By Tyler Falk
Posting in Cities
Google's self-driving car is cool, but will it lead to more sprawl? Or is it a worry for another day?
Google's self-driving car is amazing.
It's has driven more than 140,000 miles with only one accident. And as Sebastian Thrun, one of the builders of Google's self-driving car, explains in his TED talk, the self-driving car would could make cars more safe and make commuting by car much less of a headache.
But will this science fiction-to-reality success story lead to some unintended consequences?
Writing for Fast Company, Greg Lindsay, author of Aerotropolis (read his interview with SmartPlanet here), paints the picture of how driverless cars could lead to suburban sprawl.
Driverless cars would be a perfect match for car-sharing services such as Zipcar or Getaround, gradually replacing the idea of car ownership with “mobility-as-a-service.” That, in turn, may lead to a precipitous fall in car ownership--as high as 50%--while breathing new life into suburbia and creating more congestions as the pain of commuting lessens.
What if you could watch movies, make Skype calls, or play with your children in the back seat until you were delivered to your doorstep? A game-changer in terms of commuting time and cost, it would breathe new life back into suburban sprawl; it's not a problem to live two hours from work when you can spend those two hours as if you were on your couch.
Maybe Lindsay's getting ahead of himself. But it's easy to see how the intrigue and ease of using a self-driving car could create the perfect storm that could lead to a new generation of sprawling suburbs. Using a car would be easier than it is now if self-driving cars were linked with programs like Zipcar-- you wouldn't need to worry about maintenance, insurance, and all the other hassles of car-ownership. Plus, commuting in a car might actually be a pleasant experience.
But, really, it's a worry for another day. Because meanwhile there are 250 million personal vehicle in the U.S. today. And everyday they're embarking on a commute that is killing them. The reality is, people who want to live in the suburbs will live there whether commuting is easy or not. And people who want to live in walkable, dense community will live there even if commuting in a car is easier. If nothing else, I can't imagine that Google's self-driving car would make sprawl any worse than it is today.
Photo: Daquella manera/Flickr
Jun 9, 2011
that grocery stores pulled out of Watts after the riots there burned locally owned grocery stores? Or that the same thing happened after the Detroit fan riot in 1984 and again in 1990. Same in 1992 in the LA riots. President Obamas old buddy Van Jones admits to burning a grocery store during those riots.kral oyunkanal d oyun
People go where the jobs are. Jobs centralize where major transportation lines are. So, force corporations and industries to set up their new facilities in small towns throughout the province/state and get high speed railroads going to move their goods and people. Spread the population across a multitude of existing places that are dying because of youth drain. Ease pressure on metropolises (metropoli?) and get those big trucks off the roads.
This is a 'need/means' matching problem. Easily solved. Most personal transport needs can be easily met through on-demand matching system that could match available transport to persons needing to move between any two points. To those who say it can't happen, I heard that about the Pooper Scooper Law when it was passed here in NYC. Today, the 'dog business' is booming in NYC and the streets are nearly free of dog feces. Who woulda thunk it? -dh
Google's new whip proves that we're right on track to 2015, when according to Back to the Future Part II flying cars will be everywhere.
I've often wondered how this (Google driverless car) project got funded instead of something that seems so much more useful, profitable, and beneficial to the country -- intelligent camera controlled traffic signals. Recall how many times you've been stuck at a stoplight when you can see that there's no other traffic for miles. Then just as a huge slug of traffic arrives at your intersection, twenty cars get stopped while you get to turn. The amount of fuel and time wasted staggers the imagination. Now if you had cameras mounted atop (or integrated into) traffic lights, they could act as a really good traffic cop, that could see way down the road and could communicate with traffic controllers in the neighborhood or even across the city. They could use the best algorithms to maximize flow. The could keep counts so that at any time you could know how many vehicles of what type were passing anywhere in the city. On "thoroughfares" you could use the camera intelligence to determine the optimum speed limit (or advisory) to smooth and maximize flow. If Google applied themselves to this sort of technology they would be making a huge contribution to conserving energy and time resources, while reducing the national blood pressure, and I suspect, creating a hugely profitable business venture that would create jobs across the country (world).
