The Era Of Autonomous Vehicles Has Arrived

Autonomous vehicles are no longer perpetually “five years away.” They are here now. Planners must act now to ensure they don't degrade city life.

1 minute read

May 14, 2024, 9:00 AM PDT

By Josh Stephens @jrstephens310


White Waymo self-driving taxi on street in San Francisco, California with brick buildings in background.

Waymo is available in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. | David Elkins / Adobe Stock

“For nearly as long as I've followed planning and transportation, the running joke, recited in conference sessions and at happy hours, has been that self-driving cars are at least five years away -- and always will be. But, no. A few days ago, I boarded an otherwise empty Jaguar I-Pace, festooned with sensors, and driven according to a dataset aggregating the wisdom gained from tens of millions of miles of driving.”

Jevon's Paradox tell us that the more efficient something is, the more heavily it gets consumed. What does that mean for safe, affordable, carbon-lite transportation?

“Jevon will get jump-started when, inevitably, some developer in Hemet, Poway, Camarillo, or Pleasanton  builds huge houses on huge tracts of land and give away free Waymo memberships with each one of them. The discomfort of the hour or so it would take to reach downtown San Diego, Los Angeles, or San Francisco from the exurbs will give way to the pleasantries of reading, watching movies, getting foot massages, or whatever. Super-commuting could become robo-commuting, and we're going to have a huge traffic problem on our hands.”

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