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Car turns driver in for hit-and-run (wpbf.com)
241 points by anigbrowl on Dec 4, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 246 comments



You know how to reduce drunk driving? Invest in public transportation.

Poor people won't be able to afford self driving cars for quite some time. The US is a country where it's very difficult to live without a car, except in certain major cities.

I'm not excusing this woman's behaviour. She lacks major responsibility. But the world is full of irresponsible people, and building good public infrastructure helps in so many ways that there's no excuse not to build it.


>The US is a country where it's very difficult to live without a car, except in certain major cities.

This is by design. As I mentioned in another comment, there was this 1950s utopian ideal amongst American planners that we'd all own cars, we could live tens of miles away from the city where we worked, modern planning would ensure traffic was amazing, and we could avoid all that nasty density business and all the 'others' that come with it.

No longer would white men have to live near black men. We could all just drive away to the suburbs where restrictive covenants meant we couldn't even sell to black people and restrictive zoning forcing large lot single family homes would ensure that, even if we could legally sell to them, they wouldn't be able to afford to live there anyways.

Racially motivated covenants can't be enforced any longer, but the land use control mechanisms put in place to ensure no poor people move to the pristine suburb still exist.

It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court upheld these laws, even sharing in their legal opinions that apartments are evil and a drain on society, so of course we should ban them.

If they had not upheld these laws, or these laws did not exist in the first place, I'm sure the US would have maintained its public transit friendly character to a great extent. Even LA had one of the largest, if not the largest, rail systems in the world. Imagine that.


> As I mentioned in another comment, there was this 1950s utopian ideal amongst American planners that we'd all own cars, we could live tens of miles away from the city where we worked, modern planning would ensure traffic was amazing

It's interesting to note that these people were the techno-optimists of their time.


>It's interesting to note that these people were the techno-optimists of their time.

The thing is, people knew in this time period how inefficient cars were for moving people. Cars take up way more space than equivalent public transit and this was used in advertisements for streetcar companies (who were getting killed by congestion caused by cars).



The US is enormous. If we're all truly living far away from the cities then the space occupied by cars is not relevant. That wasn't their mistake - it was the energy costs and corresponding pollution.


This time, we'll get it right for sure.


Is is possible that some just don't like living in tight urban quarters? I'm not exactly sure why the race card must be played. I know plenty of folks who simply want big houses with big yards in which to spread out. It might even be innate human nature to not wish to live confined.


The race card was played in real estate and metropolitan planning long ago, to great detrimental effect on blacks. You can't separate the creation of the American suburb from America's 20th century racial history.

See:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redlining

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockbusting

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_flight

Also:

http://wpsa.research.pdx.edu/meet/2012/greer.pdf

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/201...


>Is is possible that some just don't like living in tight urban quarters? I'm not exactly sure why the race card must be played.

Sure is. I'm totally OK with people living this lifestyle.

What I don't appreciate is when these people take over land use policies in all of America and make this lifestyle required, outside of handful of pockets that had the fortune to be born before this lifestyle existed. I don't like that these policies have tremendous effects on house prices, the cost of transportation, and economic growth nationwide (to the point that economists from various viewpoints oppose them).

I would likewise be opposed to policies that legally mandated all people live in environments that look like Manhattan. Not everyone enjoys that lifestyle, and it would have massive ramifications on all aspects of society.

What I support is a relaxing of zoning and land use policies so that they become about the efficient movement of people and goods and public safety, which is how they started out.

I do not support land use policies that are meant to force me to live a certain way. Let the me decide how I want to live. Don't tell me what I like or should like.


>> No longer would white men have to live near black men.

Today's youth think the suburbs was about race now? It was about a lot of people don't actually like living in a concrete jungle, that was what it was about.


>Today's youth think the suburbs was about race now? It was about a lot of people don't actually like living in a concrete jungle, that was what it was about.

Race was a huge motivator. Why else would we have racial covenants? Funny how the growth of suburbs came at roughly the same time that schools started integrating and integration accelerated suburban growth. We had Federal suburban housing subsidies available almost exclusively for whites.

We have a name for this phenomenon: White Flight.

Pre-1950s we had racial covenants, but we didn't social engineer lifestyles in suburbs to build them around cars. Streetcar suburbs for instance looked similar to the cities they were connected to. Smaller and less dense, but walkable urban places in their own right. Look at places like Del Ray, Alexandria, Virginia for an example.

In cities themselves we tended to build highways in poor, mostly minority, neighborhoods. The white neighborhoods wouldn't be leveled nearly as often.


It goes a lot deeper than that, even.

Racism was an early motivator behind minimum wage laws [1],[2]. It was also the origin of gun control [3]. Funny how the passage of time can turn our perspective in different ways.

[1] http://dailycaller.com/2014/01/16/the-racist-history-of-the-...

[2] http://www.thecommentator.com/article/2718/racist_origins_of...

[3] http://www.constitution.org/cmt/cramer/racist_roots.htm


I think you might be confusing crime and race although they happen to be tied closely together. My family decided to moved out of the city when they were followed home one day. Not sure race had anything to do with it but crime definitely did.


You are ignoring the key part of what he said. Why else would there be racial covenants explicitly excluding non-caucasians?

Sure, fear of crime was one of the mechanisms of white flight, but American fear of crime has a big racial component to it. Historically, America has kept black people poor, confined them to poor neighborhoods, and then blamed blackness for the high crime rates that go with poverty and desperation.

This game continues today. Donald Trump recently tweeted something with totally made up statistics blaming black people for murders of whites:

http://www.rawstory.com/2015/11/that-racist-trump-tweet-abou...

It wasn't just wrong and it wasn't just racist. It was literally neo-nazi propaganda.


I think the reason these threads about suburbs explode is because people who grew up in suburbs that have never had restrictive covenants and have nothing whatsoever to do with racism feel personally attacked. Plus as another commenter said, not everyone wants to live in a concrete jungle. So if someone wants to have a back yard and not hear constant traffic noise, let them.


I can understand why they'd feel that way, but a request to acknowledge the actual facts of history is not actually a personal attack. It's frustrating when people take it that way, as it makes the discussion about white people's feelings, thus reinforcing the notion that the white person's narrative is and should be the dominant one.


You're still assuming race where none is given when you describe suburban feelings as "white people's feelings". It's unhelpful to the cause of racial equality and righting past wrongs to talk about the "white person's narrative" as if that's what I'm doing here. My narrative isn't white, black, brown, red, yellow, green, purple, or rainbow; it's just mine. So let's just talk about people as people and their lives as they want to describe them, rather than in terms of racial narratives.


Suburbs are broadly white. Many of them were established to be explicitly white. Some older, inner suburbs, which have become more diverse, are now experiencing white flight of their own. Suburban feelings tend to be white people's feelings. It's a generalization, but as a white guy who when to school in the 'burbs, I'm comfortable with that.

> My narrative isn't white, black, brown, red, yellow, green, purple, or rainbow; it's just mine.

If you narrative is American, race is an inescapable part of that. Saying your narrative has no race is basically to say that it's white. We white people can talk as if race doesn't exist because we have made whiteness the default, the perspective, the unmarked case. But non-white people in America don't talk like that.

If you're looking for an expanded version of how this works, search for critiques of "I don't see race", which has been thoroughly examined and found wanting.


I don't find this narrative compelling. People naturally mention the things that make them different from those around them. White people living in Taiwan might talk about being white in Taiwan. White nerds in a white neighborhood talk about being nerds more than being white. This has nothing to do with racial domination.

If White Man's Burden motivates you to make the world better then so be it, but I find the idea incredibly divisive and at the height of hubris.


Well, running with the nerd example, non-nerds never talk about being non-nerds while the ostracize the nerds. They can treat nerds as weird and other and never think of themselves as a particular thing other than "normal". They don't have to think about that because they dominate the dialog and become the unmarked case.

That's why, e.g., people on the autism spectrum recently came up with the term "neurotypical", so that they could try to create an equal footing in the discourse. In that construction, aspies and neurotypicals are just different kinds of people, both equally "normal".

Casting what I'm saying as "White Man's Burden" is either incredibly ignorant or a dick move, and I can't tell which. But to be clear, I'm up to the opposite.

The whole "White Man's Burden" [1] shtick rests upon the notion that white people are better, and therefore should help the benighted dark peoples. I, on the other hand, think races are fundamentally equal, and it's only an accident of history that leaves me with more privilege. I'm thus using it here to educate white people ignorant of the US's long history of ingrained racial prejudice.

Non-white people need no education on the topic. In the same way that nerds are forced to understand what nerdiness means to non-nerds, non-white people are forced to understand white notions of race, even as most white people see themselves as typical, average, default, "normal" and so never think about the topic in any depth.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_White_Man's_Burden


This is probably one of the most insightful threads i've read on hacker news in the entire year of 2015. Reasonable and positive discourse explaining racial disparity and discrimination. At the same time, expressing the poignancy of the topic without woe is me tripe. Job well done sir... Job well done.