you have to ask why is sprawl happening? I believe some of the reasons for sprawl is because cities are not built for humans. It's well documented that for millennia, cities have higher real estate prices for less Square footage, greater pollution, lower quality of life, higher prices, lower quality food and lower access to good food. if you look at police crime statistics, you'll see that urban spaces have significantly higher crime rates, violent and nonviolent. fix the cities and people will move back in willingly. And that's another important bit. You can't force anybody to do anything. Make attractive, make it cheaper and then people do green things which is why I find electric cars so interesting. The city repair I described will take hundreds of years. In the meantime, I would rather see us taking advantage of existing infrastructure(no additional cost) using electric cars. we would significantly drop energy usage, we will preserve mobility, preserve competition in food supplies, and other goods and services instead of being bound to the near-monopoly of local merchants. I also look forward to the possibility hinted at by other real-world experiences that electric cars may destroy existing public transportation. one of these hints can be found in the archives for Green car Congress. Search for electric bicycles in China, to find an article talking about how in China, a family can purchase electric bicycle and in the first year, cover the cost of the bicycle by its replacing public transit as a means of transport. if the same relationship plays out with electric cars and public transit, there'll be no need or reason to spend any money on public transit systems. I really think electric cars are a huge win for us as a society. The energy savings, the CO2 reduction, reuse of existing infrastructure are all major pluses. environmentalists who want people to live in cities should feel free to invest their own money in redevelopment projects replacing low density urban housing with high density housing. If they do it right, some people may be willing to move in but good suburban space with nearby access to wild lands is wonderful and has no urban experience that can compare. I wish them luck trying to convince people to move in but in the meantime, electric cars are the way to go to put a big dent in the CO2 problem.
I happen to enjoy driving even though I realize that something has to change, humans can't continue to operate the they we are. You humans... So the car was invented, and cities such as Los Angeles were built so that one HAS to buy a car. Now they made the device and engineered your need for one, great they sold millions. Now self driving cars could contribute to the final decision to live further out and commute farther but the real problem is that are too many people already. Urban sprawl and more people to fill up the new cities. Great.
At best this Greg Lindsay is a Useful Idiot for the corrupt politicians and their bosses (the real power & elite) who want nothing more then to move as many of us serfs into these small easily controlled mega cities limiting our ability to transport ourselves so that we are at the mercy of those in control of the city. I can???t believe how moronic this guy???s comments are and how arrogant he is to act like as if his comment about suburban sprawl being bad while urban sprawl infill (his words) being good is just going to be accepted by the readers as fact when its pure crap. Greg Lindsay is just another pro-big government stooge/hack trying to sell everyone on how much better we???d al be if we lived more like the prisoners in China have to, under tight government control. Please tell me nobody takes this guy serious;y.
In the 21st century we find ourselves being forced to compete with India and China's CHEEP LABOR, a place where workers are housed in corporate housing, living below poverty in overcrowded and inhumane conditions all for the sake of the corporate bottom line. So I have 2 remarks here. 1) I think the overall idea of self driven cars would actually improve condition, especially traffic, human error is to blame for most accidents on our highways, and to worsen that condition is our human nature to gawk at someone's misfortune, which I refer to as, "that freeway Kodak moment". So in reality self driven cars could be the best thing that ever happened to revolutionize commuting and travel. 2) On the other hand I am pretty sick and tired of Corporate greed gobbling up all the efficiency we scientists and developers create. It seems no matter how efficient and time saving we make a process that it's the corporations who benefit, piling more profit into their bottom line while the workers stagnate at the same levels of struggle. I am annoyed that this modern marvel is already being equated into more productivity!! . I.E. Computers should have opened the door to a push button age of automation that provided relief to the workload on the average worker, and coupled with robotics make everyone's life much easier. Instead; The corporations viewed the multitasking capabilities of computers as a reason to demand more of workers by forcing them to multitask also and lay off the excess, again all for the benefit of that bottom line. In my opinion where the industrial revolution brought advancement to civilization, the electronic revolution has been used against us as a civilization by corporate entities in order to allow a greedy few to split civilization into two classes, Nobles and Serfs. New programming and devices meant to improve society, computers at the top of the list, are now being controlled and used as tools against the masses and individual people instead of for the purpose of which they are intended. It is for these reason programmers like myself have been withholding some of our best outside the box work, until that time arrives when corporations and governments will not make weapons out of them to use against us.
Google up UN Agenda 21, look at it on the UN website and the analysis of it by others and you'll find that the move over the long haul is to concentrate everyone into the cities and create vast regions where people just plain won't be allowed to go. As an example of the Agenda and to tie it into this article, your automatic car is already in service in Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, where you cannot drive your own car into the streets even if it is an electric car. All the transportation in Masdar City is by small driverless transit vehicles on regulated streets. This is a prototype city built with the Agenda in mind.
