrive, it's inefficient for those who drive often. In between uses, a rental automated car would either need to be parked while waiting for the next driver or move around to get to the next drive, creating more traffic.
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Old 06-25-2014, 03:23 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
I'm not seeing how automated vehicles will mean most drivers would rent vehicles. A rental requires planning ahead, waiting for the car to arrive, it's inefficient for those who drive often. In between uses, a rental automated car would either need to be parked while waiting for the next driver or move around to get to the next drive, creating more traffic.
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. You'd need to fill the tank with gas, wash the car, and get routine maintenance done, for example. All of this could probably be automated as well (just send your car off...somewhere...and it comes back clean, topped off, and well-oiled) but that would still mean added costs and perhaps a hassle regarding scheduling. Add to the cost of insuring your car, making sure the registration is up to date, and in some states paying property tax on your car, and you have additional costs.

Still, I see it as more a generational thing. I doubt most people who are my age would voluntarily give up car ownership in their old age, even if they gave up driving. But I do think that many people who grew up with subscription-based services would prefer to just keep this hassle-free way of doing things rather than embark upon something new. Indeed, I am guessing in the future few parents (even those who own cars themselves) will buy cars for their teenagers when they can just have a subscription and/or use the family car in off hours (with the knowledge that they aren't going to wreck it). This alone would make families with more than two cars rare in the suburbs.

It also seems worth mentioning that regarding media, we have moved away from a model of direct ownership of copies of the media to owning a "licence" for the media. The way movies and to a lesser extent music are now consumed in particular is mainly on a subscription-based format. So I do think people will feel willing to give up car ownership, even if it does create some additional hassles and not always make perfect economic sense.
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Old 06-25-2014, 03:47 PM
 
Location: Sinking in the Great Salt Lake
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Well, considering there are still quite a few 1980's cars still on the road and since the middle class has been slowly bleeding dry since even before then coupled with the large strides made in the quality and longevity of late model cars, I'd say it's highly unlikely good old fashioned "manual drive" cars will be all gone in 30 years, or even the minority.

Instead, we'll start getting self-drive "cruise control" towards the end of the 20-teens that will eventually become ubiquitous in the mid to late 2020s and into the 2030s. We'll use it in places that we'd use cruise control today, basically long trips at constant speeds.

In the meantime, new car prices will continue to increase along will the price of a gallon of gas, and with wages likely to remain flat more and more folks will find themselves priced out of the new car market... and eventually automobiles altogether.

Who knows... we may end up like the Cuba car scene where cars are kept running forever and the roads are still full of 1950's models.
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Old 06-25-2014, 04:44 PM
 
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Smart money would turn errand car service into online shopping delivery service, Amazon gone wild. Rental lots would be located in malls that double as, or are converted to, fulfilment centers for everything from groceries to appliances. We know consumer trends with electronic stores are that people use them to test the "feel" of things, then go home and order the model cheaper online. I envision malls would adapt their business model to gain revenue somehow through onsite trial.

I would envision entertainment centers collected around such malls. Bars and nightclubs in particular would be part of the outing as there would be no drunk driving. Or those who don't go out would go out less often as stuff can arrive at their doorstep.

Houses can either be smaller or use the unnecessary garage space for living space. Driveways extend housing space even more. Because of automated delivery and personal transportation, walkability wouldn't be a priority. I know that sounds like Hades to some folks here. But though I was socially active I loved just being home, even living in the city.

School busing would cease to matter. Districts would face policy decisions on integrating kids from any neighborhood and that could open a can of political worms. Parents would be more free to work, perhaps having their kids delivered to the office where companies offer after school rec centers.
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Old 06-25-2014, 07:29 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chango View Post
Instead, we'll start getting self-drive "cruise control" towards the end of the 20-teens that will eventually become ubiquitous in the mid to late 2020s and into the 2030s. We'll use it in places that we'd use cruise control today, basically long trips at constant speeds.
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunjee View Post
Smart money would turn errand car service into online shopping delivery service, Amazon gone wild. Rental lots would be located in malls that double as, or are converted to, fulfillment centers for everything from groceries to appliances. We know consumer trends with electronic stores are that people use them to test the "feel" of things, then go home and order the model cheaper online. I envision malls would adapt their business model to gain revenue somehow through onsite trial.

