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Doomsday Driverless Scenarios

Driverless cars are presented by some as a utopian solution that will solve our transport problems. I’m not convinced that the changes driverless cars will bring about will happen as fast or be as vast as those most enthusiastic about the tech. This is not to say driverless cars won’t happen or won’t have an impact, in fact I think some areas such as taxis will see considerable change.

Some of the changes might be great either. For example one prospect is that driverless cars will be zipping about in all directions meaning roads are busier off peak than they are now when cars are all parked up.

Google Self Driving Car

Twitter user Queen Anne Greenways from Seattle created a list of over 50 different doomsday scenarios that could occur if driverless cars eventuate. While they’re a bit of fun some also seem scarcely accurate.

  1. To save money on parking, people let their cars circle the block downtown all day.
  2. Unexpected re-boots kill thousands.
  3. Rich people buy dozens of cars and send them to run errands all day.
  4. Instead of dispersed crashes like we have now, systemic software glitches cause thousands at once.
  5. Terrorists hack every Prius, turning them into killing machines.
  6. Computers gain self-awareness. Self-driving cars make perfect hosts.
  7. Unfettered by safety concerns, cars become massive rolling entertainment capsules.
  8. Governments spend billions on research and infrastructure but the benefits never materialize.
  9. Auto traffic becomes more like *internet* traffic: mostly unnecessary and 40% porn-related.
  10. Self-driving doesn’t mean self-fueling. Stalled, driverless vehicles litter the roadways.
  11. Self-driving doesn’t mean self-repairing. Poorly maintained equipment still kills thousands.
  12. Everything works great until a sensor wire comes loose.
  13. Braking distance is the same whether the car is self-driving or not. Peds learn the hard way.
  14. Peds crossing everywhere causes permanent gridlock, which is “fixed” by restrictive ped laws.
  15. Stopping all traffic is as simple as placing a lifelike doll at a few intersections.
  16. Now that you can sleep in your car, a three-hour SOV commute becomes feasible.
  17. Long, private, pleasant SOV commutes make sprawl more attractive.
  18. Traffic deaths drop to 0. Yay! So, no reason to address pollution, noise or ugly streetscapes, ever.
  19. Efficiencies gained by “bunching” induce demand that completely offsets all efficiencies.
  20. Self-driving delivery requires menacing robotic solution to the “curb-to-door problem.”
  21. Human-driven cars quickly outwit the automated ones, completely neutralizing their benefits.
  22. Only the worst drivers keep their human-driven car.
  23. Enthusiasm for self-driving cars fuels outcry for more dedicated car space.
  24. They divert investment away from things we already know work. Like transit.
  25. Instead of mailing parcels across town, everyone just sends cars there and back.
  26. Carmakers develop new horns to make loud, complex announcements: “I’m here to pick you up, Janice!”
  27. They become the ideal platform for rolling billboards, which become cheaper and proliferate.
  28. Driverless but not carbon-free. The mechanism causing climate change has simply been automated.
  29. Two words: Road drones.
  30. Instead of taking shape of regular car seats, American butts take shape of *self-driving* car seats.
  31. Chevy unironically unveils model equipped with stationary bike so you can exercise while you commute.
  32. An hour on hold with tech support figuring out how to park in a field at the fairgrounds.
  33. Interaction with emergency vehicles proves problematic. Police given universal kill switch.
  34. Volkswagen decides to make one.
  35. To save money on parking, cars commute twice for each person, once at 8:00am and once at 5:00pm.
  36. Car manufacturers work hard to write algorithms that outwit competing algorithms.
  37. US government demands “back door” into all car sensor data. Opens new data mining possibilities.
  38. America’s “love affair” with the car is rekindled for yet another century.
  39. Two words: Apple Maps.
  40. Almost nobody buys one, so I just wasted 40 tweets.
  41. people stop buying houses and buy self driving RVs which endlessly circle city centre. (this one was by user @CarpenterBernie)
  42. Occupant-activated “emergency mode” lets cars drive in protected bike lanes, on sidewalks.
  43. All taxi, bus, delivery and long-haul truck drivers lose their jobs. Executives all get bonuses.
  44. Private cars are driverless yet, for some reason, buses and metro rail still need operators.
  45. Cities stop building bike infrastructure in anticipation of impending driverless utopia.
  46. Vehicular cyclists finally win (and they gloat about it to the rest of us).
  47. Cyclists banned from the road to prevent “system inefficiencies”.
  48. Without threat of death, cars must now honk continuously to get bikes and peds out of the way.
  49. Google and carmakers lobby Congress to severely limit their liability.
  50. Government adopts “standard algorithm.” Tea Party-type groups protest for more speed, less safety.
  51. Consumers prefer cars with algorithms that prioritize occupant safety, not bike and ped safety.
  52. The Self-Driving Indianapolis 500.
  53. New kind of political protest: the “vehicular DoS” attack. Sending 1,000 cars to the exact same spot. (as opposed to the analog version we currently have).
  54. Google writes the perfect algorithm but fails to consider the ways people will use it in the wild.
  55. Google achieves six sigma reliability: 1.5 trillion US trips * 0.00034% rate = 510 million “defects.”These ones I added
  56. To help pay for your trip you’ll be forced to watch in car advertising for the length of your journey.
  57. Prior to each trip you’ll have to watch to an airplane style safety video even if you’ve used that car before.
  58. You’ll have to click a button accepting a 1,000+ page EULA before the car will move.
  59. The term blue screen of death takes on a whole new meaning.