So are you saying higher crime rates in those areas is caused by poor people or black people? Because you're not saying that there isn't more crime where black people live...


I am saying higher crime rates in those areas are caused by endemic structural and personal white racism.


>Why else would there be racial covenants explicitly excluding non-caucasians?

Late to the party but I think Jews were also usually excluded.


I wonder if the guy is stupidly ignorant or willfully ignorant. He has said some really despicable things.


I don't think Trump is really in either of those categories. He's optimized for feeling confident and saying things that (some) people want to hear.

It's not that he's lying, because he doesn't even know what the truth is. I also think he doesn't know that he doesn't know that. In this regard, I think of him as like a sophisticated bot: he doesn't track input in terms of true or false facts, but in terms of word-strings to say that are useful for his particular purposes. Any belief necessary to sound convincing is generated from the word strings.

My grandfather was a master salesman and as best I can tell, this was his basic approach to managing reality.


The scary part is that he has gained a large following of people who think he's just saying "what everyone's thinking". There are many, many people in the U.S. who hear what he says, and then think, "Yeah! That's so true!" on their gut instinct without having any background knowledge on the subject. I'm living in the U.S. and it's a scary momentum.


""Yeah! That's so true!" on their gut instinct without having any background knowledge on the subject. I'm live in the U.S. and it's a scary momentum."

This happens on the other side of the fence, and no one bats an eye about it. In fact, they call it democracy, or something like that.

Snarkiness aside, if these people agree with him, then that is their vote. Really, we can't have democracy if we don't call it democracy when people vote the way we don't like them to. It's the same as free-speech: we can't suddenly abandon it if we don't like what's being said.


Populism does have both right and left forms (and others besides), but that doesn't mean that it isn't inimical to democracy. It is not hard to find historical examples of populists who have used the vote to seize power. Democracy is a lot more than voting, and it's certainly more than having one last free vote for a populist who ends free voting.

There's also a particularly ugly history of populists stirring up racial hatred as a means to power, which I think is especially dangerous.


Right, but this conflation comes up with most political arguments and I think it's a straw man. I don't think that people shouldn't have the right to follow Trump, but it's also true that people are free to hate certain types of people. That doesn't mean it isn't scary.


Today's olds also think the suburbs were about race. E.g.:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_flight

http://www.pbs.org/race/000_About/002_04-teachers-07.htm is

http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/1017_reg.html

People who think it was only about wanting to live with a little more greenery around are mainly white suburbanites who haven't looked at the history.


    mainly white suburbanites who haven't looked at the history.
Many of them are mainly white suburbanites who are uncomfortable with the implications of the history, and choose rather to ignore it or paper it over (with "well, our family was different because...).

Perfectly understandable, of course.


Oh, definitely. And so much of what they hear doesn't fit with the actual history, so it's easy to ignore their first encounters with the facts as weird aberrations. I was shocked when I finally learned this stuff.


You may want to look at Redlining which for example controlled who got mortgages or not based on race.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redlining

> In the United States, redlining is the practice of denying services, either directly or through selectively raising prices, to residents of certain areas based on the racial or ethnic makeups of those areas. While some of the most famous examples of redlining regard denying financial services such as banking or insurance,[2] other services such as health care [3] or even supermarkets,[4] can be denied to residents to carry out redlining.[5]


I have found it very interesting to inspect the redlining maps from this era -- many of the divisions they reflected and enforced up to the 1960s-1970s are still loosely in place today, right down to the "that's the wrong side of the street" level. (http://www.urbanoasis.org/projects/holc-fha/digital-holc-map...)

Further to your point, another practice that re-distributed whites to the suburbs, to the benefit of shady property developers, is blockbusting. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockbusting) It also had nothing to do with green lawns and everything to do with racism.


The suburbs were about a lot of things (some were built in the 30s as utopian projects by the US Government) but mass suburbanization was driven by FHA loans to veterans, which were not available to blacks.


It's American parochialism. Suburbs, highways, and cars also exist in countries that don't have the US's unique racial history.


Suburbs, highways, and cars exist outside the US as I can attest (I used to live in Japan), but they are not the same suburbs and highways. Compare relatively car centric Naha, Japan to Houston. Very different development patterns because Japan doesn't have the same restrictions that America has. The car is not held above all other modes in Japan, efficiency be damned.

Some places have imported the American car centric suburb, but they will learn over time the lesson America has started to learn.


That cars enable upward mobility and easy access to jobs devoid of the ever reaching control from the central planning agencies?

More power to them.


> That cars enable upward mobility and easy access to jobs devoid of the ever reaching control from the central planning agencies?

Suburbs have extreme central planning. Go peruse your local town's zoning and land use ordinances. You'll see exactly the number of parking spaces you must provide, exactly how big your lawn must be at a minimum, how many apartments you can have in an apartment building (or if it's even allowed to build an apartment building), whether or not you can charge for parking, and even where it's legal to walk.

No, cars didn't free you from central planning. They enslaved you to it and tricked you into thinking cars are free market transportation.


If I did not have a vehicle I would be forced to live along a route dictated by the likes of yourself. Whereupon I would be forced to choose jobs that would be only along the transit route; whereupon rents / prices for residential and commercial ownership increases as more people compete for a route oriented locations.

Your last line of enslavement is quite amusing when logic is applied: Telling the rat that it is in a clear jar that it is not free is demeaning, but who is telling the rat this; a fellow rat who is also enslaved in a clear jar.


That cars block upward mobility because of the great costs of vehicle, upkeep, fuel, and parking.


If you don't live in a state where insurance is absurdly expensive, don't live somewhere gas is absurdly expensive that is also very spread out (California, Alaska) and aren't insistent upon driving something new you can easily have a reliably car for under $3k or even under $2k and drive it for ~$500/yr in various fees (insurance) before gas. Add in a $120 set of tires and rims every other year (because you don't buy new, you buy used). If you live in a blue collar neighborhood maintenance usually costs next to nothing because you trade services with your neighbors or church congregation or have relatives or close friends that will do things at cost.

If you're not trying to visibly live the suburban upper middle class lifestyle personal freedom of movement can be had relatively cheaply.


If you can walk to work, shoes can be had for under $100, much cheaper than even the cheapest car. This same pair of shoes can even last more than a year and would be needed regardless of mode of transportation.

If you can bike to work, a cheap crappy bike can be acquired off Craigslist for at most a couple hundred.

If you're in a place like NYC, a monthly subway pass is roughly $120 and can handle all of your travel needs for the whole month, not just travel to and from work. No need to shell out $2K - $3K up front; that much money could pay for travel for over a year on the NYC subway and buses. You won't have to worry about your car getting stolen, getting in an accident, break downs, traffic, etc.

>If you're not trying to visibly live the suburban upper middle class lifestyle personal freedom of movement can be had relatively cheaply.

If you're not trying to force everyone into an autocentric lifestyle, then freedom of moment can be had for lower prices, or even free if walking to work is possible.


Agreed. And for comparison, AAA has the average annual cost to own and operate a car at $8698 this year:

http://newsroom.aaa.com/2015/04/annual-cost-operate-vehicle-...


> ~$500/yr in various fees (insurance) before gas. Add in a $120 set of tires and rims every other year (because you don't buy new, you buy used). If you live in a blue collar neighborhood maintenance usually costs next to nothing because you trade services with your neighbors or church congregation or have relatives or close friends that will do things at cost.

So, 560$/year without gas? 522.26$ a year is public transit for me.

So I’d save 40$ a year, plus all the gas.

And my commute times are lower, I’m never stuck in traffic, and even if the commute might be long on some days, I can continue working or browsing the web during it.


And carry groceries for you and the rest of your family home via shoes/bike/public transit.


Which is not an issue, because I pass a grocery store every day, so I can buy every day only a few items, meaning I never have to carry much.

And if I want to buy furniture – these are a thing: https://yeswecandoalmostanythingbybike.files.wordpress.com/2... (Or I can just rent a car).

I’ve been doing this for over a year now, no issues.

On the uni campus is a small mall, too, or I can take 2 bus stations to the downtown area where I can literally buy anything, and it’s easy to transport, too.

Hell, I’ve seen 2 students who bought one of these https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/91/Handtruc... and transported 3 boxes of beer with them in the bus.

Lots of old people use normal hand trolleys for transporting groceries via transit or by foot.

There are trailers for bikes.

It’s really not an issue. (Also, while still living with my parents, we all buy our own stuff ourselves – even my 12yo sister does so. That reduces the amounts one person has to buy, too)


Historians don't tend to agree. White Flight is a well-studied and well-documented phenomenon, as much a part of our history as the Red Scare and other cultural memes of the 20th century.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_flight


For real? Did you not learn about white flight in high school?


