If you believe a lot of what you read these days, you’ll know that self-driving cars are about to turn the planet upside own. Advocates — and there are many — say autonomous vehicles are ‘disruptors’ that are almost certain to reduce the amount we drive, the number of cars we own, traffic congestion, the need for parking and and the need to employ humans as bus drivers/taxi drivers/truck drivers.
Wow! Cartwheels! Almost sounds too good to be true!
Me? Well, I’m having trouble getting on board, although I certainly believe cars will have more automated safety features and there will be some hands-free driving features.
I’m the first to admit my skepticism may be directly correlated to me being an Increasingly Older Goat (age 50, to be exact). Or maybe I’m just too dumb to get it. That said, I’ve been around long enough to witness the Law of Unintended Consequences and that many claims never come to pass (see: email increasing workplace efficiency, the prediction by those in the medical industry and Big Pharm that opioids aren’t very addictive and Big Ag’s and Big Chem’s predictions that genetically-modified crops would increase yields).
So, I have questions. If you know answer(s) to any of following, feel free to provide them in the comments and/or explain to me how poorly informed I am.
It’s often said autonomous vehicles will use road space more efficiently. How much more capacity will self-driving cars be able to squeeze out of a place such as Southern California? What happens when that capacity is reached?
Another way of asking the question: what if self-driving cars makes travel by car even more popular? Wouldn’t that lead to more traffic congestion?
How much will the average autonomous vehicle car cost?
For what it’s worth, the average of cost of a new car or light truck in the U.S. was about $33,500 last year, so says the experts. I suspect a car that can drive itself would be more, just like my $650 iPhone cost more than my old dumb phone that was mounted on the wall and only made phone calls.
Will humans still be allowed to drive?
If not, who pays to get all of us into autonomous vehicles?
Why should we believe that humans will give up driving?
Think “cold dead hands.”
If only self-driving cars were allowed on the road, how would that impact the number of car fatalities in the country?
Any numbers out there? I’m well aware of the federal stats that show the many poor decisions that human drivers make.
Safety is the reason most-often given for developing self-driving cars? Are there any studies that show if there are greater safety gains to be had from greater enforcement of traffic laws versus self-driving laws?
Because in my neck of the woods, traffic laws are rarely enforced, the reason I see countless drivers rolling through stop signs, driving illegally through crosswalks, running through red lights, speeding and (most of all) fiddling with their Dumb Phones while their vehicles are in motion.
How much faster or slower will autonomous vehicles be than current vehicles?
I’m asking because speed has in recent times been a factor in about 30 percent of fatal crashes.
Why is an autonomous bus better than one with a driver?
Is it safer? Because buses are already very safe. Faster? More predictable? Cheaper? Any proof of any of that?
If I go out and get stupid drunk, can I still ride alone in my autonomous vehicle?
If improving safety is a goal, it seems like I should be allowed.
If I go out and get stupid drunk, can I still ride in an on demand autonomous vehicle with other on demand riders?
If I’m sober, I probably don’t want to ride with someone who is drunk.
If I get drunk and barf in an on demand autonomous vehicle, who knows to clean it up before the next passengers get in?
I say this as someone who has been nearly barfed upon in a yellow cab. But at least there was a driver who got the barfee out of the car on time.
Will the software that guides autonomous vehicles be better in some brands than others?
Reassure me that the software in (for example) a German-made BMW will communicate well with the software in a (for example) Chinese-made Volvo S60. And reassure me that the software will not be using Google Translate when it comes time to say “you go first.”
Will some car companies offer self-driving cars that drive more aggressively?
If so, that’s probably the brand that I want.
How much will it cost to subscribe to an on-demand autonomous vehicle?
I’m talking the unlimited plan that allows me to go anywhere within 25 miles of my house whenever I want.
How do we know that such on demand vehicles will lead to lower rates of vehicle ownership?
After all, many folks say it’s better to own than lease or rent.
If I own a self-driving car, will the cost of my auto insurance go down?
If I’m likely to never cause a crash, I would like lower premiums please.
Will self-driving cars and buses and ride hailing and ride sharing be so good that they gut the need for old-timey fixed bus and train routes?
I’ll answer that one myself: almost certainly not. Despite the promises, self-driving cars are likely to make traffic worse, not better. And cars are expensive no matter whether you’re buying, renting or going for a taxi ride — will they really be within financial reach of the many low-income riders or fixed-income riders who use Metro and other transit agencies every day?
Whether it’s an old-timey car that requires a human driver or not, there’s little evidence that Americans are ready to spend less time in cars. And there’s no evidence that the companies developing the technology are going to give it away for free. It’s probably realistic to expect that at some point the Ubers of the world will need to make money, too.