 

I could actually see quite a few of these becoming reality, what do you think?

88 comments to Doomsday Driverless Scenarios

  • nonsense

    60. suicide-less carbomb attacks. Isis is already working on it

    • Speaking of which, are terrorists using quadcopters or RC planes as unmanned kamikaze bombs yet? If not, why not? And why is anti-drone capability not a high priority for our defence establishment? We should at least have a decent pile of man-portable miniature surface-to-air missiles somewhere, just in case.

  • sailor boy

    24 is already happening.

    • JimboJones

      I think 8 and 24 are the only serious threat from electric cars.

    • Yup. There are unironic cries out there on the kiwiblerghs of the world decrying the CRL, because driverless cars.

      Ignoring that assuming 5 years away from maturity, then 10 years until literally every single car sold is driverless, then 30 years until the last manual cars dies off, that’s an awful long time to wait and naturally population growth will be zero and our traffic problems won’t get worse.

  • Grant

    so funny….yes scenarios if they don’t have to legally have a passenger/pseudo driver get interesting.

  • Frank McRae

    Many of those wouldn’t be a problem with road pricing. For example “To save money on parking, people let their cars circle the block downtown all day.”

    This would only happen if parking was priced but road space wasn’t – which would be an absurd arrangement with the fuel and labour costs of driving effectively removed.

  • patrickmorgancan

    I attended a Transport Futures seminar at Ministry of Transport recently. There was a lot of hype about driverless cars and tech in general. See some scenarios at http://www.transport.govt.nz/futures/ Somehow Paris COP21 wasn’t mentioned.

  • At least half of those are potential realities. I love #53. 1000 cars turning up at the beehive at once. Although when I used to live opposite the Beehive, any big game at Westpac Stadium had exactly the same effect.

    I don’t see driverless cars becoming commonplace in my lifetime (and I’m 35).

  • Early Commuter

    Back in the 50s, they said we’d have jetpacks and regular space travel by 2000. And flying cars.

    Driverless cars are in the same bucket.

    Remember, technical change is slow…. the engine in your car (whether electric or combustion) is well over 100 years old in basic design. Turbos around 70 years old. Fuel injection the same.

    • JimboJones

      This is different to those other predictions – the technology behind driverless cars is mostly proven already, it just needs to be fully tweaked and taken to market.
      I think there is a pretty good chance that there will be driverless cars for sale in the next 10 to 15 years – but it will take quite a bit of time until the majority have one…

    • George D

      Ummm…

      http://xkcd.com/1623/

      The problem with flying anything is that successfully controlling an object in multiple dimensions is actually pretty hard. Most people can’t do it without a lot of training. Mistakes are usually fatal.