That doesn't surprise me. I grew up (non-white, children of recent immigrants) in a white-flight created midwest suburb. For obvious reasons, they didn't teach us about white flight in school. I learned about it from white adults in the community who did leave the city for racially motivated reasons.


> Today's youth think the suburbs was about race now? It was about a lot of people don't actually like living in a concrete jungle, that was what it was about.

Ugh. You realize that people can do things for more than one reason?


For that matter, "people" isn't monolithic. One person can have a mix of reasons, and a different person can have an entirely different mix of reasons.


Could then-suburbs be a result of socio-econmic divide rather than racism? Poor people / minorities get left behind. Maybe a then-bonus was homogenous grouping (which, historically, people tend to prefer), but it seems that a driving factor would be to get out of crowded space. The covenants, yeah, racist people did and do exist, but was that the majority? In your linked Wikipedia, it says that the desegregation of schools happened much earlier than the White Flight, and that many whites stayed and, sometimes violently and often politically, tried to prevent minorities from moving in to their areas. Could it be the more racist of the whites stayed in the cities (covenants aside)? Without more information, I don't see this yet as suburbs == racism bolstered by the availability of the car. Edit: apparently I replied to the wrong comment. And mobile makes it hard to rectify.


The creation of whites-only suburbs was intentional and racist. The Federal Housing Administration started in 1934 and helped back home loans for white Americans. It helped get them out of the cities and invest in home ownership. The FHA explicitly refused to back loans for black people or even people who lived near black people. [1]

The result was "redlining," where banks and lenders would draw lines on a map to delineate where blacks were allowed to live and who could get home loans in the white neighborhoods. [2]

This is still something that happens now. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution won a Pulitzer in the '80s for a series demonstrating how banks would rather give money to a poor white family to buy a home in a "white" neighborhood than a middle- or even upper-class black family. [2]

You're partially right in the sense that race and income are strongly correlated, but keeping black people out of the suburbs across the country was no accident.

If you're interested in a long but fantastic read on the effects of discriminatory policies on minorities over the years, Ta-Nehisi Coates' "The Case for Reparations" is a good place to begin. [3]

[1]: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/05/the-raci...

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redlining

[3]: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case...


I thought the suburbs were mostly about crime. Look at Detroit. Is someone necessarily racist for not wanting to live there? It's a complex issue but you have tumblr-fied it.


If suburbs were about crime, people would merely have moved to them, as they existed (just using transit, not cars).

They wouldn't have set up command and control economy experimental land use policies and subsidies that had never been done before if they just wanted breathing room or to be away from the city. That sort of life could already be had, but that wasn't enough.

Those other people could flee crime too since they could afford a train ticket, and you wouldn't want one of those others in your neighborhood, would you? Of course not. We've got to set things up so they don't follow us. What don't they have? Cars. If we build a new society that forces everyone to have cars, 'they' can't follow us.


You're making a lot of limiting assumptions about what people are willing to do to be safe. Few things will make people react broadly and strongly than to regain a sense of familial safely.


Don't forget the gigantic highway lobby and GM's role in funding the destruction of rail in cities across the country. Remarkably successful strategy. Eventually were convicted iirc, but it was too late.


Cities did their best to kill transit without GM's meddling. For instance, capping fares on all public transit meant that over time the fare in inflation adjusted terms fell. Public transit was being starved to death from this, even in places where cars could never compete such as New York.

The subways there went bankrupt from the fare cap as the city had some obsessive need to take over the subway systems.

Cars didn't pay anything for road wear, and they didn't (and still don't) pay anything towards congestion. They clogged the streets, made streetcars slower, and essentially freeloaded.

Utilities were forced to divest from streetcar ownership, which forced the streetcar companies to pay retail electricity prices instead of wholesale ones.

At the time GM came around, public transit was already hurting. GM was able to do what they did because the companies were hurting and could be bought cheaply.


As someone who lives near Phoenix Arizona, I can see that at least out here it seems to be a result of the fact that the city only really came into existence fairly recently. Compared to much older places like London, which obviously predates the automobile, New forms of transportation were taken into account when zoning regulations and other things were made. As an example, all of our major roads are spaced 1 mile apart and are at right angles to each other in a nice grid. I'm happy living in the suburbs just because it means I get more house for my money.


>Compared to much older places like London, which obviously predates the automobile, New forms of transportation were taken into account when zoning regulations and other things were made. As an example, all of our major roads are spaced 1 mile apart and are at right angles to each other in a nice grid.

There's a difference between designing streets wide enough to accommodate cars--no windy medieval footpaths that eventually got paved in Phoenix--and forcing businesses and all new housing to provide free parking spaces to drivers. One is taking cars into account, another is forcing them on everyone.

It should be noted, however, that Phoenix is old enough it predates cars and its wide streets and grid layout are for other reasons. Grids are efficient, allowing someone on foot to cover a larger area in a given time period than would otherwise be the case. They also allow for efficient navigation; if you name your streets like DC's or Manhattan's, it's easy to get between any two corners. They also minimize property disputes. Streets were wide to allow wagons and the like to turn around easily and for aesthetic reasons.

That this happened to be useful for cars is an accident.


>> ... Invest in public transportation.

>> ... The US is a country where it's very difficult to live without a car, except in certain major cities.

In order to do this, we need to rethink how we design cities. Right now, unless, as you point out, you live in a major city, it just isn't well laid out for public transportation. No amount of retrofitting is going to help. City planners need to take public transportation into account when they issue new building permits, etc. They need to encourage business to build closer so people can use public transport. Here in the south, thought needs to be put into thunderstorms. We can have afternoon thunderstorms with 50MPH winds and deadly lightning pop up very quickly. You can't have people out waiting on public transport in that mess.


> You can't have people out waiting on public transport in that mess.

For the old sort of public transit, I think that's true. But our current notion of public transit is based on fixed schedules, fixed routes, and the high cost of human driver labor.

But think what a new public transit would mean. If everybody has a smartphone and vehicles are automated, then public transit could mean vans and small buses that dynamically route to come near you.


Such a system would still be much more inefficient than fixed-route transit because of the winding routes required and insufficient concentration of demand.


I would like to see the math on that. It's inefficient in terms of bus-miles driven, but assuming that we value people's time, it's not clear to me it would be inefficient in dollar terms.

Yes, insufficient concentration is a problem, which means that living in the suburbs would still be more expensive in transport costs. I still expect (or perhaps hope) that we'd see a contraction back to more dense urban cores. But automated transportation could provide a bridge between the suburban model and whatever comes after.


the solution even though people won't like it is to put a tax on fuel and reinvest that into public transport, or give people 'miles' they can use with public transport so they don't feel robbed.


> the solution even though people won't like it is to put a tax on fuel

There already is an excise tax on fuel in a lot of places. I can't say what that revenue is specifically allocated towards, but the tax exists nonetheless.


In the US gas taxes are very low and don't even cover the costs of our highways. Local roads are paid for mostly with local taxes. It's hard to quantify exactly the subsidy per passenger mile while driving, whereas it's very easy to do the same for transit.

The system we have makes drivers feel as though they are paying their fair share while transit riders are not. They don't see the share of their local taxes going to roads.


The easiest thing that I can imagine working is elimination of most free parking.

That's effectively been a huge subsidy to drivers.


Where is there free parking? Either you have metered public spaces in a downtown area, or sections of private property set aside for parking use by the customers/employees of the owner of the property. Not really a subsidy in the way most people think.

Or you're playing Monopoly wrong and wondering why it takes 3 hours to finish...


Free parking is kind of mislabeled. The correct term is minimum parking requirements. Most build standards now enforce having a minimum amount of parking for any new building or housing development, including for low income housing.

In order to have mass transit work, we need to be able to build housing and businesses that have very little to no parking allocated. Minimum parking (along with level of service for roads) makes every business and house foot print larger, decreases density, and decreases pedestrian accessibility.

It wouldn't even be that hard to naturally enforce/encourage this. All we would have to do is eliminate minimum parking requirements for developments within a quarter mile radius of a mass transit station.

One would argue that would do essentially nothing. For example a wealthy condo owner would naturally want a parking space and thus pressure the developer to build a space. But I argue there is demand and will be more demand for this parking-less space today in very crowded cities (think SF) or in the future when younger generations or immigrants decide to live in high density areas.

I actually think we have things backwards with minimum parking compared to other cities like Tokyo. Minimum parking acts as a hidden subsidy that increases the price of the property. In Tokyo, houses can be sold without parking. But in order to own a car in Tokyo, you have to prove you also own a parking space. So many housing communities will have parking lots or shared parking garages where nearby residents can rent a space. (There also exist houses that are sold with attached parking as well, but it isn't a requirement.) This is essentially a free market solution to the problem where as the American minimum parking solution is a government regulated solution.


