Tag Archives: self-driving cars

Self-Driving Cars Will Improve Our Cities. If They Don’t Ruin Them

Without planning, self-driving cars could increase congestion, widespread unemployment, and reduce tax revenue, says Zipcar co-founder Robin Chase on Backchannel.

Most of what has been written about self-driving or automated vehicles (often abbreviated as AVs) focuses on subjects like their technical aspects, the regulatory battles to license them, or the fascinating but remote dilemma of a self-driving car being forced to choose between holding its course and hitting grandma, or swerving into a troop of boy scouts. There’s relatively little discussion of the speed and scope of change, the impacts that go well beyond the auto industry, or the roadmap to unlocking the enormous upside potential if we actively guide the trajectory of their adoption.

We’re at a fork on that roadmap. One direction leads to a productive new century where cities are more sustainable, livable, equitable, and just.

But if we take the wrong turn, we’re at a dead end. Cities are already complex and chaotic places in which to live and work. If we allow the introduction of automated vehicles to be guided by existing regulations we’ll end up with more congestion, millions of unemployed drivers, and a huge deficit in how we fund our transportation infrastructure. We will also miss an opportunity to fix transportation’s hereto intractable reliance on liquid fossil fuels (and their associated pollution).

Right now, we’re not even alert to how crucial the choices are. In fact, we’re falling asleep at the wheel. Most people in charge of shaping cities — mayors, transportation planners, developers, and lawmakers — haven’t realized what is about to hit them and the speed at which it is coming. They continue to build as if the future is like the present.


Co-founder Peter Diamandis predicts that within the next decade, self-driving cars will eliminate driving fatalities, artificial intelligence will surpass the skills of human doctors and remove inefficiencies from health care systems, AIs will invent new pharmaceuticals to cure previously fatal diseases and 3D print customized medicines based on the genetic analysis of individual patients, and cheapening production costs will make this care essentially free.

And that’s just the beginning for Silicon Valley’s Singularity University.

It’s common for tech industry rhetoric to invoke the ideal of a better world, but since its 2008 inception, Singularity University has articulated an astonishingly ambitious series of goals and projects that use technological progress for philanthropic ends. Medicine is just one of many domains that Diamandis wants to fundamentally change. He and others at Singularity are also working to develop and support initiatives that will provide universal access to high-quality education, restore and protect polluted environments, and transition the economy to entirely sustainable energy sources.

His audience was a group of 98 executives from 44 countries around the world; each had paid $14,000 to attend the weeklong program at Singularity University’s NASA Research Park campus in Mountain View, California. As Diamandis moved through the sectors of the economy that artificial intelligence would soon dominate—medicine, law, finance, academia, engineering—the crowd seemed strangely energized by the prospect of its imminent irrelevance. Singularity University was generating more than $1 million of revenue by telling its prosperous guests that they would soon be surpassed by machines.

But his vision of the future was nonetheless optimistic. Diamandis believes that solar energy will soon satisfy the demands of the entire planet and replace the market for fossil fuels. This will mean fewer wars and cleaner air. Systems for converting atmospheric humidity into clean drinking water will become cheap and ubiquitous. The industrial meat industry will also vanish, replaced by tastier and healthier laboratory-grown products with no environmental downsides. He also predicts that exponential increases in the power of AI would soon render teachers and universities superfluous. The best education in the world will become freely available to anyone.

I’ve previously laughed at this kind of thinking as crazy optimism, but I’m not laughing now. Sure, it’s Utopianism, and Utopia is unachievable, but we need more Utopian thinking. We’ve become small and petty and afraid. Only by Utopian thinking to we make a better world.

Like the saying goes, if you aim for the stars, even if you miss you can hit the moon.

So shine on you crazy Singulatarian diamonds.

Singularity University: The Harvard of Silicon Valley Is Planning for a Robot Apocalypse [Nick Romeo – The Daily Beast]


It’s not a car

One reason I will eventually move away from my chosen name for the technology — robocar — along with the other popular names like “self-driving car” is that this future vehicle is not a car, not as we know it today. It is no more a “driverless car” than a modern automobile is a horseless carriage. 100 years ago, the only way they could think of the car was not notice there was no horse. Today, all many people notice is that no human is driving. This is the thing that comes after the car.

Why Google's "ridiculous" looking car is brilliant | Brad Ideas.

Seems to me that a neighborhood like ours is perfect for a fleet of Google self-driving cars. La Mesa, where we live, is a city, but it’s an American Southwestern version of a city, built on suburban houses, each on a small tract of land, along with thousands and thousands of townhouses. People travel by car, but shopping and schools are less than 10 miles away. If the car doesn’t go more than 25 miles an hour, well, that’s not much of a problem. Particularly if you can work or go online while you’re being driven around.