      The other problem is that it uses a huge amount of energy to get up, so helicopters need at least one very expensive and maintenance-heavy turbine powering them, and a lot of engineering to make sure it doesn’t fall apart. Planes need the same, and long runways to get into the sky.

      It’s much easier to roll along the ground. Computers will solve the control problem, but they won’t negate the energy one.

  • Tony

    21.Human-driven cars quickly outwit the automated ones, completely neutralizing their benefits.

    Heh, pull out in front of any driverless car and it will stop. Too easy.

  • David Collings

    Your view is rather pessimistic, but sadly short sighted. Driverless cars are coming whether we like it or not, mark my words. We will have driverless cars in New Zealand within a decade and disappointingly much of the transport infrastructure we are currently planning will be redundant before it is even completed. You should see the opportunity of driverless cars and other vehicles to improve public transport. My own idea of a system is to move away from private vehicles altogether. Automated vehicles that can be called up when needed and that will take logical routes and auto-carpool with others heading in the same direction. Technology that links vehicles together in ‘Road Trains’ and alleviates the need for parking as vehicles automatically go off to their next call. Or where they do need to be housed or ‘parked’ they will need far less space because a specific vehicle is not needed and public vehicles can be butted up together and the vehicle at the front be dispatched. Check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PyUQuWmt2M This is currently used in Heathrow Airport to commute travelers from the carpark to the terminal. Microsoft were proposing a similar type of system for their head office removing the need for cars to be used for getting from one building to another. This is not new technology either a campus in West Virginia has been using a similar system since 1975: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Di5acGAmcm0 You need to imagine the benefits of this being possible across a region with automated public vehicles. We shouldn’t be trying to eliminate cars from our roads, the focus should be on ‘single occupied vehicles’ instead. 🙂

    • JimboJones

      We ‘may’ have a handful of driverless cars in NZ within a decade, but it will be a lot longer until they are affordable and a lot longer still until the majority of the vehicle fleet is driverless (although a driverless taxi fleet could be a lot sooner and may remove the need for private cars altogether).

      How do you know which aspects of the transport infrastructure will be obsolete? Do you think we should build nothing for the next 30 years or whatever and see what happens?

    • I don’t believe the cost of hiring a driverless car will be any cheaper than Uber is now. As well as driving, human drivers also refuel, maintain, secure and store vehicles overnight. Drivers are also insurable and legally liable should anything go wrong.

      Providers of driverless cars will have to have systems and people in place to provide all of these functions. No one has published the estimated costs for all this. It’s all gee-whiz tech looking only at the task of driving and staying on the road, not the bigger picture.

      • JimboJones

        I assume driverless taxis would refuel (or recharge) themselves when needed. They would probably park in a massive car park in the outskirts of the city where land is cheap. Electric cars shouldn’t require much maintenance. They would probably require the odd clean, that shouldn’t be a big cost factor. They would be secured by the fact you would need an account to request one – if you break it or steal it, you pay.

        • I think you are referring to 10, 11 and 35

          • Though Cam removing the human driver and replacing petrol with electricity will lower cost, but will there be other new overheads? Recharging infrastructure?

            Certainly there will be road pricing to fuel excise when there are more EVs regardless of what drivers them, and this gives society the opportunity to decide just how much we allow cars to dominate places [though pricing].

        • > They would probably park in a massive car park in the outskirts of the city where land is cheap.

          If I had a driverless taxi company, I would park them in free on-street spaces in suburbs relatively close to major trip origins, plus distributed around generally so that they were close to any potential hail. Why not park at least one on every block across the whole city, outside of peak times? Certainly don’t need to have my own carparks anywhere, except for the small fraction of them refuelling or being serviced at any given time.

          Note that having tens of thousands of driverless cars parked in the city fringe suburbs is not going to be popular with residents. Cue pricing and/or residents permits coming to large swathes of inner suburbia about five minutes after driverless cars take off. Quite possibly there’ll be special parking restrictions aimed *only* at driverless cars. Probably they won’t be allowed to park in town and city centres.