Pittsburgh uses free parking as an incentive to draw people into commercial areas. Ironically, those commercial areas are well-served by the mass transit system generally, but Pittsburgh's suburbanization pattern doesn't align with how the mass-transit system is laid out (and, yes, plenty of suburanites appear anecdotally to think of the bus system as for "Those people").


> Where is there free parking?

In New York, there's free street parking practically everywhere except Midtown and FiDi: https://smoothparking.com/

If all street parking were metered or for commercial use only, I think it would improve the city a lot.


>City planners need to take public transportation into account when they issue new building permits, etc. They need to encourage business to build closer so people can use public transport.

The problem we have today is too much planning, from the smallest rural town to the biggest metropolis. Planning has gone from the simple but noble goals of ensuring public safety and efficient flow of goods and services to dictating lifestyle and trying to preserve things exactly as they are.

The typical suburb or sprawling city, for instance, doesn't merely not take into account public transit in zoning and approval processes, it actively allows only sprawling designs. Minimum setbacks, floor area ratio limits, side, front, and back yard requirements, minimum parking requirements, and height limits all act to make it so nothing but sprawl is even legally possible.

I can point to numerous examples of these sorts of regulation from all over the United States in cities big and small, from New York to Nome. Yes, this includes places like Houston where it is claimed that there is no zoning but land use control is still Stalnist.

This is all based on a 1950s utopian vision where all people everywhere would have cars, cars would just be extensions of people, and we'd all be able to live in a comfortable middle class suburb the next state over because modern planning would ensure no traffic could ever happen.

It would also ensure those pesky apartments full of those 'others' would have limited density, so they'd be packed away in some ungodly corner of the world where everyone else wouldn't have to see them.

This power is still used today as a de facto tool of modern segregationists who are concerned not merely with race, but also class and even taste and lifestyle.

Reducing the power of these local regulators so that urban planning once again becomes a boring profession concerned with public safety and the movement of people, goods, and services and not a way to enforce a very specific 1950s utopian lifestyle would go a huge way to fixing sprawl in America.

>You can't have people out waiting on public transport in that mess.

Until about the 1950s, people in the South did wait on public transportation. Look up the timetables and maps of the old railroads, interurbans, and streetcars. You'd be amazed how far reaching public transportation in the US was. Many of the cities of consequence in the South sprung up around the railroads.

Atlanta, for instance, used to be known as 'Terminus' as it was the end of the line for a railroad with nothing else nearby. The city was built around it, grew rapidly, and eventually the state capital was moved there. Streetcars further fueled growth. This is a story repeated all throughout the South and the rest of the US.


Minimum setbacks, yard size requirements, etc. -- these are all things that people want and continue to pay for. This is Hacker News; instead of getting self-righteous with city dweller indignation, figure out how to make what people want.


>Minimum setbacks, yard size requirements, etc. -- these are all things that people want and continue to pay for

If these are what people want, this regulation wouldn't be required, now would it? Anyone who built anything else would go bankrupt.

Unfortunately for the theory that this is what people want, cities are still full of people and have the most expensive real estate. Walkable areas generally command a premium over car only areas. Locations near transit tend to be more expensive than those not near transit.

Funny how in places where we stop mandating sprawl, the sprawl goes away. Compare Arlington, VA in the 1970s vs. 2010s; it had all of these regulations near the Metro lines before it was built (and kept them not near Metro) but relaxed them after the Metro was built. It's night and day. I can point to dozens of places where once these rules go away, the sprawl goes away.


Look at it from the other side. Space is a thing that has to be protected. If you don't protect open space, builders race to profits and residents just have to put up with the resulting density. If unprotected, space is consumed kind of like the tragedy of the commons or prisoners' dilemma.


Ok, then we need the right kind of planning, not more.

>> >You can't have people out waiting on public transport in that mess.

>>Until about the 1950s, people in the South did wait on public transportation. Look up the timetables and maps of the old railroads, interurbans, and streetcars. You'd be amazed how far reaching public transportation in the US was. Many of the cities of consequence in the South sprung up around the railroads.

Fair enough, but surely we can do better 60 years later.


> Ok, then we need the right kind of planning, not more.

It's not just the right kind; there is no right kind of parking minimum. We are good at things like ensuring we don't build toxic waste dumps next to schools or that maybe coal firing power plants should be away from people. These are the kinds of things we should keep doing.

What we need to do is to stop dictating lifestyle. I might want to drive everywhere, but that shouldn't mean that I use the law to force everyone to provide free parking for me (as is the case in much of America). I might want a large yard, but I shouldn't be able to use the law to force everyone else to have a large yard because that's just what I like.

There are rational restrictions you can come up with, such as regarding shadows, but there are rational laws you can come up with in response to those beyond 'ban all things over X height'.


>We are good at things like ensuring we don't build toxic waste dumps next to schools

FYI: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Canal


A small shelter at each buss stop is fairly cheap to build. However, with a bus tracking app you don't need to spend much time waiting outside at most stops. Just where you transfer from bus A to bus B which makes this even cheaper.


Where I live you might be waiting for a bus at -30C in heavy snow, it doesn't stop people using buses. Where more than one or two people habitually wait the authorities normally build a shelter that at least keeps most of the rain, snow, and wind at bay.


We got where we are now with nearly a century of poorly-considered planning and infrastructure spending. It will take another century of better design to get us out of this hole.


If the car is self driving there is less need to own a car. Selfdriving taxi will be significantly cheaper than current taxi. A privately operating self driving taxi system might be even more economic than building an extensive public transportation system that covers the typical spread-out American cities. It is probably cheaper than owning a car.


This is Uber's vision and the reason they're aggressively poaching roboticists from academia.

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/09/13/magazine/uber-would-lik...


It will be really interesting to see who would be the first organization running automated Taxi. I think as long as Google isn't dumb enough to let go its pioneer engineering team members they are still the front runner. The only thing is that they don't have the a manufacturing capability. Now that they poached Tesla's lead engineer in the area, a Tesla - Google join force is actually more likely, Tesla has more need for Google now.


I now use Uber on the weekend to go out to dinner with my wife and never have to worry about whether I'm ok to have a second or third drink. If we go to a relatively local restaurant I'm paying around $7 each way for the two of us. There's very little chance drunk (especially female) folks are going to ride public transport nor do they need to.

I wish I could go find the article but a few months back I read that in LA lawyers specializing in defending drink driving cases have been decimated by Uber usage. Their case load is halving meaning the number of lawyers needed is halving. And that of course is a good thing in general.

I'm a big big believer in public infrastructure. But I would never support another penny going into public transport now. Any sort of meaningful project started today would take 5 - 15 years to come to market. Small,medium and large electric vehicles summoned by a mobile device and wired to the network will be mainstream by then and much more efficient. They'll crash less (never) and always choose the optimum route. Private networks for the win here. The economics have changed.


How long of an event horizon are you looking for? As long as we do not have another Cash for Clunkers boondoggle [1] the propagation of used vehicles down through the system will start occurring by 2030. [2] Are you willing to have the government force a solution on the populace which will essentially disappear in ten years?

Additionally, the low-income individuals will have access to Uber for self-driving cars. [iUber] Better advocacy would be spent finding out how Uber will get low-income individuals without a smartphone access to it.

1. Cash for Clunkers destroyed vehicles that would have gone to lower-income individuals and upset the used vehicle market driving prices up to new vehicle prices.

2. Assuming a 2020 release date, and following a similar curve of ABS brake adoption of ten years, then by 2030 low-income individuals will start to have access to self-driving vehicles. Maybe earlier as the software rolls out or at-home implementations of the technology can be adapted.


Why is a personally owned self driving car a better solution than robust public transit? Self driving cars still are inefficient if they need to be parked and likely don't magically solve congestion if they take up as much space as current cars on the road.


A great deal of the maladies in the US in particular occur outside economically viable areas of public infrastructure projects (high poverty, violence, substance abuse, etc). Drunk driving is alarmingly common outside major metro areas but they're just not caught as often due to less strict / able police forces (never mind the small town tyrannies like with the Alice Walton drunk driving case resulting in the dismissal of the officer that pulled her over). A lot of these regions don't want a lick of public infrastructure due to cultural reasons as well. So how can we expect stubborn grandparents to admit they have "a problem" and have them do the equivalent of putting themselves in a nursing home metaphorically speaking? This is a major political problem at the root of a lot of the US's internal conflicts in my view having lived near the rural Southeast a lot as someone from the suburban west coast.


The more drunk people take public transportation, the more I'd want to avoid it. The more I'd want my wife to avoid it.

Private business is good at solving problems with out the need for government intervention and higher taxes. If you are going to get drunk and you need to get from point A to point B, use Uber or call a taxi.


Public transport is quite a lot cheaper than Uber or taxi where I am. The difference would pay for 2 pints of beer and some bar snacks.

