There is a day, just a few years in the future, when the tyranny of the motor car over our towns and cities will come to an end.
When my car is both electric and autonomous (not long to wait now), I won’t need to allocate a big chunk of my property, or worse, a big chunk of my city’s roads, to a place for my car to rest for twelve hours a day. It’ll just head out to the big charging station on the outside of town and it’ll be back, waiting outside my door, when I’m ready to go to work in the morning.
But wait! If it’s just going to take me to work every day does it even need to be MY car. I can just rent one for the twenty five minutes it takes to get to work. Or maybe my employer will have a pool of autonomous vehicles to round up all their employees and get them home safely. Imagine how much they’d save on parking structures.
The most expensive part of a taxi is the driver. When the driver is gone, taxis will be cheaper than owning a car and if most people use taxis most of the time, it will be cheaper to subscribe to a service rather than pay for journeys individually. For commonly traveled routes, we’ll have larger vehicles that carry many people at a time. We will call them “buses”.
As car ownership models morph into car subscription models our city streets will no longer be lined with empty, useless vehicles. Our villages will no longer be clogged with ugly great SUVs. Imagine visiting that lovely little town in Tuscany and not finding the piazza cram-full with Fiat 500s!
Some ungodly number of cars on city streets are just driving around and around looking for parking. Soon they’ll be gone! Poof! Our cities and towns will be, for the first time in a hundred years, for people to walk in again.
Around the world, about one million people die in traffic accidents every year. Traffic accidents are responsible for about one third of traffic congestion. The number of car-related fatalities has been falling consistently since 1952 and most accidents are caused by human error. With self-driving cars, the era of road traffic accidents will come to an end. We’ll have to find new ways to kill each other.
It has been estimated that roads can safely accommodate seven times the number of vehicles when they are autonomous rather than people driven. We could have seven times times the number of cars on the road! No! Wait! Let’s not do that. Let’s have one seventh the number of roads instead!
If this vision sounds like a wonderful science fiction, spend a few weeks in Mountain View, California and count the number autonomous, electric vehicles you see. They are coming here too. It won’t be long.
It’s hard for AI to deal with the crazy, reckless, human drivers on our streets but there will come a tipping point when autonomous electric cars are cheaper, safer and cleaner than the old fashioned kind and the only people driving retro vehicles will be those stuck in some twentieth century motoring fantasy and old geezers in Range Rovers. Good luck finding insurance, Old Geezers!
This future can’t come fast enough for me.
My family already got rid of our two cars. The Zipcar only costs £3 for half an hour to drive down to the garden centre to pick up some pots that are too heavy to walk with. It’s a ten minute walk to pick up my Zipcar but, soon, it will be driving over to pick me up instead. It’s less than £100 to rent a big ol’ Vauxhall Moka to drive down to Cornwall for the weekend.
People in cities already don’t need cars and it’s selfish to have them. Folks in villages will have to wait a few more years for Utopia to arrive but… it’s coming for sure.
Folks who commute will have to put up with awful trains and dreadful traffic for a while longer but, make no mistake, the future is just around the corner and it’s beautiful.
Will you stand in future’s way? Or will you climb aboard?