The Brookings Institute recently released a report highlighting some of what we’ve already known about our sclerotic local governments: new technologies will undermine much of how they do business, and they are unprepared to accommodate “even the most conservative predictions of the future.” Among the foreseeable technological disruptions that the report explores, the advent of driverless cars may have an especially direct and pronounced impact on local governments:
Consider the following. This past year, the City of Los Angeles generated $161 million from parking violations. Red light violations have a fee of $490. Californians caught driving under the influence are fined up to $15,649 for a first-offense misdemeanor DUI conviction and up to $22,492 for an under-21 equivalent. Cities in California collect, on average, $40 million annually in towing fees that they divide with towing firms. Simply put, the hundreds of millions of dollars generated from poor driving-related behaviors provide significant funding for transportation infrastructure and maintenance, public schools, judicial salaries, domestic violence advocacy, conservation, and many other public services
Driverless cars will be more efficient and safer (and greener!) than regular cars, so they may eliminate much of this revenue. And as for driverless cars, so for many technologies that will come online. They will make much existing governmental structures or procedures obsolete—and governments must change in response. Here’s how Brookings puts it:
We assert that changes on the not-t00-distant horizon will require local governments to be agile, nimble, and dynamic. Governments must contend with an increase in the diversity of stakeholders, limited capacity to predict the future, and an erosion of governing authority. A 20th century approach to governance will not cut it anymore; the outlook for current governance models is exceedingly bleak. Adaptability and recovery from shocks will be increasingly critical. Lean, nimble, proactive government systems must be designed.
It’s nice to see some of the issues we frequently discuss gaining traction. Good governance is a matter of creating smart institutional structures, which function to serve the American public efficiently. The report should serve as a much-needed wake up call to local authorities and to the American public that we must change our approach to governance. Read the whole thing here.