I will make my own mind up about which mode of transport to take ;)


I agree with your former and latter point, but since I heard the middle point plenty (private business good at etc. without intervention and taxes) at BEST that's a very optimistic generalization. Taxis in fact are a _result_ of govt intervention (medallions) and uber's business practices, regardless of what you feel on the company, have not always been the solution people want (see many threads on "contractor" treatment, etc; not necessarily my own opinion but in this context the broader sentiment seems more relevant).

Govt intervention results in certain downsides, private business implementation others, I don't even have a great thought as to which is better or worse (yes, it's a cop out, but I'll defend that cop out as that it's the "great question of most governments" that I'm dodging), but it seems shortsighted to state "A does it better" (for either side)

(I hope this doesn't read as shutting down any rebuttal, not my intention. Feel free to challenge any of the above)


Have you considered approaching your dilemma from a moral perspective rather than a utilitarian/efficiency one? It may very well be that the two sides have different efficiency profiles, but one outweighs the other in terms of being more moral.


At the risk of driving this question into the bowels of philosophy, I'm VERY hesitant to drive anything from a moral argument, because I don't trust most judgements of morality, my own included. I can establish the empirical success of certain things by many metrics, a moral metric is not one of them. (I have and do regularly approach the question of "what is the utility / what should be my preference in terms of a moral metric", but again this seems to be like the prior "great question of X" but where X is religion/philosophy instead of govt.)

There are certainly times when a moral argument is attractive (and which I would pragmatically chose, especially in the many cases when there are material impacts against which a certain moral stance would oppose) but if we're having a conceptual discussion, I generally avoid that, and even in the cases when I would support a moral argument, I often seek other justifications of more utilitarian nature to try and support the moral suggestion.


> Have you considered approaching your dilemma from a moral perspective rather than a utilitarian/efficiency one?

There are an infinite number of possible moral perspectives; utilitarianism is one of them.


You are talking about the difference between $25 and $2.50.



That's huge. I'm an Uber supporter (in the abstract sense, not the shady business practices sense) and love using it or service like it. But all the "cabs in my city suck!" hand waving I do is nothing compared to this.

It does make me wonder though, why? Because UberX is cheaper, so more people opt in that wouldn't even pay for a cab?


For me:

A) Storing cash: I hate having to carry cash around just to pay for a ride home.

B) I'm drunk. I don't want to have to tell a driver how to get there. I can just tap the home button, it gives him the GPS coordinates, and then I fall into the back of his cab.

C) Quality: Uber cars are clean and feel safe. I've never felt like I'm sitting in 10-year old vomit-stains in an uber.


> A) Storing cash: I hate having to carry cash around just to pay for a ride home.

I don't understand. Honest question: why is that necessary in the first place? I don't remember time when I needed to use cash for paying for a cab ride in any western country.


Despite regulation and stiff penalties, the "my credit card machine is broken" scam is still common. I know I get nervous getting into a cab without cash because of this.


I've never been able to pay with a card in any taxi in New Jersey. The state doesn't even require meters, you have to just take the driver's price or leave it. The more developed taxi industries (large cities) all have great rules about requiring access to CC machines, the smaller places no so much.


New Jersey is more of a black car style taxi it seems. You generally can't flag one down on the street (I managed to once, but only because it stopped for someone else), but if you call the dispatch company some of them will take a card over the phone. On the other hand, at least in North Jersey, between busses and trains, the public transit system here is really really good for the amount of area it covers. I've only taken cabs a handful of times and uber once, and only because I was in a rush.

The cost of taking transit generally makes any wait worth it for me. If I'm out in the city and trying to get home around 3-4am, the most I have to wait for a bus is 1 hour and it costs $4.25 for the 30 minute trip home. My other options are Uber, which has no wait, but costs $70, or finding a cabbie planning on going home to jersey and convincing them to make the trip for $30.


It's also faster. I have yet to wait more than 5 minutes for an Uber driver, whereas regular taxis take at least half an hour to show up after calling them, assuming I know a number to call.


What city do you live in? All I have to do is go outside and flag down the multitudes of cabs waiting to pick somebody up.


In many mid-sized cities, cabs are basically on-call services only. They don't drive around looking for fares.


I've had this problem in most of Philadelphia when I was living there and now most of DC. Their respective city centers are easy places to grab a cab, but they're also not living spaces and I tend to get around to most areas of the city.


I know in my city, Norwalk, CT, there are Ubers you can call, but no taxis driving around looking for a faire. Same with Stamford, CT, a city that's slightly larger and somewhat near Norwalk.


It's the same reason that white suburbanites prefer light rail to buses. Which is to say that it's a bunch of small things that amount to a huge difference in perception.


Only poor people drink drive?

I'm a software engineer in the UK and I've known plenty of people who've driven home after a few.


Ran across a PSA from the early 70's recently that advised people not to have that 5th pint before driving home from the pub.

What's acceptable changes over very long time frames.



Damn.


No, but better public transportation can be used by a wider range of people than self-driving cars. It's possible some very wealthy people (read: already a minority) may feel it's beneath them, but even then I doubt that will be a universal view.


Driving a car in the US is so ridiculously cheap compared to the rest of the world that only really poor people and crackheads seem to take the bus (outside SF and NYC).

The difference in demographics on public transit in Seattle was striking compared to Toronto where car insurance runs $3,000 a year and gas costs 50% more.

Public transportation is just not going to happen in the US unless driving gets way more expensive.


> only really poor people and crackheads seem to take the bus (outside SF and NYC)

Note that you chose the top two of the cities in the US in terms of locations accessible by public transit. Of course people won't use it if it can't get them where they need to go, and they'll probably just drive if there are only a few locations it services. This tends to compound itself because the low usage means trains/buses run less often, making it even less useful (e.g. LA).

The price of car ownership definitely factors in, as it results in a lack of necessity for public transportation, but it doesn't mean people wouldn't prefer it if it's available. The price difference between an unlimited metro pass ($116/month in NY, $83/month in SF) and owning a car is still very wide.


Having a car is a lot more useful and comfortable than public transit, though. So there really needs to be a huge difference in cost to justify spending money on public transit when you could just spend a bit more and have your own car.

We see that in SF and NYC where the traffic and parking situations make driving very expensive in time and money. But elsewhere in the country? Even if it had great coverage, it wouldn't be worth the time and discomfort to take it just to save ~$200 a month (or less, if you routinely drive family members around).


>only really poor people and crackheads

This is a self-amplifying problem. A large fraction of the times I've ridden the bus in the San Jose area, there have been shouting matches between passengers, people with severe mental health problems riding around because they don't have a better way to get in out of the elements.

If your choice is between slow, chaotic, and sometimes frightening bus, and your quiet private car, not too many will choose the bus. When everyone who has a choice avoids the bus, the bus ends up being a rough way to get around.


You did not read carefully. Parent implied that the poor cannot afford self-driving vehicles any time soon.


What has self-driving car to do it with? The police was called from an automates system that's in most of new cars sold in Europe for a few years now.


Everything? If the car was self driving this woman would likely be home and not in a jail cell?


By common sense you are right. By law, given you can be charged with drunk driving even if the vehicle is off and you are just sleeping in it, I suspect that drunk driving laws will stick around even when the car is doing the driving. This is especially true for areas that drunk driving fines are a revenue stream.


Way to not get it.

A decade after you solve your problem of how to get home when drunk, some poor fellow may still hit your because there are also irresponsible people that can not afford a self driven car.


"PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla" Population 171,000.

  We aren't going to get good mass transit in "small" cities. 
It's painful enough in NYC, best public transit in America, where there are millions of people. Need to make a connection and it'll take an hour to get anywhere. I've lived 4 miles from work and it took 45 minutes on average to commute into Manhattan.


this would not fix people like her of which too many still exist. many people don't understand they are impaired or worse think their driving skills are better than everyone else.

plus many cities have bus routes that shut down over night and may not serve all areas in need. then to top it off, will they get you where you need to be. So cab, uber, and similar, are a good solution and could proactively be called by bars and restaurants who notice visibly impaired patrons; though I would not put a legal burden for them to do so as people ultimately need to be responsible for self


You know how to reduce drunk driving?

I've got the answer to this: Mandate that car manufacturers have to weld a 10 inch steel spike to the centre of the steering wheel. The number of people are willing to take unnecessary risks would fall considerably.


I know you're kidding, but that would ALSO nail people that are rear-ended by inattentive drivers behind them.


Obviously, you just need sensors in the rear crumple zone that cause the spike to collapse.


but that 10 inch steel spike also applies to sober responsible people.


It does, yes. Everyone would be incentivised to drive as safely as possible.


I would be incentivized to grab a large cutting wheel for my rotary tool and remove the completely unnecessary safety hazard.

