The Future of Transportation: Well-Funded Buses (Not Self-Driving Cars)

While autonomous vehicles still face regulatory and technical challenges, investment in basic transportation infrastructure like buses and bike lanes can go a long way toward improving safety and taking cars off the road.

2 minute read

May 12, 2021, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


D-Link Bus

Philip Lange / Shutterstock

Despite rosy predictions that autonomous vehicles would rule American roads by now, writes Jacob Silverman in The New Republic, the technology still faces plenty of challenges, signaled in part by major ride-sharing companies shedding their autonomous vehicle divisions. "Across the industry, autonomous vehicle efforts have proven to be stubbornly difficult to bring to fruition, consuming billions of R&D dollars and thousands of engineering hours. Meanwhile, the infrastructure needed to support autonomous cars—government investment in roads, highways, communications, along with proper regulatory oversight—remains inadequate to the challenge." But in order to increase safety on roads, "[w]hat we need are not more energy-efficient cars or self-driving cars … but fewer cars entirely," argues SIlverman. 

"In contrast to all the hype and expense of autonomous vehicles—along with the regulatory and technical and economic uncertainty—bicycles, sidewalks, and public transport work exceedingly well. They are known quantities that can be strengthened and made more accessible with a fraction of the resources that have been poured into A.V. research. They are safe and enhance the urban experience. They contribute few, if any, emissions and don’t enrich a handful of oligarchs at the expense of the common interest."

Instead of investing in "very expensive and glitzy pilot projects" that work, at most, as tourist attractions, Silverman proposes that "a better way of saving lives is to have fewer cars on the road, replaced by mass transit and other public options."

Monday, May 10, 2021 in The New Republic

Aerial view of Oceanwide Plaza skyscrapers covered with graffiti tags.

LA’s Abandoned Towers Loom as a “$1.2 Billion Ruin of Global Capital”

Oceanwide Plaza, shuttered mid-construction after its developer filed for bankruptcy, has stood vacant on prime Los Angeles real estate since 2019.

May 21, 2024 - The Architect's Newspaper

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Acela train at Wilmington station in Wilmington, Delaware.

The Passenger Rail Revival Is Here

For the first time in decades, multiple rail projects are moving forward that could have a transformative impact on train travel in the United States.

May 21, 2024 - Route Fifty

California Governor Gavin Newsom announcing funding for tiny home shelter project in front of quick-build tiny home shelter unit.

California’s Tiny Home Pledge Still on Paper, One Year Later

A promise to fund 1,200 tiny homes for unhoused residents in four cities as a way to rapidly and cost-effectively provide shelter has yet to yield tangible results, but projects are moving ahead in some cities.

May 24 - CALmatters

Residential neighborhood in Colorado with fall foliage and snowy mountains in background.

Colorado Ends Non-Family Occupancy Limits

Local jurisdictions will no longer be able to limit how many unrelated adults can live in a household, a move that supporters say will help lower housing costs and help older adults supplement their incomes and stay in their homes.

May 24 - Strong Towns

A white crosswalk painted by Crosswalk Collective LA in Los Angeles, California.

Guerilla Urbanism Spurs Action From Cities

Rather than take a hostile approach to DIY urbanism, some cities are using guerilla efforts as an opportunity to understand critical infrastructure gaps.

May 24 - Smart Cities Dive

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.