There are two parallel concerns about autonomous vehicles (A/Vs)
- New A/V services will out-compete public transportation on ease, cost, and flexibility. If you can summon a driver-less car to take you directly from your home to work for approximately the same cost as bus fare, why would you willingly choose to put up with the vagaries of using public transport? This could lead to a ‘death spiral’ where public transit operators experience diminishing farebox recovery and customer base.
- Rapid deployment of A/Vs will lead to an untold number of “zero occupant vehicles” crowding roadways. These vehicles may be carrying small amounts of cargo or simply operating in a dead-head mode. Instead of the promised land of free-flowing traffic, the advent of A/Vs may lead to unprecedented spike in traffic.
As I stated in my last post on A/Vs, basically everything you read, watch, or hear about them is speculation at this point. We simply do not know enough about how they will be deployed to say with confidence how they will affect our cities and our transportation decisions. We do know that the genie isn’t going back in the bottle – A/Vs will be among us soon.
The question is one of how they will integrate with our current transportation systems. Here is one concept I’d like to explore I’m tentatively calling the A/V Publico – aka a 21st century version of the Share Taxi.