Monday, June 24, 2019

More Robot Cars, More Fun in the City

Drivers are already ditching their cars because of apps like Uber. Imagine what happens when driverless cars hit the roads.

Why bother owning a car when you can easily get where you want via your iPhone? This concept is known as “mobility as a service”, where passengers no longer own to their own cars, instead signing on for transportation-on-demand booked through smartphones.

Perhaps, for instance, a commuting plan that charges by the mile or through a monthly fee, like Netflix. Getting rid of cars in growing urban centers is a smart idea, and the world’s automakers are preparing in various ways. A major switch to subscription transportation requires two components. The first is already well underway: the explosion of ride-hailing apps like Uber, Lyft, Grab and others.
The second is still in the works — driverless cars.

Removing the human from behind the wheel slashes the cost of a taxi ride which will make mobility as a service so cheap in many places, it won’t make financial sense to own a car any longer. Lowering the cost per mile will turbo-charge demand for mobility as a service, likely to become a $10 trillion business, according to Ford Motor Company.

That's why tech giants like Google and Apple are developing their own self-driving systems to take on the world's leading automakers, including Volkswagen, General Motors, Ford, and Toyota.

Eventually, a single smartphone app could connect us to a web of options, such as robo-taxis, self-driving shuttles, on-demand subway or tram, e-bikes, and electric scooters. No more driving ourselves though congested cities. All that parking freed up means more space for pedestrians and parks. Unless it is bad — fleets of individually-owned driverless vehicles loosed upon streets and highways, randomly ferrying individual occupants near and far. Or, with so many shared rides, significantly fewer vehicles will be on the road, where is the need to spend billions on bigger highways?

Autonomous vehicles will revolutionize passenger transport, but they are also rapidly changing the delivery business. Data generated from self-driving cars will provide cities with “a more granular viewpoint into everything from infrastructure wear-and-tear to detailed traffic flow information and even sidewalk congestion patterns,” says Brooks Rainwater, director of the Center for City Solutions at the National League of Cities.

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