Autonomous cars will be commonplace by 2025 and have a near monopoly by 2030, and the sweeping change they bring will eclipse every other innovation our society has experienced.
No, and no.
They will cause unprecedented job loss and a fundamental restructuring of our economy, solve large portions of our environmental problems, prevent tens of thousands of deaths per year, save millions of hours with increased productivity, and create entire new industries that we cannot even imagine from our current vantage point.
Possibly, unlikely, unclear, perhaps, unclear, unclear.
The whole piece goes on like this, ending with
But perhaps most exciting for me are the coming inventions, discoveries, and creation of entire new industries that we cannot yet imagine.It is exciting to be alive, isn’t it?
Well, beats the alternative, I guess.
I was going to say I don’t want to rain on Mr. Kanter’s driverless-car parade—but of course I do.
“ANTIBIOTICS, fer-cryin’-out-loud-from-the-top-of-the-Empire State Building!”
Or how about the freakin’ bar-code, which, while certainly not up there with ANTIBIOTICS (fer cryin’ out loud. . .), is more innovative than a car. Without a driver.
You know what was innovative? The car, that was innovative.
The driverless car? Cool tech, bro, and it may eventually become more popular than the drivered-car, with some of the effects (good and bad) Kanter mentions.
But it’s still a car, still takes up space, still requires roads, still requires traffic infrastructure (signals, policing, snow removal, road work) still requires maintenance, still moves people one or a few at a time.
It’s more of the same, except hands-free.
Maybe my perspective is skewed because I live in a city in which most people get to and from work and wherever without getting behind the wheel. Granted, we enter vehicles (taxis, limos, buses, trains) which someone else is driving, but the idea that one can get from here to there without paying (much) attention to what happens in-between is. . . old.
Perhaps someone living in a place less densely crossed with mass transit or car-service options might be able to grab the sweepiness of the no-driver-car than I can—maybe if I had to drive from Sheboygan Falls to Milwaukee every day, I’d be more excited at the thought of spacing out while hurtling up and down I-43.
But one of the advantages Kanter lists of driverless cars—that these would also be ownerless cars—would likely not be seen as an advantage by those in rural areas and small towns, not least because it’s not clear that there would be sufficient population density in a place like Sheboygan County to make it worthwhile for some company to set up a fleet of to-rent cars. And even if they did, I doubt that people would be willing to wait for that car to show up from the other side of the county just so they could make a beer run.
And hey: why would driverless cars necessarily be ownerless? I mean, maybe they could be, but why would not-driving a car make you want to not-own a car? Yeah, owning a car in New York City is a pain, but the rest of the country is most definitely not the city.
I could go on—no, really, I could—but who wants that. So let me end by saying, yeah, driverless cars might someday take over the road, and maybe that’ll lead to some of the (not-so-) nifty things Kanter mentions in his essay.
But it’s still a car. On a road.
Ain’t nothin’ new about that.
h/t Robert Farley, Lawyers, Guns & Money