          Driverless electric cars should be able to charge themselves, but even driverless IC cars wouldn’t be that labour-intensive. They just go to a full-service petrol station, the attendants (who work there anyway) will fill the car up and just charge it to the taxi company’s fuel card.

          The cars will be riddled with surveillance cameras, and (like Uber) you’ll need an app, registered to a credit card and thus your real ID. So you can be charged if you cause any mischief. If someone vomits in the back seat or something, the car just drives itself to a (staffed) cleaning station before the next fare.

          Driverless cars may be 5 years away or 50 years away or never. The question is – so what? How does it affect the decisions we need to take right now? They’re not arriving tomorrow. And when they do, they’re not going to change the *geometric* advantages of public transport: they allow more capacity in a smaller space. If they compete with public transport, it’ll be competing with the infrequent suburban buses that don’t require any real infrastructure. We’ll still need the heavy and light rail and busway we build today as much as ever.

          The one thing that’s not as useful to build now if driverless cars are inevitable is actually… accessory carparks. Whether it’s a garage at your house or a parking lot in front of your business, it’s probably not a good long-term investment dedicating space close to destinations to parking if cars will just be able to park themselves off at some distant location.

          • Yeah; don’t build a bedroom for your cars; cos you probably won’t need to have any.

          • > Yeah; don’t build a bedroom for your cars; cos you probably won’t need to have any.

            Sadly, I think I know about the same number of people in Auckland who sleep in a garage as keep a car in one.

            That said, there’s a garage on New North Road in Morningside that’s an inspiration: they’ve replaced the door with plate glass and a door, as though a shop’s going to go in there. If you are going to build parking, at least make sure the roof’s high enough that you can repurpose the space when it no longer serves its original purpose.

    • Guy

      Ok David – I’ve marked your words as requested, but I’ve marked them as “Mostly crap”. Just as you are convinced that Pods are the only future, I’m convinced that Pods are a poorly thought out answer to the wrong question, and have no future in a modern city at all. Your links to those videos just convinced me of that. Thanks.

    • GlenBikes

      The only way driverless cars works for humanity is if governments outlaw private ownership. Which will never happen. So… I guess we’re good, right?

  • ben

    One thing’s for sure, the driverless car will empty trains. Just a question of how soon.

    • jezza

      What make you so certain?

      • Because driverless cars won’t be subject to congestion? Really, they take up no roadspace because they’re driven by rule following robots?, good luck with that.

        It’s private car ownership they’ll disrupt; the car will become a transport service, and work much more seamlessly with other transport services, like trains [ie take the botcar to the station], leaving walking and cycling as the only independent means of mobility.

        • Tony

          “leaving walking and cycling and self driving as the only independent means of mobility.”

          Fixed that for ya.

          • > “leaving walking and cycling and self driving as the only independent means of mobility.”

            Assuming that self-drive is still legal (which is a definite maybe), and that’s it’s still price-competitive (probably not).

          • Tony it already isn’t independent as an experience in cities because of congestion. Anyway if the technophiliacs are right and we quickly get to a great many AVs on the roads it won’t be long before ‘driver cars’ will be banished to the race track and it’ll be illegal to be in charge of a powered machine on public roads. Be careful what you wish for.

          • Tony

            Couple of things.
            There’s far more to (insert country here) than ‘congested cities’.
            They’ll be banning self drive cars? Yeah, right.
            What was I wishing for?

          • Yes I think the ultimate direction of driverless technology does lead to the end of driving in public, driving remains a [hugely popular] private past time on racetracks. No idea what you want.

          • Tony

            As long as people have self driving cars they will demand access to roads. Particularly if they’re ‘hugely popular’. There shouldn’t be anything to worry about if driverless cars are so good anyway.

            You said ‘be careful what you wish for’. Was wondering what I was wishing for.

            As for solving congestion, that’ll never happen. Ever.

          • No what I’m saying will be popular is driving on closed race tracks for retro fun times; public roads will be reserved for bot cars, bot buses, bikes, and of course, people walking… and only you know what you wish for….

          • Tony

            And I’m saying that’s a load of rubbish.