I would envision entertainment centers collected around such malls. Bars and nightclubs in particular would be part of the outing as there would be no drunk driving. Or those who don't go out would go out less often as stuff can arrive at their doorstep.
One can easily imagine small automated vehicles making deliveries to customers, but there's one minor issue - how to get the products from the curb to the house. You'd either need to have things dropped off when the customer is home, or have specialized robots get off the vehicle and drop it at the door. Or maybe we'll just have special standardized mailboxes fronting on the street. That could interface very easily with an automated delivery vehicle.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunjee View Post
Houses can either be smaller or use the unnecessary garage space for living space. Driveways extend housing space even more. Because of automated delivery and personal transportation, walkability wouldn't be a priority. I know that sounds like Hades to some folks here. But though I was socially active I loved just being home, even living in the city.
I agree that the suburbs of the future won't necessarily be any more well-walked. They will be safer to walk in, but there really won't be any more reason to walk within them.

I do wonder if setbacks might shrink a bit though. Being close to a road became undesirable in the automotive era because of the noise and pollution involved. But if automated cars do end up being much safer than humans, they can be reinforced a lot less, which in turn means they'll be able to make due with lower horsepower, quieter electric engines. I don't expect zero setback to become popular outside of urban areas, but setbacks might routinely be smaller than 15 feet again in some suburbs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunjee View Post
School busing would cease to matter. Districts would face policy decisions on integrating kids from any neighborhood and that could open a can of political worms. Parents would be more free to work, perhaps having their kids delivered to the office where companies offer after school rec centers.
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.
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Old 06-25-2014, 09:13 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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Two things:

1. You would likely still need parking, because travel demand isn't uniform throughout the day. If 1/3 of the population of a city is in a car during rush hour, that means the city will need that many cars to serve them. But at 3am, hardly any will be needed and they'll have to go somewhere.

2. What happens if a pedestrian jaywalks in front of a driverless car? I assume the car will be programmed to try to stop. Pedestrians might abuse that though. Now that they know the car is programmed to stop, they can kind of act like they have right of way.
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Old 06-25-2014, 09:21 PM
 
3,309 posts, read 3,111,144 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
I'm not seeing how automated vehicles will mean most drivers would rent vehicles. A rental requires planning ahead, waiting for the car to arrive, it's inefficient for those who drive often. In between uses, a rental automated car would either need to be parked while waiting for the next driver or move around to get to the next drive, creating more traffic.
Same.

To further add to this, short-term car rentals are already a thing with Zipcar and similar services. Those are growing more popular, but I don't see how automated driving fundamentally changes the already existing current business model.
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Old 06-25-2014, 10:44 PM
 
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In general, I'm pretty unconvinced that driverless cars will reshape our society that dramatically.

Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
Let's say that 30 years hence, as people are now predicting, the majority of road traffic comes from automated vehicles. All cars have had safe automated driving for over a decade. Legislators are actually beginning to ban human-operated cars from some roadways, and it seems likely that once the legacy drivers age out, human-driven vehicles will be banned entirely from public roadways.
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.

Quote:
You can easily press a button on whatever replaces a cellphone, and generally hail a car which will come to your current location within five minutes. People may still want cars as status symbols, but there is no longer any particular requirement to own a car, except maybe for rare people who spend much of their work time on the road, for whom the rental charges would be more expensive than ownership costs.
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?

Quote:
People have talked extensively about how this would change cities, because it's pretty easily conceivable. Since people can rent cars by the hour, they'll rarely be parked (just used by other people) hence they'll be a lot less of a need for parking spaces, including lots and garages.
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.

