Randal O'Toole asks, Dude, Where's My Driverless Car?

For decades, people have been talking about how driverless cars would make highway traffic a thing of the past. Randal O'Toole asks, where are they?

"The obstacles to driverless cars, says General Motors vice president of research Larry Burns, are institutional, not technical. The biggest institutional problem is known as the chicken-and-egg problem: In order to have driverless cars, both the owners of the cars and the owners of the highways have to make an investment. Neither are likely to do so until the other one acts first.

The Antiplanner would like to solicit the help of both faithful allies and loyal opponents in solving this problem. I am particularly seeking solutions that require minimal government involvement yet introduce the benefits of driverless cars as fast as possible.

You can make jokes about computers crashing and so forth. But if your car was made in the last 20 or so years, it already has lots of computer processors in it, and they are probably among the most reliable parts of your car. Since each processor has a single, dedicated job, it is much less prone to error than personal computers that must deal with all of the different kinds of sometimes poorly written software users load on their machines."

Full Story: Dude, Where’s My Driverless Car?



Absurd Claims For Driverless Cars

"Congestion would become a thing of the past because roadway capacities would at least quadruple. Highways would be much safer and traffic could safely move at higher speeds in many places."

Do these claims sound familiar? Sixty years ago, people were saying the same things about urban freeways: they would end congestion by increasing road capacity, be safer than roads with crossings, and allow higher speeds.

By now, we should all know that, by increasing capacity and speeds, freeways generated a huge amount of traffic by changing patterns of living, working, and shopping so they require longer distance traveling.

If driverless cars quadrupled freeway capacity and increased freeway speeds, they would obviously have the same effect: more sprawl, more mega-malls, more remote office parks - which, of course, means more energy consumption and more greenhouse gas emissions.

Could it be that the author of this article has never heard the phrase "induced demand"?

At this point in the history of the world's environment, I don't think we can afford to repeat the errors of the 1950s.

(PS: Note the error in the Planetizen description: "For decades, people have been talking about how driverless cars would make highway traffic a thing of the past." People have said that driverless cars would make congestion a thing of the past, not traffic.)

Charles Siegel

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