Might be interesting for people who MUST commute, but the trend is for people to work at home -- and technology is now supporting the trend in a big way. It is only going to get better going forward as 4G networks and internet 3.0 comes online. Why commute when you don't have too? People working from home are more productive, office space is free and no commute is about as green as you can get.
Just as nobody would fly on a plane that could take off and land without a pilot. Nobody would feel comfortable riding in a vehicle run by a computer. I can see certain trucks delivering point to point without a driver which would prevent hours of service issues or drivers having to take breaks. But even that too me is a long way off.
Autonomous thinking is going out of fashion it seems. We are seeing two entire generations growing up and maturing without using their brains. This young writer (Tyler Falk) assumes that just because a specific theory is put forth and drummed down our throats, it must be true. I only SHARED this article to Face Book so I would have the opportunity to rag on it. Urban Sprawl is a term used to make house building in the suburbs, thereby leaving the city behind, into a bad thing. Exercising liberty is a bad thing to Leftists. Jobs from constructing something real is a bad thing. Using our natural resources like trees to build real homes in which to live is somehow a bad thing even though trees are a renewable resource. The reality is that as folks build homes in the suburbs, they are living out a wonderful dream of freedom to live where one wants that only America and other technically advanced nations can afford. The leftist greenies don't like new homes built in the suburbs, don't like golf courses, don't like jobs created by American exceptionalism, and don't like anyone exercising the freedom of speech that espouses personal and national liberty and American exceptionalism. To tout a wonderful invention like the self-driving car as a good thing but downing anything anti-urban, is like saying that one supports the troops 100% but is against the job they're doing to protect America. The self-driving automobile could only be invented and marketed in a country like America that still enjoys a certain amount of free market economy in spite of the Obamaites trying to destroy free trade and liberty for the masses.
this is just cars in the cloud... can't get to your email how about can't get off the interstate or out of your garage because the cloud now controls your vehicle. Or maybe you just like the name VIKI. People are worried about the iphone keeping tracks of there movements but a car that will drive for them... please draw the connection. sorry OWNER you have used your allotted fuel for the month/week.. please insert card for distance surcharge. let's not kid ourselves, not only will there be jail broken iphones there will be jail broken cars. in the news today "Jail broken car careens thru playground killing 3 and sending 10 to the hospital. Manufacturer is not releasing a statement."
Remember when everyone was going to be riding monorails from city to city? That was the future of 40+ years ago, just as the self driving car is today. Too many American???s love cars and love driving them, this is a nice try but Greg Lindsay is dreaming.
Many comments are based on the automobile reality we have become used to and NOT the scenario presented here. Points to consider. Ownership: If Shared Mobility as a Service, the liability is on the company. Accidents: Will not become a thing of the past due to malfunctions but will be greatly reduced. The cars will be 'aware' of other vehicles and slowdown or speed up to pace. Routes would be calculated on the best scenario at a point in time. Unauthorized use: Easy problem to solve. Bio security is at the top of its game and getting better. The BIG question? What if the network gets hacked and we have 100,000 ground level projectiles crashing into urban targets at top speed? If we can't keep them out of CitiBank, Sony, and Lockheed Martin, How are we going to keep this safe? Sprawl? Who cares!
My main concern with cars like this is that if anyone can drive them by telling them where to go, what would happen if some little kid climbs into the car and tells it to take him/her somewhere? Or what if a thief breaks into your car and it will take him/her wherever they want? It seems like there would need to be some kind of identification system (and you probably could just use driver's licenses for this) to prevent things like this but maybe this just shows that I don't know much about these types of cars.
Would it know how to avoid traffic problems that may arise along the preferred route? I can take several combinations of routes to my workplace from my home, and can vary as needed for avoidance of traffic accidents. Some are out of the way, but possibly necessary. Are they equipped for manual takeover or is it programmed to a specific route, no matter what may come your way? I already live in the suburban area (still within the city limits) of Oklahoma City. How does it work, is it equipped with sensors to avoid collisions, road conditions (ice, water, snow...), or other myriads of possibilities one faces on the daily commute. (would it stop for an oncoming train, oncoming traffic, avoiding careless drivers, those who run stop signs...)
rRbocars are not going to change the Urban Sprawl problem. The sprawl problem comes from people wanting to get out of the problem 'inner' city area. The problem is limited by the maximum trip time that people will put up with. Robot (computer) driven cars are not faster than human driven cars, so the trip time will not be substantially reduced. It will probably take longer. What it may do is to reduce the number of cars you need. If the car can take me to the train station, then go back home, It could serve double duty. If my family needs two cars, it's just a matter of scheduling. Before we get to 3 or 4 cars, it will definitely be possible to forgo on of the cars by scheduling. No, it isn't autopilot driving that will enable more suburban development than we presently have, it will be high speed transport, probably rail. At the other end, unmanned taxis should be less expensive, and therefore more used.
