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Is the vision of a utopian world of self-driving cars achievable or will it be more dystopian than we care to admit?
Is the vision of a utopian world of self-driving cars achievable or will it be more dystopian than we care to admit?

The End of Driving?

By Bill Moore

There are two opposing views of the impact of autonomous vehicles: one sees it as the end of traffic congestion and motor vehicle deaths; the other views it as only perpetuating more crowded streets and roads. Who's right?

"The airline business would be great place to work if it weren't for the passengers."

Who said that? I did, actually, back in my nearly decade of working for an major US air carrier writing tickets, meeting flights, loading luggage, and cleaning up vomit. The rationale behind it might just as easily be applied to the dream of a city where "all cars are green, bicycles rule, and public transit is fast, frequent, and fun." The world would be a wonderful place if it weren't for people and all the emotional "baggage" we bring along.

That sort of summarizes the perspective of Bern Grush, the co-author of a 332-page Elsevier college textbook for urban planning students called "The End of Driving." Autonomous driving technology is not only outrunning liability law, it's lightyears beyond our social evolution as a species, Grush contends, which puts him somewhat at odds with technophile Tony Seba. Where Seba predicts the virtual end of car ownership within the next decade and a half, Grush and his co-author John Niles, sees it maybe happening well into the second half of the century; not for want of technology, but for reasons having entirely to do with who we are as people.

The End of Driving, Grush explains, is really a primer for city planners on how they get to that utopian city of self-driving taxis and on-demand robo-shuttles, where most citizens (95%) buy rides instead of cars anymore. It will take more than just tweaking a few laws.

Interestingly, he also sees the rise of "ride buying" and "self-driving" cars as an inducement to more sprawl and a serious threat to public transit.

In our 35-minute long discussion from his home office in Toronto, Canada, we just barely scratch the surface of this complex, multi-faceted challenge. You can listen to our dialogue using the embedded MP3 player below or download the file to your personal mobile device. Also be sure to follow EV World on Twitter at @EVisioneer.

Times Article Viewed: 1853
Originally published: 13 Jul 2018

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