Quote:
Due to solving the "last mile" issue with using transit, they could reduce dramatically the need to drive into major urban areas, meaning major arterial roads and highways could be narrowed.
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?

Quote:
Pedestrian safety should be considerably higher, as self-driving cars would be less likely to inadvertently run over people, meaning friendlier streets. All of this isn't new in the grand scheme of things, it's just a return to the classic form of the pre-automobile city.
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?

Quote:
But what happens to suburbs is a bigger question. Suburbs have been engineered around cars in their current form since the 1920s. Clearly there are some things which could be predicted - for example, it's more likely in the future that new-construction suburban houses will have one-car garages or even no cars at all rather than the 2-3 car garages now common in new construction. But on issues of road patterns and overall housing style, I'm honestly a bit stumped as to the changes. I'd like to hear from the peanut gallery what you'd expect the changes in outlying suburban areas to be.
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 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?

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.

And, as I mentioned in the beginning, this assumes that somehow these robot car brains are utterly infallible, unhackable, more reliable than any system every designed by humans, and massively scalable with no bugs. I consider this highly unlikely. But even if it happens, there are still plenty of problems--and unanswered questions.
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Old 06-26-2014, 08:20 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by memph View Post
1. You would likely still need parking, because travel demand isn't uniform throughout the day. If 1/3 of the population of a city is in a car during rush hour, that means the city will need that many cars to serve them. But at 3am, hardly any will be needed and they'll have to go somewhere.
It is true, this is a problem. It's one reason why uptake of car sharing will be much higher in cities than suburbs. 9-to-5 commuters will likely need cars for some time yet.

That said, some things could probably be done to lessen the issues. For example, I expect that cars could be programmed to do all sorts of automated errands in the middle of the night. It would be the ideal time, for example, to go get washed and serviced. The cars could also make package deliveries for people in the dead of the night as well.

And even then, there are a ton of people in suburbs who don't use cars in rush hour. Stay-at-home moms, retirees, people who work irregular hours, and teenagers for example. Automated vehicles would work for all these populations. This could either be through enrolling in a subscription service, or else having one owned car which drives back home after dropping off the "breadwinner," and is then available for tasks around the neighborhood.

Quote:
Originally Posted by memph View Post
2. What happens if a pedestrian jaywalks in front of a driverless car? I assume the car will be programmed to try to stop. Pedestrians might abuse that though. Now that they know the car is programmed to stop, they can kind of act like they have right of way.
Automated cars already are better at noting road obstructions than humans under clear conditions. Their LIDAR systems work even in the dark (meaning no need for headlights) and work at a greater distance than human eyes (allowing for less sudden breaking).

My understanding is the biggest technical issue with them today is they don't work well in the rain, which interferes with LIDAR. This is a big (probably the biggest) technical hurdle left in automated driving.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ALackOfCreativity View Post
To further add to this, short-term car rentals are already a thing with Zipcar and similar services. Those are growing more popular, but I don't see how automated driving fundamentally changes the already existing current business model.
Zipcar isn't as convenient, because you actually have to walk to a stall, which in many cases could be far from where you live. And a car might not be available when you need it if you don't reserve in time. The only people I know who used it tended to do so irregularly - people who lived in cities where they didn't use a car more than 1-2 times per month, and only rented the Zipcar for trips outside of the city or perhaps large shopping trips where mass transit wouldn't cut it.

Uber or Lyft are actually closer analogues to the self-driving future, given in major cities you can just press a button on your phone and a car arrives at wherever you are within around five minutes. That said, you still have to deal with getting into a car with a stranger who is driving. Also, ultimately the cost for self-driven taxi service should be lower than Uber or Lyft today (which is already generally lower than traditional cabs), as technology costs should steadily drop, and labor costs will be totally eliminated.
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