...And particularly Amtrak. After all, it has numerous small and underserved stations that only really link to places by either car or poor transit connections, and the current low usage of those stations might render a car rental facility impractical. Robocars can help by eliminating the need to pay a chauffeur, thus freeing them up to drive to the station. As for trains themselves, I'm sure there'll always be some demand for them, because they are big and they offer socializing opportunities (not to mention that there are strong traveling traditions associated with rail). I also suspect that there are people out there who want to travel by train but find suburban destinations inconvenient - and robocars might help there, too. The same goes for airlines, but the existence of car rental agencies at airports kind of lessens the impact of robocars.
To spread the limbs in a relaxed, awkward, or unnatural position; So much for sitting up strait in you're seat. Will the car stop as soon as seat belt is detached? To sit or lie in such a position: to sprawl in a chair. May distract other drivers? To crawl in an awkward, ungainly way. May tickets,(DUI and speeding) be a thing of the past? To spread out in an awkward or uneven way, esp. so as to take up more space than is necessary, etc. If we were to be more cautious and responsible. We would not need that much technology. Only thing that will benefit is more money spent for vehicle, everything else will still rise in cost. I love the idea. But more problems will be raised ($).
If all cars were to be self-driving there would also be the issue of who is at fault during a crash. If the car has even the slightest mistake within its database, the highway could be a dangerous place to be when inside this kind of car.
The greatest thing is it would make drunk driving a thing of the past. Before going into the bar program the car to take you to your favorite after bar eatery followed by the trip home. No more having to pay for expensive taxis or calling a towing company to take your car home for you. No more need to pay police to man DUI checkpoints. What about no more soccer mom duties? Have the car take the kids to school or practices for you. Don't feel like dealing with the ex-wife after your divorced dad visitation weekend? Program the car to take the kids home for you. The possibilities are endless. The question is would driver's licenses become obsolete?
...then what are we to make of "green" electric cars that cost pennies-per-mile to operate? It seems to me that is the bigger threat.
These days, the distance one is willing to commute, is affected as much (or more) by COST, as by time and/or convenience. Not to mention the PC "green" trend in everything. Making it EASIER to travel far, is not going to make it any cheaper or "earth-friendly", and those are considerable hurdles. Not to mention that a lot of people LIKE to drive!
Progressives are not willing to address the reasons (many of which you pointed out) that people have historically fled our urban centers. Since they cannot/will not address these issues, the only way to get people to do what they want is via coercion; either economic or otherwise. If they'd only address the reasons people leave, coercion would not be necessary. Alas, from their point of view, coercion is the faster/easier solution.
Pretty soon they won't be able to pull this off even in Abu Dhabi as the Arabs are discovering individual freedom.
I work from home as a programmer and have actually come to cherish the 9 to 5 office job, where I am not having people ask me to take care of some little extra every time I turn around. When I commute to the office I work a 40-50 hour per week job, every job I telecommute slowly morphs into an 10-14 hour a day 6 days a week job :-(
I'm a work from home writer, media designer and video producer. I haven't commuted in years; not to a 9-5er. I still think it a cool idea. Sometimes there's nothing wrong with doing something just because one can. There are so many benifits as long as the Feds don't get too involved.
I like how wess_chicago thinks. Notice how cause and effect seems to be based on real results instead of someone's idea of making a population behave in a desired way? Flags should go up and warning sirens shriek whenever we read that a certain segment of the population is "wrong" just by exercising freedom of choice.
Play with Google Maps for 5 minutes and you will see what information is available to a Google-Guided car.
