Driverless Cars Are Coming, But They'll Bring Congestion and More Fuel Consumption

Although driverless vehicles are being touted for their potential to reduce congestion and fuel consumption, among other benefits, Casey B. Mulligan argues they'll actually induce the reverse.
April 26, 2013, 7am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"Driverless vehicles are expected to help children, the blind, the elderly and others who currently cannot safely drive themselves. Helped by their huge amounts of data and computing power, driverless cars are also purported to reduce traffic congestion and nationwide fuel consumption by driving smarter."

"But smarter driving will lead to more driving, because smarter driving reduces the cost per mile of vehicle usage," argues Mulligan, an economics professor at the University of Chicago. "The end result of additional driving could be more traffic and more aggregate fuel consumption."

For Mulligan, this might not necessarily be bad news though. "Even if driverless vehicles led to more congestion and more aggregate fuel consumption, driverless vehicles would be a welcome technological advance, because the billions of hours that people already devote to driving could be put to alternative uses."

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Published on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 in The New York Times
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