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Image by Flickr user yyasuda

Image by Flickr user yyasuda

We just can't stop talking and writing about them. Robin Chase, former founder of Zipcar opines:

When my city-raised son was two, he'd scream bus! with full-bodied delight whenever he saw one. It's quite possible that his yet-to-be-conceived youngest child won't learn that word, nor ever ride in a "taxi," "shuttle," or "vanpool." These fine gradations for types of shared vehicles will disappear much like telephone booths from city streets — and not to be replaced by the likes of Zipcar, Car2go, or Lyft. Rather, it is the fully autonomous car that is going to be game-changing. But it is a future with two trajectories: heaven and hell.

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So policy makers, taxpayers, road warriors, city lovers: Which path forward will we choose? Our future hinges on two things. First, will the cost for autonomous vehicles be high enough that each vehicle will need to be used well? If so, the economic imperative to share the cars will set us down the efficient-use path. Second, will we add a per-mile fee for human-free passenger vehicles? We will need that to temper our insatiable desire to send machines out to do our bidding.

My previous thoughts on driverless cars here. A money quote:

In essence, I think this technology would likely improve the lifestyle choice of both the pro and anti-car crowds. I don’t see it as either a panacea, or a plague.

In truth, it’s hard for me to believe right now that this is much more than a futuristic fantasy. The concept has to overcome not just technological hurdles, but also our worldwide energy supply issues, climate change, and our own human nature that will have so many millions of people loathe to ever give up control of their vehicle to a machine. If my intuition is wrong, and it does become ubiquitous, look for it to displace technologies and systems that people find necessary, but undesirable.

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