          • Harriet

            It will become illegal and I’ll tell you how

            2030 – Self driving cars start becoming the norm, the Uber/Google/Audi JV takes a lead on the market ahead of the Mercedes-Jucy-Apple JV.
            2035 – A young man will self drive down SH1 at high speed just for the thrill which leads to the death of young 10 yo Emily Hansen and her sister Jessica who everyone remembers as a kind hearted girl studying to be a Vet. Community Outrage leds to a Bill in Parliament called the No More Tragedies Act 2035 driven by the Emily Memorial Trust a lobby group set up by her parents to end self driving on public roads.

            There you go.

            “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.” Rahm Emanuel

          • Tony

            Here’s another scenario for you Harriet.
            In 2035, when driverless cars have begun to trickle onto the market, one day a an autonomous car is driving through a suburban street at 50kmh. It’s faced with having to make the decision of protecting its occupant from the out of control concrete truck or mowing down the 10 year old girl on her bicycle.
            The community outrage over the death of a 10 year girl combined with the inability to prosecute a massive foreign corporation (governments are wary of this behemoth, and people are resentful of their continued minimising tax policy of off-shoring of profit etc) leads to a moratorium on the further sales of driverless cars that lasts for 20 years.

            So there are 2 not totally silly scenarios. That’s the thing with the future, anything can happen. The idea that they’re banning drivers is at the absurd end of the scale.

          • nonsense

            Yeah right because the Govt will take the side of the people instead of the rich and powerful lobbies ahahah. They will ban self driving cars, that’s it. Bikers might get away with it, if they ride fast enough…

          • Tony

            Yeah, that’s why we 100s of acres of GM crops planted in NZ. Oh, wait…

    • JimboJones

      It’s quite probable that people will no longer own private cars and instead use a combination of driverless taxis and public transport to get everywhere. Why spend thousands a year on car ownership, garaging, etc when taxis will be so cheap without the driver?

      • MFD

        “Why spend thousands a year on car ownership, garaging, etc when taxis will be so cheap without the driver?”

        Because they will not be cheap at times of high demand. They will be rationed by price. No provider is going to invest to fully cope with peak demand and have assets sitting idle for most of the day.

      • Charles

        because people like to leave their stuff in their cars?

  • Nick Lovett

    As has been previously pointed out on this blog (http://transportblog.co.nz/2015/11/27/mots-future-vision-for-transport/), its clear the government has the pom-poms at the ready for this technology cheer-leading but there is a very real and significant risk is that we will put too much faith in a solution with a misguided problem statement. Numbers 17 (sprawl), 24 (silver bullet fallacy) and 53 (congestion) are seriously negative externalizes.

    Sprawl is interesting seeing as there are already commercial applications today for “highway mode” (and traffic jam mode) in many high-end car brands. What does this do to the value of time when you can commute from behind the wheel in your mobile private office 2.5 hours from Huntley to Auckland? Not a problem with 4G and a thermos of coffee.

    Divestment from other priorities is already creeping into planing decisions. Driverless cars are sexy and now so front of mind for so many politicians. In North America there are large groups of people that think public toilets and drinking fountains are a thing of the past because of the prevalence of Starbucks and bottled water. Many elected officials also began to question spending on public libraries with the rise of Google Books and Wikipedia.

    Congestion is really interesting to think about too. Jarret Walker often talks about technology not changing geometry i.e. mass transit is always going to be superior at getting large numbers of people down a narrow corridor into a central area. Manhattan is gridlocked with taxicabs, and would likely still be if they were driverless. At 5:30pm, the Uber offices in San Francisco are mayhem with all the employees requesting pickups to the same place. How do you know which car is yours?

    • 2 hours in a car on urban motorways is horrible now matter how good your internet connection; that’s just a technophiliac pipe dream.

    • Guy

      “Driverless cars are sexy” ??? See picture above at start of article. Sexy? No. Hideously boring? Yes. Wouldn’t want to be seen dead in one of those. Not sexy = not a success.

      • Only if you think cars are sexy. For me it is just another household appliance. I don’t care what my fridge looks like.