The spike itself would be strategically relocated to the sidewall of a tire belonging to a person who wrote the bill mandating them.


This would only further encourage our nation's epidemic of slouching and other bad postural habits. ;)


As a bay area native, I've always felt that BART ending at a bit after midnight has surely caused DUI deaths. It is s frustrating when we are so close to having good public transit, but we're held back for whatever silly reason.


The reason isn't actually so silly. Because BART is a single track-per-direction system, they have to shut the system down in order to do nightly track maintenance. The decision to make the system single-track was made when BART was planned in the 60s.

http://www.bart.gov/guide/latenight


Drinkers have to adapt to the situation. Be it in SF or any other city where mass transit closes before bars, if I know I'm in a situation where I need to drive myself, then I'm going to severely limit my drinking, if drink at all.


Yes, but then you're forcing sober people to commute with the intoxicated, which opens up a whole different set of problems.


At the same time, we have Uber and Lyft.


No reason to drive while drunk and people who are driving drunk will do so no matter how much public transportation there is just as people who wont drive won't drive even if there was no busses, trains or taxis.


people who are driving drunk will do so no matter how much public transportation there is

This is pretty unconvincing. I've only driven after drinking alcohol twice, and both of these occasions were in the US (just for the record, I drank only a drink or two). In my home country I've always driven 100% sober, every single time.


If you have enough public transportation there's a good chance you don't actually own a car...


If I've drank anything in the past 24 hours there is no amount of money you can offer me to drive a car. There are fundamental differences like that.


That's not necessary. Driving after having a drink is normal. It's drunk driving that is a problem.


"Driving after having a drink is normal."

Uh, no it's not.


In the US there is a blood alcohol level below which it is legal to drive. There are also frequently legal definitions of how much alcohol can be in one drink.


In most places there is, just because it's legal doesn't mean it's ok. Current state of knowledge is that any alcohol reduces ability to drive safely. Yes there are still holdouts who think they will be 'all right' after one, two or three (or more) glasses, but that doesn't make them right. I'm appalled that there are apparently several (many?) people on here who think that it's ok to drink and drive. Look, I don't care you all kill yourselves, but I do care that you expose others (like strangers, my family and yours) to such reckless behavior. How hard is it to drink water when you know you'll be driving?


No, it's fine. This shouldn't be appalling, virtual every alcohol consuming adult does this, and the effects are well understood. It's not a risk and shouldn't cause you grief. Are you inexperienced with alcohol?


I've been drinking alcohol if not every day then three-four times a week for more than a decade and only stopped half a year ago to loose some stubborn weight; and while my wine collection might not be 'extensive' it's still a collection. So no, I wouldn't consider myself 'inexperienced'.

It must be sample bias, but literally nobody in my (quite diverse, both culturally/ethnically as well as geographically) circle of social contacts would consider somebody who drank two beers before driving anything but a hillbilly Cletus (or their countries' local equivalent). The notion that 'virtually every alcohol consuming adult does this' is nonsense.


If by geographically, you're counting North America, your contacts are lying to you. I can't speak for Europe, but I'd be shocked if what you said initially is true there. Note that you've gone from denouncing driving following a drink over a meal, to drinking two beers and then driving. The latter is still fine for an adult male over an hour or two, but you're moving the goal posts.


Note also that 2 European beers often are 3 American beers (0.5L vs. 12 fl oz), so it is more ethanol, and usually takes less time to ingest, so one is more drunk during the peak. I certainly wouldn't drive after 2 European beers.


Having a beer than driving home after work is quite normal.


Having a glass of wine with dinner then driving home afterwards is quite normal...


Can poor people afford to buy a new car? If not, how old is the car when they buy it? In Sweden used cars are typically brought by their second buyer when they are 3 years old.

As software is so cheap to duplicate, why can't all cars be self-driving? Given the magnitude of traffic deaths, why can't all cars just be self-driving immediately? Why make it a premium thing that only the rich can afford?

Then within a few years, even poor people who buy second-hand cars will have self-driving models.


> As software is so cheap to duplicate, why can't all cars be self-driving? Given the magnitude of traffic deaths, why can't all cars just be self-driving immediately?

I'm still feeling surprised by the number of intelligent people who are quite capable of thinking critically, quite uncritically deciding that self-driving cars are ready for the market now. The only thing which comes remotely close is Tesla's recent software upgrade, and Elon Musk was very careful to emphasise that it in no way replaces the driver. Yet still, the hype-train is running so fast that people decided what he really said was "self-driving cars are here now."

A moderately successful prototype from Google or anyone else does not mean the problems are solved. These innovations could still go the way of 90s-era virtual reality goggles, flying cars or the personal jet-pack. Don't get me wrong, it's exciting stuff but there are still significant technical issues, not to mention the legislative and social problems which will inevitably arise.

These links from a Google search for "Google self-driving car problems":

http://gizmodo.com/6-simple-things-googles-self-driving-car-...

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/02/technology/personaltech/go...

http://www.technologyreview.com/news/530276/hidden-obstacles...

There's much more, I can't dig out the links now. But don't be one of those guys in 10 or 15 years time being tedious about "Dude, where's my self-driving car?" It might not happen, and it's certainly not here yet.


And even if the technology was ready and on sale, the idea that we'd instantly dispose of our existing stock of automobiles and never feel the need to pay attention to the road again contrasts starkly with experiences in the aviation industry, with most control still being exercised by pilots (also the cause of many mistakes) despite viable autopilot systems being very well established.


Another issue is, would people board a fully-automated plane? Similarly, it seems many people see self-driving cars as a solution that other people should use, but they are, themselves, the competent drivers who don't need that kind of thing. I can foresee other issues with hacking firmware by drivers, people cracking the software as with the recent Jeep exploits, and actual software bugs leading to death or injury and the class-action lawsuits that might give rise to.

There are behavioural issues as well: people deliberately cutting in on autonomous vehicles because (rather than aggressive tail-gating) the AV will just back safely away, so that dangerous behaviour will become more commonplace. Before we get onto pedestrians just stepping into the road in the serene assurance that the AV will shudder to a halt for them, to the discomfort (possibly injury) of the vehicle's occupants. I can see people doing that kind of thing just for a lark, which would encourage drivers to go for the "aggressive" firmware upgrade to put those jaywalkers back in their place.

Personally I think (a) we'll get these vehicles sooner or later, but (b) they won't be a panacea, and (c) it's going to be an absolute minefield in technical, social and legal areas.


>> I'm still feeling surprised by the number of intelligent people who are quite capable of thinking critically, quite uncritically deciding that self-driving cars are ready for the market now.

I'm not. Not at all. Sadly.


Anecdotally, I'd say that something like 50% of the cars I see on the road are at least 10 years old. Probably 15% are 20 years old or more. I live in one of the poorer states in the US, so my experience may be somewhat skewed.

This also brings up one of my concerns with self driving cars. A vehicles (or and mechanical device) age, they become less reliable. The brake booster on my truck went out today (20 years old). I could still brake, but it took significant effort. I wonder what the failure modes look like on the self driving apparatus, and wether they fail gracefully and safely. I think it will be important that when we have 10 or 15 year old self driving vehicles on the road that they have engineered in safe failure processes.


I'm in Iowa. Growing up (in the 70's) cars were largely rusted-out hulks. Then new cars started appearing, so that almost every car on the road was shiny and new-looking by the 90's.

Now the rust is showing up again, and I don't think its the weather. Its the economy, and the general slide of the middle class.

Maybe we need a 'rust index' to measure mean spending/affluence?


The median car age in the US is just around 10 years.


There's a lot more to a self-diving car than just software, there is a ton of needed sensors and other hardware.

Let's say an expensive self-driving car is around $100,000 new, even buying that car used 3 years later would be out of the budget for many people.


You are conflating cost and price?

Self-driving cars will be expensive because they will be marketed as a premium product to maximize profit.

Sometimes public service must trump? Disclaimer: I live in Sweden, so my perspective may offend you ;)


> Self-driving cars will be expensive because they will be marketed as a premium product to maximize profit.

You have this backward. The reason entrepreneurs often start with premium products is because you can extract more money from rich people and use that to pay product development costs. Developing self-driving cars is extremely expensive, and it will be for quite a while. The costs will eventually fall, but as with personal computers, it will take a while to figure out how to do that.

If you really had cars that could self-drive and the technology was effectively free, then the profit-maximization strategy wouldn't be to sell Teslas, it would be to sell them to everybody. Tesla is selling maybe 10k cars per year. Even a $20k premium for self driving is only $200m. But the total US car market is 7 million or so. If you could get just an extra $1000, that would be $7,000m dollars in profit.


It's hard to forcibly lower the price of something without undermining your economic system. Software is expensive to make. Premium priced products exist because developers cost a lot of money and take a long time to get it right.

Practically speaking you could government subsidize the software which is a respectable policy in Europe, and that would foster competition and drive the prices down.