Back in the late 1970s there was a major chain reaction pileup on Interstate 5 near Medford, Oregon. My brother-in-law and his Volkswagen were involved in it. There was a heavy morning fog that descended upon the Rogue Valley rather suddenly and drivers on I-5 failed to adjust their speed accordingly. If I remember correctly there were about 100 cars involved. Accidents like this would become a thing of the past with this new technology. The down side is that if the satellite link was faulty for any reason, the smart car wouldn???t have any way to know where the other cars were beyond its own onboard sensors, so would either come to a complete stop or chug along at only a few feet every minute. With the luxury of machines thinking for you, the old adage becomes true; "The good news is that robots will handle that from now on. But, the bad news is that robots will handle that from now on."
Interesting point, this is very critical issue. If this kind of accident happened then it may be require framing different rule for self-driving car. :) Cheap cars
That's not an argument, that's being argumentative. Cars that pollute less are better for anyone who breathes. Cost is a separate issue. The best way to deter more sprawl is to stop building new highways & expanding existing highways. There's not enough money to maintain the existing road network so it's even more illogical to spend public money so developers can make their fortunes paving under farmland & open space.
I enjoy driving but I hate commuting. That goes for everyone I've talked to about the subject. And I know people who dislike driving under any circumstances. There's many people whose only vehicle is a big pick-up or SUV because they can't afford a 2nd, small car just for commuting. If there was a car sharing service that had a self-driving car at a sufficiently low cost per trip, I think it would eventually become very popular, both because you can use the time in the car productively & because it reduces stress. The cost factor is difficult to determine because the costs of insurance & of maintenance are partly fixed & the cost of debt service is fixed (on that big SUV they keep in the garage)
Yet another reason to get the U.S. out of the UN and to kick that proto-communist organization out of the U.S.
I too worked from home for almost 9 years and did love the freedom it gave me to tend to personal matters especially when you have kids. But the job quickly grew to 10 + hour work days and clients and fellow employees contacting me at all hours of the day. Also your home office is only a few steps away so you're always on call. I've found going to an office allows me to clearly define work and home plus if I have a bad day I have time to decompress on the ride home.
Look at the title of this article! Google is developing a self-driving car, and all the author can think about is how this will fuel sprawl? In a single second, I can think of a dozen things that contribute to sprawl before self-driving cars come into the picture.
that was hoodedswan's comment "you can use the time in the car productively". Darn, that means on my 1-hour commute I can work then too? Stretching my workday from 8-10 hours? I think I'm sick and tired of being "productive" all the time. A friend of my made a suggestion a few years back: let's move to a 40-hour day/9-day week. This way we can work 24/7, sleep 8, play 8 and still have weekends.
Frankly, the whole idea of self-driving cars is another "solution in search of a problem." Creating personal buses isn't just inefficient and costly (automation is more expensive manufacture and maintain), it increases society's over-reliance on machines to respond correctly to completely unforeseen eventualities. It takes a human brain to handle the unexpected. Nothing should be behind the wheel of a vehicle but a breathing, thinking, alert, and [u]involved[/u] person.
You actually do have the freedom to operate a motor vehicle without a license or registration. You do need to have an identifying tag on the vehicle, but that is all that is required. Believe it or not, every American has a sovereign right to travel. It's just that we're not told by the state that we have that right, and instead are presented with a "contract" (and yes, your signature on all of those documents down at the DMV constitutes a contract between you and the state). It's amazing what you can pass off to the public under the guise of authority.
...while the degree that self-driving cars will have upon promoting it is just silly. As for stopping sprawl, I suggest two solutions: A) Make cities more desirable to those who now choose to live outside cities. B) Slow population expansion, which in the US is exclusively caused by immigration, and globally due to subsidized birth rates. Both these topics seem to be too uncomfortable for progressives to address.
Freedom to ruin the environment? It's not about who's telling who what to do, there are reasons why this is detrimental. And what "freedoms" do you have driving a human made device that you do not have the freedom to oprerate without a license and registration fees?
There are plenty of dollars generated for road maint and expansion that our liberal elected officials (includes many GOPs) confiscated for other uses without asking us. Reallocating spending back to fiscally responsible and US Constitutionally legal avenues should come long before anyone starts trying to engineer our freedoms away like our friend Hoodedswan foolishly suggests. If you wish to tell other people that they can't drive their car home because they might drive farther than you like, you're living in the wrong country. You might like Argentina or Cuba, though.
bob, don't mean to call you on your commute but we have an issue with the project and we wanted to get started early....... priceless...
Time used productivity does not always mean time on the job. The time could be used to surf the internet, read, study something or just take a nap.