        The only benefit to driverless cars is to eliminate their private ownership. And that won’t happen as for many people a car is not a means of transport, it is the basis of their public image. Sad in my opinion but true.

  • George D

    I think that this list is hyperbolic – it’s absolute hosking.

    The reality is far more interesting. Most major automakers are advanced in projects or partnerships to develop self-driving vehicles with partial or full autonomy. Given where some of the leaders (Nvidia, Google, GM, Mercedes etc.) are, I expect that ‘ready for sale’ vehicles will be on the roads by 2020. By 2030 they will be the majority of vehicles sold.

    They will be several orders of magnitude safer than human-driven vehicles. At about that time the majority of vehicles sold will also be electric. Generation capacity will need to increase, but the great majority of that will be from low or zero-carbon sources.

    Driverless buses will be radically cheaper to operate and use. These will still form the backbone of public transport. Trains will retain drivers until a robust ETCS protocol is well established in other countries, at which point Auckland will adopt it.

  • George D

    Oh, and driving will become much like riding a horse is now. A once essential skill (involving a dangerous, difficult, polluting mode) that is now rare and only practiced as a form of leisure in rich countries.

    My grandparents grew up riding horses. My grandchildren will not drive.

  • MFD

    “Driverless cars are presented by some as a utopian solution that will solve our transport problems.”

    I am not convinced either but nobody has tried to do so. Who are these “someones”? Your statement looks very straw-mannish. Any links to these driverless vehicle utopians?

    • Greg N

      Well MoT has really drunk the Kool-aid on this one.

      Go look at this sorry little hopelessly besotted with driverless tech Official MoT website on the subject and see for yourself:

      The Minister is himself a big fan and believer too. At least thats what he told me when I spoke to him a couple of months back.

      • MFD

        Where is the part about driverless cars solving our transport problems?
        That site is an apalling pile of nonsense because (among other faults) it offers almost nothing in the way of rationale in support of their “visions”….and then has the temerity to ask for feedback.

        • Greg N

          Hi MFD, I know you trawled the website a while back in an earlier post on the MoT future of transport post.

          However, This PDF from MoT is from their earlier effort around imagining the future.
          Its pretty crap and shows real lack of imagination, its all glorious futures without thinking about the downsides or how we there from here.

          They talk extensively there about driverless tech, both in a personal transport capacity and for freight. In fact it seems driverless freight has relly caught their imagination, but they also are besotted by personal driverless as evidenced by these statements.

          "you will no longer need to look to see when a bus, train or taxi will be available. In fact, you will not be able to, as there will be no need for bus stops, bus timetables or parking."

          Really? Why will bus stops disappear because they're loser cruisers so no one uses buses? Or because you can flag down any bus as it passes? – Hmm how inefficient is that going to be for everyone on the bus if its always stopping to let people on and off everywhere?

          "Just pause and think for a moment what a difference such a future might make to the way cities like Auckland might operate. And think what it might mean for how we can most sensibly address the challenge of future growth.
          For example, the International Transport Forum estimates we might only need a vehicle fleet 30 percent the size of today’s fleet."

          Ok, so that means too if you stop and think about it, MoT we've got all the roads we'll ever need already built right? So why are we actively building more and more freight specific routes? (East/West looking at you, dude)
          But it also means we don't need to change what we're doing as driverless tech will make it all better in some unspecified time in the future right?

          under "Freight demand will grow substantially"
          "Freight vehicles, just like other vehicles, could be self-driving and drive together in platoons – saving space, energy use and the need for extra infrastructure"

          Ok, but you want to replace the rail lines with freight lines. And those dubious predictions about needing less freight fleets (30% of todays), also means we need to invest in freight only lanes as we'll need a lot more freight to be moved right?

          "This brings us back to shared mobility and the role of autonomous vehicles. These vehicles may well be designed to be re-deployed off-peak to manage last mile delivery to central city areas"

          So we plan on making freight deliveries to peoples homes at odd hours, 'cos its easier when the Ubers of the world are all idle and not doing anything else?
          Who wants to use a Uber the next day that smells of rotten cabbages 'cos the freight load the driverless car dropped off a few hours earlier stank the car up?