I expect that self-driving cars will -at least initially- be expensive -in large part- because the sensing and computational hardware on the car is expensive.


Once Mass production kicks in the cars will get cheaper and cheaper as the processes to create them does so.

When the automobile was first invented it would have seemed implausible for it to be accessible and (relatively) affordable to everyone. Look at where we are now.


Cars are still bloody expensive. Many many people make the decision not to buy a car when they live in a city with good public transport. It's only in places like Australia and most of the US where you practically need a car that ownership is ubiquitous. Elsewhere people find that there are better things to spend all of that money on...


> Once Mass production kicks in the cars will get cheaper and cheaper as the processes to create them does so.

Yes, but there is an expected near-to-medium-term price floor on the sorts of good sensing equipment that such cars will require, not to mention certified (and patent-encumbered) software to fuse that data and turn it into useful and safe action.

This is stuff that you don't want to cheap out on; it's how the car sees and operates safely!


Cost and price are the same thing. Maybe you mean cost/price and worth/value?


Isn't the definition of "profit" literally the difference between cost and price?

http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/101314/what-differen...

My point is the BoM of self-driving sensors and cpus for a car is not actually that great. The new Teslas and Volvos don't have fancy lidar scanners like the Google cars have.

The other day I was passenger in a automatic-breaking-at-intersections Volvo. We did not put that to the test. But its 'just' higher-precision parking sensors that are cheap and ubiquitous now.


Price is the amount the consumer pays, while cost is the price the business pays. It may cost me $5 to produce a product, which I could then sell at a price of $7, for a profit of $2.


I think with self driving cars the whole ownership model will become passe.

Think of it as a fleet of autonomous taxis operating at very low cost.


I don't see a great future there myself.

Imagine this: where you pay per the minute or hour for location to location driving, at a rate that is a multiple of owning it yourself. And for the poverty, low, and middle income classes, car ownership is unattainable.

Or if you are late on your car payment and the car drives back to the lot.


An anecdotal counterpoint: I experimented with rent-per-minute cars in my local city last year. I learned that almost all my driving was commuting to work or sport practice, so I figured "what would it actually cost to get rid of the car?"

It turns out I paid appreciably less than the self-owned car model by getting an unlimited public transportation pass and using self-driving cars when I didn't feel like riding a bus or tram. Something like 40% less, I don't remember exactly now. I'd previously been driving a 7 year old Ford, so it's not like I'm comparing it to something lux.

Also, you won't have traditional car payments to be late on if it's all Just in Time provisioning and service.

It's all about overlapping layers of service though. Private ownership will make sense for some. Never owning will as well. Robust bus networks, trams/trains in very dense established areas, self-driving (or at least shared economy) cars, and lastly private-owned vehicles all converge to provide a more accessible means of public transportation.


> Or if you are late on your car payment and the car drives back to the lot.

If automated repossession were effective, that would drive down car ownership costs (specifically, finance charges) in a competitive market, since it would reduce the risk of loss which is part of the cost of financing, particularly for people with the worst credit condition (for whom the risk of loss for the financing firm poses a higher portion of the financing costs than other borrowers.)


The barrier to entry into this market is exceedingly low. You only need a few self driving cars and there's your business. Competition will drive down prices.


The barrier of entry isn't the problem. The problem is that this segment is going to reduce options to those of the lower class and poverty class.

Now, it may be of the opinion that these people don't matter. And effectively, they have roughly a 0% economic impact.

Now, prices will be driven down. But so will wages and job losses due to more automation. These people in the lowest segments will be separated their transportation via the ways I mentioned.

Now, are less vehicles on the road good? Possibly. However if the public transportation isn't able to handle it, and these auto-Ubers are too expensive, then it's like having no transportation.


3 is still pretty new. I'm not poor by any stretch of the imagination, but I bought a 9 year old car. It is still going fine (now 12 years old).

Given that adaptive cruise control is still an expensive luxury, I can't see fully self-driving cars coming to the poor any time soon.

That said, if we ever do get totally autonomous cars, you'll probably be able to get a driverless taxi for very little cost without owning a car yourself.


3 year old used car would be off-lease or a retired fleet vehicle.


The average age of a car in the US is 10 years old.


You do realize it's not purely software, right? All cars don't come standard with Lidar, computer controlled braking, cameras, etc. There's a significant amount of hardware needing retrofitted to make it work assuming it's even practical at all.


>> As software is so cheap to duplicate,...

Wait, what?

You're not considering the cost of development.


Yeah, drunks in public transportation never cause any problems. There are of course no drunk train drivers ever, either.

Excuse my sarcasm. It's caused by how I think you're ignoring the actual problem: alcohol. You're suggesting a workaround that doesn't even make sense. Alcohol abuse causes behavioural problems that go much further than public transportation can ever solve. We should address the core of the issue ranher than fighting its symptoms. I'm not for a ban on alcohol, I am however for ending the taboo around talking about it.


It's about killing two birds with one stone. Yes, it won't solve the problem of alcohol abuse, but it may make a dent in drunk driving (especially if investments in public transportation are also matched with disincentivizing people from driving cars in cities). It would be interesting to find some studies, but I doubt that drunk driving is a common problem in public transportation, because drivers there are at work. They have stronger incentives to behave.


If you're speaking of America specifically: the experiment of banning alcohol was tried and failed. It's not so much that there's a taboo around talking about it as that the conversation almost immediately ends with "Why would it work now, when it didn't work in the Prohibition era?"


In Italy, for example, it is socially unacceptable to be drunk.

Social stigma will change people's habits? How do we make lack of control with alcohol a social no-no?


> In Italy, for example, it is socially unacceptable to be drunk.

I think you and I have different definitions of drunk.

Whenever I visit my family in Italy, we all get drunk. Not falling down drunk—we still carry on conversations and navigate the city with ease, but I also wouldn't trust us to drive in that state.


Eh? Where in Italy because besides falling down drunk which is socially unaccepted mostly everywhere I do not think this is true?


Did I imagine those drunk Italian dinner parties?


It's a lot harder for a drunk train rider to kill someone than a drunk driver. You also seem to conflate any use of alcohol with abuse of alcohol, which is at the very least kind of odd. Sure, some people act like assholes when they're drunk. Some people, often the same people, also act like assholes when they're sober. I'm not sure it makes sense to identify the problem as drunkenness, instead of assholishness.


It does make sense to say the problem is drunkenness, because, well, science says that there are very clear links between drink driving and accidents: e.g. http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/impaired_driving/impai...

An arsehole-driver is a dangerous driver when sober, but everyone is a dangerous driver when drunk.


We define drunkenness by blood alcohol content without adjusting for tolerance. I'm sure there are alcoholics out there whose tolerance is so high that they're perfectly sober at 0.08.

Then there are people like Michael Schumacher or whatever who I'm sure drive better 'drunk' than 99% of sober people.

I wish the police focussed more on the generally shitty soccer mom sub drivers and taxis that try to kill me every day instead of some guy who had two glasses of wine and crossed some arbitrary threshold which may or may not have made him a dangerous driver.


It's usually safe to break safety laws, on the road or off it. Consider seatbelts. A wide net is cast to catch the exceptions. Nevertheless I agree that egregious unimpaired bad driving should be targeted too.


I've met plenty of people where I grew up (Long Island, NY) that have gotten arrested for DWI that are not alcoholics. The fact of the matter is that, in the suburbs, you drive to the bar. And that's how you're probably going to get home. I've done it. . I'm not proud of it. People drink, and thinking people are going to stop is not realistic. People do all sorts of silly things in the name of fun or escape.

Now that I live in NYC it is infinitely easier and safer to go out for a night of drinking, knowing there's busses, subways, taxis or Uber to take me home, far safer than if I were back in the 'burbs with almost no good options.


Best line of the article:

> It was later discovered that Bernstein had been involved in another accident prior to the one with Preston and was fleeing from that incident.

So this hit and run was just the result of fleeing from a different hit and run.

> She said she had not been drinking and didn't know why her vehicle had called for help.

Mmmmmhmmm.


The emergency call was apparently triggered by the airbag deployment[1]. For some cars, when the airbag deploys, a representative comes on the speakerphone to ask if everyone is ok, and whether they should call the police or an ambulance. It appears that the Ford system places the call automatically.

[1] http://corporate.ford.com/microsites/sustainability-report-2...


Ford Sync uses the inbuilt GPS antenna and your phone (connected via Bluetooth). Ford Sync calls the local emergency number and speak via an offline text-to-speech (Nuance software). The feature can be turned on/off in the on-board computer.

It's definitely better than the new EU regulation where every new car is required to "phone home" the car position every few minutes, so that in the case of an emergency they can locate you. Typical inversion of control for no benefit (for the consumer).


