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Self-driving cars will "cruise" to avoid paying to park (ucsc.edu)
170 points by yodon 22 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 323 comments

This seems needlessly alarmist. If this is a problem it will get solved. It's probably not a big problem because:

1. Cars can go off and park somewhere further away. Cruising around the city isn't free (fuel, maintenance, risk of damage)

2. We should be able to get more density out of our existing parking lots if cars can park each other in and shuffle around to let each other out.

3. Cars can go do something more useful (run errands, work for ride share).

1. When self-driving cars are common, people won't park their car from 9-5 while they're at work.

2. While the passenger is at work, the self-driving car will be giving rides to other people, or delivering packages and meals (not parking or driving around empty).

3. Greater car sharing means fewer parked cars, lower demand for parking and hence lower cost to park.

> While the passenger is at work, the self-driving car will be giving rides to other people, or delivering packages and meals (not parking or driving around empty).

Says who? I certainly don't want random people inside my car when I'm not around. Don't really feel like having "For a good time call 867-5309" and a drawing of a penis gouged into my center console, and having the seatbacks tagged with magic marker. ("We're sorry to hear that, sir. We have credited your account with a $25 credit for your trouble.")

130 million people drive to work every day in the USA. Something like 115 million cars. There are maybe 200,000 taxis in the USA. If we put 1 million cars to work, we've still got 114 million sitting idle, or rather, doing loops around the block because it's cheaper.

> Greater car sharing

Says who? You can already carpool and have ALL of the advantages of a self-driving car, it's just Larry driving the car instead of Waymo. But as everyone on HN will tell you, they don't want to carpool, they want to ride alone. Riding with others is what poor people do.

You also have the economics totally backward. Your assertion is that driving will be better in every way - easier personally, less congestion, cheaper parking - and as a result, there will be less driving? Utterly backwards. Make something cheaper easier or better, and we use more of it, not less.

> I certainly don't want random people inside my car when I'm not around

It's not your car, it's Waymo's car.

Waymo outfits the cars, provides continuous monitoring and support, operates a fleet of field techs for repair and cleaning, takes responsibility for insurance and regulatory compliance, provides dispatch and routing services, collects payments, etc.

The cost is justified by high utilization of the fleet. The economics don't work for a single car doing nothing 95% of the time.

Why would anyone want to own their own self-driver?

> Utterly backwards. Make something cheaper easier or better, and we use more of it, not less.

Yep, it's impossible to make anything cheaper, easier or better, because it instantly goes to shit when people want more of it.

> Why would anyone want to own their own self-driver?

Because they don't live in a large city for example. It's easier to cover a known average of rides with a million of users than when you have a town of 2000. You have a normal day where many projects walk to work, you get a local event where 200 people may turn to, you get forest fire where 2000 people need to get out.

It's 100% true that all the benefits of self-driving cars will be for naught if there's no congestion pricing implemented for driving alone. This will be either in the form of a toll or tax, or by making all but one of the freeway lanes shared-ride only.

Once you've implemented congestion pricing, riding with others is what 99% of people will be doing and the stigma is gone. If you don't want to ride in a car with graffiti etc. there'll be an option to order a better quality of ride.

Carsharing with autonomous cars will be way cheaper and 100% ubiquitous. I don’t even have Uber in my hometown, and I‘d love to get rid of my car. I‘m quite sure I could save €200 every month.

I'm not sure it's really an economic thing. I think most people here are just excited about another application of software.

I generally agree with all of these, however demand is not uniform which results in some vehicles having to be parked while they're not needed.

As another commented, it will be a very interesting optimization problem to figure out how to efficiently use the underutilized time of the fleet. There are a lot of things which are done at peak times now only because the owner of the car has to physically drive it there that could easily be moved to non-peak.

The nice part about that problem is that it can be solved by some startup, which means that we don't have to be alarmist about it.

As for the uniform thing, you are right, but it can be restated in economic terms as the car being more expensive to use during certain times of the day -- so people will have an incentive to go to work in off-peak hours (which will be an option not available to everybody, but the more that do so, the less the premium cost will be) thus smoothing demand.

> demand is not uniform which results in some vehicles having to be parked while they're not needed

Exactly. The salient questions are whether, at the point of minimum demand during the day, there would be more unutilized self-driven vehicles than the current state of unutilized owner-driven vehicles, and if at the point of maximum demand, there would be more or less vehicles on the road than today.

