Tuesday, January 05, 2016

I Can't Wait to Be Transported by My Robot Masters

Mercedes self-driving car at the 2015 CES (Fortune)
The two-cars-in-every-garage template that shaped American life for over half a century will not be around much longer [bold added]:
Today, cars are people’s second-largest household expenditure, and they sit unused 23 hours a day. When they’re on the road, some vast proportion of them are looking for parking

An average of 30 percent of all cars in any urban downtown are cruising for a space—wasting time, worsening congestion, and adding to vehicle-miles traveled. “If someone described that model to you and didn’t tell you it was cars, you’d say it was ripe for disruption,” GM’s Ammann says. A 2015 study of Lisbon, Portugal, by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development found that a fleet of just 26,000 TaxiBots—hypothetical on-demand, autonomous carpool vehicles—could replace every one of the city’s 203,000 cars. Think about that: the same population, 565,000 people, served by a tenth the number of cars.
This is not a brief for mass transit. The 21st-century transportation network is far removed from the top-down design beloved by central planners. It combines needs, resources, and pathways--what's different now is the degree of information, computational power, and speed of communication--to get people and goods from Point A to Point B at the maximum speed at the lowest cost. Trains, taxis, Uber, or RobotCo will all be available for selection by a mobile phone app, just as Amazon displays pages of choices for anything one wants to buy.
This decentralized approach to remapping our physical roads is fundamentally (and finally) changing everything about how we get around. Bus, train, ferry, Lyft, self-­driving car, hyperloop, or a combination of all of these things—it doesn’t matter. Think of it this way: To the new transportation supernetwork, you and I are just data. It doesn’t matter where we want to go; it just knows how to get us there—faster, cheaper, and utterly in control.
The VW I'll keep, the Toyota behind it probably not.
I drove cars with manual transmissions-only for the first fifteen (15) years after I got my driver's license. Automatic transmissions meant some loss of control, which I found difficult to accept. Today, only a seldom-driven Volkswagen bug remains from those clutch-happy days. (Control is an illusion, little grasshopper.)

I, for one, can't wait to be transported in a self-driving car which I probably won't own. Getting rid of the tons of metal taking up space in the garage and driveway will be liberating.

But I'll probably still keep the VW.

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