          Enough examples for ya?

    • Any links to these driverless vehicle utopians?
      I’d start with some of the comments above

  • Even once the technology gets here (which could be 10 or 30 years away) I think this is going to be the big one:

    19. Efficiencies gained by “bunching” induce demand that completely offsets all efficiencies.

    Some people seem to think that since the cars will be automatic then all the capacity problems will be fixed. In reality You are not likely to get more cars on the current choke-points (Harbour Bridge, Symonds St, Motorways, etc) and even if you could things would be no better once demand filled the new “capacity”.

    I think we’ll end up with most people riding driverless minibuses (8-20 people maybe) to work and perhaps changing mode/vehicle at least once along the ways ( perhaps to a train or another [mini]bus ) .

    Putting several people in one vehicle is always going to be cheaper and have more capacity then 1.2 people per car.

    • Greg N

      MoT think very much so that platooning freight trucks will be the saviour of all our problems.

      Except that they ignore the fact that noone else (except a robot freight truck) wants to be near such a platoon?

      imagine being right next to [in the next lane over to the right of] a platoon of freight trucks 2 miles long?
      It might just for example stop your Uber or your Robot Taxi exiting at the motorway offramp you need to use. So you’re forced to “Get in behind” the platoon of trucks (join it) or go to the next exit and double back.
      And hope there isn’t such a platoon going the other way.

      Just one example of this problem.

  • Wow some people are way to serious. The list was a bit of fun, nothing more.

    • For a bit more detail on what I actually think will happen.

      There is still a lot of work to do on both the technology and the regulations before we see driverless cars become viable. I suspect that is going to take at least 5-10 years. When they do hit the market they will absolutely disrupt markets where paying someone to drive is one of the major costs. That initially means taxis, trucks and buses.

      After those industries are changed I think adoption will slow down a little as it will take some time for culture to change to use driving services on a large scale. Yes taxis will be there but people use cars for many things other than just getting from A to B, for example people often use it as an extra room of their house, storing things they may need at some point in the future. That isn’t going to change overnight. People are also less likely to get rid of their cars unless something goes wrong or unless the government deliberately try to price/regulate them off the roads and that won’t happen while a substantial number of people still choose to drive.

      For PT there’ll still be the need for much of where were the focus is going at the moment, the rapid and frequent services. In fact I think they’ll become even more needed and where driverless cars will be used is to replace low use feeder/local services as a first/last mile solution. The rapid and frequent routes will still be needed for capacity because while driverless cars can theoretically get more out of our existing infrastructure, the sheer number of people moving at certain times on certain routes will mean high capacity PT will still be needed.

  • Graeme G

    The optimum model is surely a mix of PT (for the longer distances) and SD Autos (for the shorter).
    A basic version of this model is already in the UK, where most train stations have a small local taxi firm outside to provide the final connection.

  • An amusing list and no doubt some will occur under certain situations. Matt L has hit it on the head though.

    What will occur is that travelling from a to b will simply become a commodity “mobility as a service” (MaaS) with the consumer specifying where they want to go and at what time. A number of Auto-manufacturers are already preparing for a future where less cars are required and where the profits lie in the MaaS markets. For example Daimlers Car2Go, Fords Getaround and just recently GM purchase of Lyft. The marriage of carsharing platforms and auto-manufacturers of driverless cars will propel us towards a world with less vehicles.

  • Yeti

    Much more informative link of the UltraPRT and the future possibilities.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ujd4wutddE

  • Ari

    Is this meant to be serious? It is so stupid as most the points are strawmen and don’t apply to NZ. Is it meant to be a joke? If so it isn’t funny.

    Cars didn’t replace horses overnight. Lightbulbs didn’t replace lamps overnight. Computers didn’t replace typewriters overnight. Most people can’t see how a technology will change their life until well after it is heavily adopted. 100% driverless cars are decades away. 95% driverless cars are already here. It will be a gradual change. We still don’t know how it will change society.Like others have said MaaS is going to change many things about car ownership. The same car will be used by multiple people during the day instead of those people each owning a car. Not everyone will be able to afford them so PT will always be in demand. I get the feeling it will be much more than we expect, but not in the way we expect.