Intuitively, the answer is "no" to the first question, since cars used for commuting in the morning and evening could be used for deliveries during the day.

I don't know about the second question, and this probably has more to do with shifting trips from public transit to self-driven cars (not cruising to avoid paying to park).

This research doesn't consider the reduction in parking demand, the reduced cost to park, the densification from reclaiming thousands of hectares of parking spaces, offsetting traffic of current delivery vehicles, etc.

The challenge I see here is mostly psychological. Will people be okay with having to wait for the arrival of their vehicle when the self-driving car is delayed? Will they be willing to accept the wear-and-tear their car suffers when someone who doens't own it uses it as a delivery vehicle?

The illusion of control is a powerful one, and I think many people will choose to own and park a personal car near to their work so that they can get in it and get stuck in traffic immediately, rather than waiting at work while the car returns through said traffic.

They simply will not own a self driving car.

If they do, it will be theirs, not doing random shit for who knows who.

Another scenario is to have the car drop you off at a mass transit hub, then return home. When you get on the bus/train/whatever to return home, the car will meet you there. This may involve cars cruising around near the hub, though.

In urban settings, when self-driving cars are common, people (generally) won't own cars. Owning a car – an expensive depreciating asset – will be an enthusiast thing, like golf clubs or whatever; eventually, the self-driving truck will tow your non-self-driving car to the track...

Assuming the pricing works, most people will just use a car service.

I don't believe that for one second. Would it be cheaper for me to take a taxi to work every day than drive my own car? Absolutely. Do I want to? Absolutely not. The comfort of having my own vehicle that is set to my own preference and loaded with my stuff whenever I need it trumps the cost argument. Shared vehicles are just gross.

>Would it be cheaper for me to take a taxi to work every day than drive my own car? Absolutely.

I don't believe that for one second. Assume that the average car costs $523/mo[1] (and if you wanted a lower car payment it's totally possible to get a cheap car with a lower monthly payment). That means the daily cost of the car is $17.19 (523*12/365).

An uber (which is often less than a taxi and way more convenient) costs about $15 to get to work if you live nearby (it would be closer to $30-40 if you lived in the suburbs), and another $15 to get back home (possibly more because of surge pricing, depending on when you leave and local events such as sports games etc). This is assuming you never want to drive to get groceries, visit friends, etc... That's another $10-15 each way, every time.

Sure you don't have to pay for gas but there's no way the <$1/ride increase will account for that. I suppose you might have to pay for parking, but even then you could just buy a cheaper car ($400/mo car payments aren't exactly unheard of) and use the difference to pay for monthly parking.

[1]: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/31/a-523-monthly-payment-is-the...

I think using numbers with human drivers doesn’t help because

a) the uber driver has much higher marginal cost on each drive than a self driving car because of the human in the drivers seat and

b) the self driving car is likely to have a much higher fixed cost than the taxi with a human driver because of the expensive computer, software and new hardware like lidar.

So self driving cars are in my best guess going to have very high fixed costs with very low marginal costs, which means there is a large opportunity for a “renters” market

> the self driving car is likely to have a much higher fixed cost than the taxi with a human driver because of the expensive computer, software and new hardware like lidar.

These will become commodities when the technology matures.

I've owned quite a few cars in my life and not once was my payment > $400 even when putting very little down (usually my current car). I only buy gently used, reasonably priced cars though. My current truck is a 2007.

I haven't had a car payment in years. I buy older cars for cash.

I think the only way the math would work out favorably is if you had an expensive car, a short commute, or preferably both. For a regular appliance car, say a Prius, used strictly for commuting (5 days/week) the TCO would be about $21/day. This is almost exactly what Uber would charge me to go one way 14 miles to my office downtown (I live on the outskirts of the city). So about twice as expensive to use Uber, and only if it's just for commuting.

But if I had something fancy, like a Tesla Model X, the daily cost (similar parameters as before) works out to $68/day, and then I could save money by using Uber.

Of course, that's not really a fair comparison because the Tesla is much nicer than anything Uber is likely to pick me up in, so the Prius is a much more honest comparison.

I think you're forgetting insurance and maintenance which adds at least another couple hundred.

