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The Future
The Surprising Ways Self-Driving Cars Will Change the World

We sit on the cusp of a transportation revolution, as companies race to be first to market with a working self-driving car. We’ve been tracking this technology for some time now, and like many have been intrigued by its promise to reduce (or even eliminate) traffic accidents, to help cities improve their public transit options, or even to hold off the pension tsunami. There’s still so much we haven’t delved into, but thankfully Jonathan Margolis has devised a list of some of the myriad impacts of these cars for the FT. He divides these into two categories: utopian and dystopian. First, a selection from the utopian list:

• Car parks are an urban eyesore but their days are numbered if car ownership diminishes. Self-driving cars will rarely park. Instead, they will circulate in cities between passengers. Multi-storey car parks could be turned into homes. Domestic garages and driveways may be turned into green space or living rooms.

• Ugly road signs and lines will become a thing of the past. Autonomous cars do not need them. The cityscape and rural views will be improved.

• The cost of personal transport will plummet, according to Barclays, from between $1 and $1.60 a mile to as little as 8 cents a mile…Transport could even be free. When you book a ride in a self-driving taxi and accept ads played at you, the cost could reduce to zero.

But we can’t have the good without the bad, and the dystopian section may be even more interesting. Here’s a sample of the new problems self-driving cars will create:

• Hacking will be a menace. Individuals will try to dismantle their cars’ software, causing accidents. Organised hackers and terrorists will seek to cause large accidents.

• Thrill-seekers could play an updated game of chicken, in which they run in front of a self-driving car to see if it uses its superhuman reaction time to swerve into a lamp post.

• If the cost of going a block or two by car is negligible — or zero — fitness and health could decline.

Read the whole thing. It’s a quick but thoughtful engagement with one of the most important and disruptive trends we’ll be dealing with over the next couple of decades, and if nothing else it will give you some easy bullet points to kick off an interesting conversation at your next dinner party.

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  • Angel Martin

    “The cost of personal transport will plummet, according to Barclays, from between $1 and $1.60 a mile to as little as 8 cents a mile…Transport could even be free. When you book a ride in a self-driving taxi and accept ads played at you, the cost could reduce to zero.”

    Sorry, this is too much like “we will comb our hair with ray guns” style futurist crap.

  • ——————————

    Yikes!
    What a bleak outlook for future personal freedom and independence…even George Jetson got to drive his own vehicle….

    • Kneave Riggall

      He THOUGHT he was driving!

  • rheddles

    Thrill-seekers could play an updated game of chicken, in which they run
    in front of a self-driving car to see if it uses its superhuman
    reaction time to swerve into a lamp post.

    This isn’t dystopian, it’s darwinian.

  • CaliforniaStark

    Nice to speculate about the future, but at present self-driving technology is not ready for prime time. Self-driving cars do not do well in the snow, or on older roads with worn lane markings, or in situations their computers have not been programmed to adequately response.

    http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2017/03/25/uber-suspends-self-driving-car-program-after-arizona-crash.html

    • Wayne Lusvardi

      how do you get the car to stop at a fast food drive through? or a half hour lunch? or drive across unmapped desert land on a dirt road where there are many hazards? how does a self driving car drive through water 1 foot high? driverless cars will work better for older drivers who only drive locally for errands. and what do you do when the vehicle is going on wrong route and you can’t stop it?
      it is sort of a disneyland autotopia fantasy. and how long would you have to wait for an available car to show up at your home — deal killer? and how would we keep someone from car jacking the vehicle to Mexico or dismantle it for parts?

  • Andrew Allison

    You overlooked one dystopian result: less telecommuting [/grin]

  • PCB

    Seems kind of optimistic and a little far-fetched; what, are folks to travel to work one at a time, as they wait for a communal car to drop off the first person before swinging by to pick them up next in line, or will there just be 10,000 driverless at rush-hour?

  • J K Brown

    Do you really think self-driving cars will still be the big thing after a bunch of middle class people are left to drown as the public transportation dependent citizens of New Orleans were?

    Sure self-driving will become a service, but private, human driven vehicles will only go away by government violence and it will sooner or later lead to real violence.

  • Old Gunny

    See “Remote Work Isn’t Working for IBM” posted on this site March 22, 2017, 6:57 AM

  • Mark Hamilton

    I rode in one of the self-driving ubers recently. Definitely not ready for prime time as the driver had to take over the controls quite a bit. Also, the car had no ability to detect potholes and we just drilled one after another after another.

  • Joe Eagar

    The bit about not needing parking lots is absurd. If cars aren’t parked in lots they can only be one place: “circulating” in the road network, i.e. causing traffic jams. What the author is really predicting is that people won’t own cars individually, which I find equally absurd.

    The deal breaker may be hacking, and I suspect we’re going to have to ban Internet use in driverless cars. There will be some sort of short-range wireless network, but it’ll be isolated from the net. If you talk to security experts, many believe it simply isn’t possible to guarantee computer security for anything connected to the Internet, not over the long term. It’s pretty common for hackers to take over large numbers of computers at once to do their bidding (so-called “botnets”), and if terrorists ever did that to self-driving cars, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of deaths.

    This is a test of software engineering’s professionalism and ethics. So far (and speaking as a software engineer who’s done a little bit of work in this area) it’s failing. As professionals, it’s our job to inform the public of the dangers of anything this big. If we can’t keep terrorists from hacking driverless cars from the internet, well, ethics demand we lobby the government to pass regulations banning Internet connectivity in self-driving cars. If our algorithms require a certain number of live crashes to learn from, then we should acknowledge that too and lobby industry/government for the necessary funds to build Potemkin villages to train the cars.

  • FriendlyGoat

    I don’t think we should discount the fact that many people enjoy driving their cars and have no desire to sit around wondering when to merely be the backup of last resort to the automated systems.

    • Josephbleau

      I agree with you completely. I am old and I want to drive around in a dodge charger and blow my hemi.

  • D4x

    Intel to Buy Israel’s Mobileye for Record $15 Billion in Drive for Autonomous Vehicles by TheTower.org Staff | 03.13.17 1:03 pm

    “… Intel will also move its entire automotive unit to Israel, where it will be headed by Prof. Amnon Shashua, Mobileye’s co-founder, chairman, and CTO.

    The California-based chipmaker said in a statement that its acquisition of Mobileye, which develops sensors and cameras for driverless cars, will help “accelerate innovation for the automotive industry and position Intel as a leading technology provider in the fast-growing market for highly and fully autonomous vehicles.” Intel estimates that the market for autonomous vehicles will be worth $70 billion by 2030.
    …”

    http://www.thetower.org/4704-intel-to-buy-israels-mobileye-for-record-15-billion-in-drive-for-autonomous-vehicles/

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