>It's definitely better than the new EU regulation where every new car is required to "phone home" the car position every few minutes,

[citation needed]

There is eCall, but it is "only" required to trigger on crash, exactly as the system described in the article.


In my mind, if your car is automatically calling emergency services after a crash, I assume they also know where you are. It would make perfect sense if you are unconscious or unable to describe the location; regulations or not.


I was recently at a dealership looking at a new car. The sales rep was showing me all of the phone and technology integration. He talked about how you could see incoming call/texts/emails etc on the display. Then he got a bit cagey about how you can enable and disable that feature. He looked at my slightly perplexed (naive?) face and said "Sometimes men don't like to have this information come up when driving with their wives" This sort of reminds me of that story.


A truly male-specific problem ¬_¬


Featuring auto-playing video advertising from "a personal injury lawyer" yakking, with hand in pocket, in front of "IF YOUR NOT HURT" slides ...


Well with self driving cars coming, will they be able to determine if they should let you take control? The technology to monitor eye movement is there and being able sense alcohol on your breath would not be that hard to pull off just by it sampling.

Listened to the whole 911 and the patience of the operator was just great.

"Sorry Mr. Peters, I cannot allow you take control of the car at this time, continued attempts to do so will result in total shutdown or notification of the authorities"


Getting an accurate enough sample from your breath without cooperation and breathing into a tube is probably impossible. Even then there still is the question of whether that sample is actually human breath from the driver.

Apart from that it's probably not a good idea to let someone drive who doesn't have any recent-ish experience driving, especially in dangerous situations.


There are numerous companies working on artificial noses that car manufacturers have been looking to integrate in order to have an equivalent of white noise generators but of course for smell.

There is no reason why just sampling the air for particular elements would not also be possible and improvement is always going to happen.

I can imagine not only having cars watch eye movement to eventually tell you to quit looking at your cell phone to having cars detect smoking and sensing children in the car and notifying you to stop. So alcohol present in a car should be a flag the car can at least suggest to you that it is concerned


>> Getting an accurate enough sample from your breath without cooperation and breathing into a tube is probably impossible.

> There are numerous companies working on artificial noses that car manufacturers have been looking to integrate in order to have an equivalent of white noise generators but of course for smell.

These are completely different things. To detect intoxication for drunk driving, you need to accurately estimate the concentration of alcohol in the driver's blood. Detecting the "smell" of alcohol in the car does not do that.

It's also likely impossible to detect blood alcohol concentration in real-life conditions by sampling ambient air (what if they're the DD driving home a bunch of drunks? what if the window's open? what if they had liquor spilled on them?).


In Denmark the have talked about an alcohol-lock, so you can only start the car if you breathe into a tube. But that is probably easy to cheat if you want to.

Oh, it seems like it already exists: http://alcolockusa.com/compliance/index.php?route=common/hom...


Here in Sweden, I don't know of any legislation but alochol locks are not unheard of. They are fitted to a lot of company work vehicles, and are increasingly popular in the cars of normal people who could never imagine themeselves drink driving because insurers will give discount.

It was in my local paper that the local district nurses were having trouble with them because they had to wash their hands in alcohol after each visit, and this was enough to make the car lock up sometimes, leaving them stranded waiting 30 minutes until they could try again and start the car and proceed to their next house call.


That's a good idea to punish people who never drink.


It's required for repeat offenders in some states


The Dutch already had this, but there were too much issues, legal and technical, to sustain it. If the Danes are thinking about implementing, hopefully they can do it in a better way than the Dutch.


Also they tend to take a long time to boot in cold weather. Which is common here in Denmark.

In theory they would be great. In practice, well, we will have automatic cars before we have those.


Eye movement and speech changes are probably sufficient to indicate a warning for drink/drug driving (DUI), but even then the car should still run IMO.

Smoothness of ride is probably a very good indicator of impairment too.


My normal no-extras VW Golf does detect when I'm drowsy and suggest a coffee break. I am guessing it is sensing my steering movements.


I hadn't heard of this, their glossary says "evaluates steering wheel movements" - do you have any better explanation of it's detection mechanism?

I'm guessing it looks for sudden adjustments to stay in lane after micro-sleeps.


I have tried to reverse-engineer it, but not worked it out yet. It seems to work though.

In Sweden you can make long journeys on fairly straight roads through forest meeting only the occasional other vehicle, very rarely seeing a pedestrian, and mostly keeping an eye out for movement between the trees that may be a deer or elk or boar about to run out in front of you.

Deer make small dents, badgers are like hitting stones, wild pigs can write off the car and elk are absolutely lethal. You actually get taught that, if a collision is inevitable, to aim for the hind legs to maximize your chances of survival.

Must be much the same in much of the USA, Canada, Russia etc.


The Canadian Priest who baptized my cousin was decapitated when he drove his small car under a moose. They are truly massive animals.


Wildlife are definitely a danger for drivers in the more remote parts of the U.S. Personally, I survived an elk collision unscathed, and with minimal damage to my car because she was trying to jump down from a cut in the side of a mountain. She put a dent in my roof and smashed the windshield and one of the rear windows. On a level road I doubt it would have been a survivable crash. Elk are very large animals.


There used to be a lot of bumper stickers that said "I brake for xxx" of varying seriousness.

Then there is the "Brake for Moose". It's not a choice, it's a warning.


> detect when I'm drowsy

I think most people wouldn't be allowed to drive first thing in the morning commute to work and after 10 hours working on the drive home if this was enforced!


Exactly. And that’s a good thing, not a bad thing – unsafe drivers, especially in the morning or evening commute, are the main reason for negligent manslaughter (commonly called "car accident with death") on streets.


Car's behaviors like this should be authorized by the owner.


I assume you mean one-time a priori to needing them. Otherwise, it's a non-starter; half the purpose of a system like this is to allow the emergency services to determine if you're unresponsive. Defeats the purpose if you have to authorize the system to tell emergency services that you can't interact with the system.


It was. She had to enable the feature so that it could use her phone's bluetooth.


Eh? I don't think it relies on your phone... the car has its own cell radio for this very purpose.


Not in this case

https://www.ford.com/technology/sync/

You do have to connect your phone yourself, but it's unclear if the 911 assist is on by default, or if there are any prompts the user must accept.


These services typically require you to pay for a service plan. Hard to argue you didn't intend to do that.


It is probably covered by FCC regulations about 911 calls, specifically, "The FCC's basic 911 rules require wireless service providers to transmit all 911 calls to a PSAP, regardless of whether the caller subscribes to the provider's service or not."

[1] https://www.fcc.gov/guides/wireless-911-services


It probably was, she probably was just too drunk to remember.


Url changed from http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2015/12/03/a_florida..., which points to this.


I'm not sure I want my car turning snitch on me...


It's a tradeoff. The system is designed to operate semi-autonomously so that it can help you if you're not able to tell it what you need. That's a powerful benefit.

In the end, increasingly many technologies are likely to act like this. I give my wife the password to "find my phone" service so she can locate me if I go missing on my commute or on a hiking trip; unless I execute more fine-grained control than I care to, the same authorization lets her snoop and determine if being late home from work correlates with my phone reporting I'm at a strip joint. People will, ultimately, be responsible for choosing the level of access they allow and for reasoning through the consequences.


Well the day I let my car make decisions for me is the day I walk, or have a self driving car:)


How does a self-driving car help there? It seems like that would make a lot more decisions for you than the more ordinary sort.


The way I see it, either I make all the decisions as the driver of the vehicle, or I'm no longer the driver.


To what degree? There's a wide spectrum of driving assists.

Traction control and ABS through to cruise control or the assisted steering (terminology?) we're seeing more frequently today?


Those are more along the lines of tools a driver uses for assistance. I draw the line where if the car rear-ends another vehicle, a judge would never place the responsibility on me (because I wasn't even behind the controls).


For me the tipping point is whether I can switch the automated systems off, and change their parameters (within reason).


if a self-driving car hit someone, and then called the cops on the driver. now that would be something out of a good sci-fi novel.


And then pretended not to be a self driving car when the cops arrived.


The short lived "Team Knight Rider" series had a somewhat similar moment - the mechanic was working on the team's AI-equipped cars and talking to them, when the cars stopped talking back. [1]

Mechanic: "Why won't you answer me?"

Terrorist appears next to him: "Because it's just a car, you freak."

[1]: https://youtu.be/xOv1-GiWSh0?t=7m15s


That's "I, Robot" for you!


(The movie. Not the decidedly pro-robot novel.)


Entirely off topic, but my copy of "I, Robot" has a picture of Will Smith on it and the tagline "One man saw it coming". This means that the cover has no relationship with the content whatsoever. Neither Will Smith's character, nor anyone "seeing it coming", is featured in the novel.

It's a lovely reminder of how publishers will do anything to sell more copies. (and how there's really hardly any harm in that!) (except that it's an ugly cover)




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