Before getting into the topic lets just set one thing straight from the beginning, I’m not an old man, in fact I’m just 24, but unlike many of my fellow Millennials I refuse to buy in to the notion that for some reason progress = software 100% of the time. In other words, the future will always entail more computer driven data, and interfaces are your finger tips or even full automation of various tasks for the sake of full automation. Yes, there are a variety of tasks where these things make complete sense, mapping for example or manufacturing in the case of automation, but there are also those where it doesn’t. Why would I want to automate playing fetch with my dog or perhaps even grocery shopping? Personally, running to the farmer’s market to buy fresh vegetables and share stories with local farmer’s is one of the joys of life, not something to from which I’d want to automate and suck out all the empathy for other humans. The extreme case for automation, I have nothing left to do, it’s all done for me so what the heck do I do all day? What if I find getting lost on a road trip a fun adventure? What if I’m one of those weird wackos out there who realizes proper nutrition and mental health exercises is more beneficial to my well being than using some fancy wrist band to calculate how many steps I took in a day? Say I’m one of the crazy ones who prefers to option of a manual gearbox to having an iPad with internet connectivity taking up the dashboard. Sure there’s a fair amount of subjectivity here, I get that, point being its important we as a society recognize this trend and really begin to question what elements are actually adding to our collective quality of life?
Ranting aside, it’s not all bad or all good, there truly is a healthy balance to be had here. Transportation in particular, is one of those elements in particular. In Wired’s article they present the scenario where individuals will essentially have their cars run errands for them. Perhaps a bit of infrastructure upgrades would need to take place before that’s a serious reality but that’s not too hard to imagine. Personally, even in this postulate future reality, I’d still do all my own errands. That’s one of the experiences in life and I cherish every experience I have the fortunate opportunity to do so. That said, many other will fee differently, so be it. I have a tough time actually imagining automated cars resulting in more overall driving though. To be frank, many American’s treat their cars like mobility scooters to begin with, Christ we have drive-thru’s in fast-food restaurants. Any errands or driving by the car would have otherwise been likely done by human operated car anyway. Surely there are exceptions here but hardly any obvious examples which would add enormous congestion or pollution. Seems more to me as rhetoric being spewed in a desperate attempt to save an industry likely to go through catastrophic change as a result of autonomous vehicles.
Nonetheless, the big question here is really less about autonomous vs. human driven vehicles, and more to do with personal vs. public transportation systems.
I’m as big a car nut as they come, I love my car. I love driving it, going on adventures, I love back roads and I love racing it in SCCA autocrosses. But, and its a very big but, just take a second to fully absorb the point being illustrated here and the magnitude of it. That bus, those bikes even, would have no problem at all moving through the town center at an expected pace. How long you think it would take you to get through that traffic jam in the center? And they aren’t even assuming a two way street!
I know you see where I’m going, clearly publish transportation systems lend themselves to be systemically more efficient the personalized transportation right? But you can’t change human behavior! Well, I’d argue differently, but as that’s a separate discussion I’ve written a separate post about it, see here.