    8. I can see happening to some degree. Research yes, infra, probably not.
    19. Ignores the fact there will be fewer cars on the road in the first place.
    24. Not likely. I don’t see this happening. The government will leave it to the market to deliver solutions.
    27. Also likely, we do it with buses.
    43. is very likely. It makes total sense. Maybe not home delivery stuff, but most commercial transport.
    56. Maybe.

    All the others are nonsense strawmen.

  • Neville

    I think the biggest problem with adopting driverless cars is around status and image. Cars are tied up with image.
    Can you see the Managing Director arriving at work in a google car and losing the carpark with their name on it?
    Is like cell phones. When they were rare, they were status symbol and shown off to show your status. Once common, the status was you didn’t need one.

  • I would think no 40 is nearer the truth, It all takes energy and can’t see where it will come from in the near future and long term no chance, to change over to any other form of transport will take raw materials and will have to replace transport that is in place and with debt to clear. The last 10yrs haven’t gone along with much growth not since cheap oil was replaced by expensive, today’s so called oil boom is at the expense of high debt and zero interest rates and a need for oil at $100+ barrel to be profitable, if you take out the fracking, tar sands, and deep water wells we have passed peak oil and food production for 7 billion is more important than driverless cars, and what happened to COP21 just some more hot air.

  • BP

    60. Owners now have the exhausting task of keeping up with personalised interior trends…. mine’s a tiki bar – what’s yours?

  • This is a fascinating discussion that has been a pleasure to read. Transport Blog has some clever and creative contributors.

  • Anthony

    Various companies have been expimenting with driverless cars for 10 years or more. I have not seen any reports of them driving at more than 50km/hr on a public road or driving in bad weather.

  • Anthony

    Various companies have been expimenting with driverless cars for 10 years or more. I have not seen any reports of them driving at more than 50kph on a public road or driving in bad weather.

  • This is getting pretty interesting. We are following this discussion here in Belgium as a Transport innovating company. Great guys! http://www.cmrdirect.be/

  • Guy

    A lot of people are talking about this as if this is definitely going to happen. I tend to disagree. It may happen, in some places in the world, but there is nothing definite about it. I can see these driverless cars being introduced to certain places – they could work well in Manhattan, or Zurich, or Milan perhaps, but Cairo? Kabul? Nairobi? There is a certain amount of money required for this technology to succeed, and there are places in the world where there just simply isn’t enough money. Cairo exists with cars that are routinely 30-40 years old, and works because people keep cannibalising other cars to keep them running (and models/brands are largely restricted to Peugeot, Renault, Fiat and Mercedes).

    Even if these driverless cars get introduced to Manhattan widely in 10 years, the technology isn’t going to make it en masse to less wealthy cities for decades longer. The question for NZ will be: are we a early adopter or not? We have to remember that NZ has one of the highest importation of second-hand cars (58% at last count?) and not new cars – very unlike America. I’d say, in NZ, that we are still a long way off – but also, that it is the mix of driven and driverless cars that is my main concern – a fleet 100% one way or another can make sense – but a mix of both systems would seem to present more problems to resolve. Both Harriet’s and Tony’s scenarios are equally valid.

    • George D

      Yes.

      I’ve spent considerable time in Indonesia and East Timor, and in either country I see that advanced self-driving vehicles will penetrate the market within a few years of those models being offered in rich countries. Even with the challenges of a chaotic transport environment there.

  • ‘With the explosion of technologies you’re going to have many theories’

    Very good summary from the FT:

    http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/fcb9e8cc-b5f1-11e5-8358-9a82b43f6b2f.html#axzz3whje454N

  • Can public transport (as we know it) survive in a driverless car reality? Of course not.

    Except, driverless cars will actually be public transport, as they will be a taxi service.

    Collective travel demand, if it exists (probably for long distance) will be accommodated with driverless cars that have internal partitions for full privacy. This will make sense for longer distance and high speed travel, to keep costs very low.

    I did a video on this topic 🙂

    https://youtu.be/OTRZA6zpXtw

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