Silicon Valley Automotive Open Source Message Board › driverless vehicles would increase traffic and nationwide fuel usage?

driverless vehicles would increase traffic and nationwide fuel usage?

Alison C.
user 8979363
Group Organizer
Mountain View, CA
Post #: 430
Henry P.
Eagle, ID
Post #: 22
His whole thesis is "driving will get cheaper, so people will drive more, so there will be more traffic and fuel usage". There are lots of possible factors that could decrease traffic and/or fuel usage that he completely ignored. Just a few possibilities:

- better overall driving: more focused "drivers", more responsiveness to relevant events, less responsiveness to irrelevant events (driverless cars don't rubberneck), higher speeds, less accidents, less circling the Mission for 45 minutes looking for parking

- more utilization of mass transit: driverless cars can fill in the gaps where mass transit is poorly connected e.g. try to get from SF to Los Gatos with Caltrain+VTA vs. Caltrain + a driverless car that meets you at MV caltrain station

- better utilization of car sharing, since it allows users to keep the car for just the actual travel period, allows for "rightsizing" the vehicle (e.g. I need a small car to get to Costco, I don't need it at all while I'm shopping for 4 hours, and I need a utility van to get it all home), and allows for one-way usage. Better utilization leads to more frequent replacement, which could lead to better overall fleet efficiency (assuming continuing gains in gas mileage for new cars).

- allows for one-way carpooling

I'm sure there will be lots of other effects (good and bad) of driverless cars.
Alison C.
user 8979363
Group Organizer
Mountain View, CA
Post #: 433
The author agrees with you about improved utilization. He's just claiming that the improvements will lead to more trips, which will, if enough to overcome increased efficiency, could actually result in more fuel-burning and more traffic. After all, even if traffic got worse, a lot of passengers wouldn't care if they didn't have to pay attention. Thus, for example, travellers who currently plan trips for off-peak might decide to set off at the maximum of rush hour. The whole question of long-term consequences is murky and requires more thought, as he points out. For sure though, increased automation will improve safety and reduce financial impacts of accidents, and that's reason enough to implement it.

It's sobering in a discussion of unintended consequences to recall that the introduction of syringes in Africa for the purpose of vaccinations resulted in a worsening of blood-borne illness infection rates due to failure to dispose of used needles. The consequence was worse public health overall.
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