> The comfort of having my own vehicle that is set to my own preference and loaded with my stuff

From this statement it seems like you either don't work in a city, or live outside of a large metropolitan area. There's little chance you're leaving stuff in your car routinely in a large city and not having it stolen. This isn't meant as an insult, but I think it means you're not in the target demographic for a shared self-driving car service.

This isn't reasonable.

"Loaded with my stuff" doesn't mean all of my favorite consumer electronics left in the open in the passenger's seat.

My behavior barely changed between living a mile away from the nearest person to parking daily in SF. Yes if I have something valuable in the cabin I'll put it in the trunk when I leave the car, but that's it.

The cost difference is likely to be much more than between a present-day taxi and a car. The biggest cost for taxis is the labor of the driver, which usually dwarfs depreciation/maintenance/gas by an order of magnitude. If taxis are currently cheaper than car ownership for you, self-driving cars may be cheaper than taxis may be cheaper than that by a factor of 10x.

Would you pay 10x to avoid having to share seats, particularly for an activity that's still a fairly large chunk of the household budget?

I would be interested in knowing how you calculated your numbers. I did some digging and found an old (10 years ago) report from the Univ of Illinois on the operating costs of taxis in Chicago. In round numbers, the typical taxi driver brought in just under 60K/year in revenue and had 42K/year in operating costs. Assuming there hasn't been a major upset since then, this is a very long ways from 10x.

I'm figuring that a typical taxi driver might make $30/hour and in that hour drive about 20 miles. At 30 mpg and $3.00/gallon gasoline that's about $2 for gas. Figure that a typical car costs $20K and lasts for 200,000 miles, so 20 miles = 1/10,000 of the car = ~$2 in depreciation. Maybe another $1/hour in maintenance - that'd imply about $2K/year, which seems high, but this is higher mileage than a family car anyway. Total about $5/hour, which would be around 1/6 labor costs; not quite 10x, but around that ballpark.

Switch to electric vehicles (which are suddenly feasible with the car-service, never-have-to-park model!) and centralize maintenance across a whole fleet of cars and you can shave a bunch off gas & maintenance, though your depreciation would probably go up unless battery packs became dirt cheap.

It'll depend a lot on the difference in price for people - or another way of thinking about it is you can rent a better car than you can buy.

I think a lot of people will have much higher cost pressures than many of us on HN (at least, my impression is that we here are typically well above local median wages). That may push it a lot, and even more when you remove the upfront costs.

Also personally I'd love to not have to own a car. If it's even cheaper - great.

I share cars all the time using gocar (and before that, car2go). At times they're untidy, but never gross.

> Shared vehicles are just gross.

They are called busses, and trains, and trams. And they are not gross in most of Europe, for example.

American buses really aren't that gross, they just don't go a lot of the places most people need to go. Plus they stop running at weird times (the one that stopped at the place I interned during the summer had the last pickup time at 6PM, so if you weren't done by then you needed an uber. Plus that office park was the most rural stop in the bus system so you had to live further down town if you needed to take it.

No, I'd prefer my clean, quiet car to just about any European or American bus that I've taken.

Heck, my car may not be quiet, or even always clean, but I love-love-love to drive!

Cue in a video of Los Angeles 405 Freeway

Not a taxi but maybe your neighbors Mercedes will pick you up after it dropped him off.

When self-driving cars are common, most people living in the city won't own cars. It will be cheaper to take a cab and if you need to go out you can rent a car. Skyrocketing insurance will be the real killer of urban free-driving.

Why should insurance become more expensive than it is right now?

The one way I can think it would get more expensive is that the pool of drivers with insurance would get smaller. That would naturally drive the rates and such up.

The best analogy would be insurance for historical or classic vehicles; if you've ever looked into it, not only do they require certain things normal car insurance doesn't (for instance, they will typically only insure you if your car is kept in an enclosed garage), but because the pool of drivers is much smaller, it is more expensive to get.

> The one way I can think it would get more expensive is that the pool of drivers with insurance would get smaller. That would naturally drive the rates and such up.

Why would it increase the rates?

Rates are mostly driven by statistical analysis taking risk of accidents and cost of repairs into consideration. It is not a product particularly fit for a volume discount. If anything, fewer drivers on the road should mean fewer accidents, if the area/volume of roads stays the same (because of the drop in density, which means a drop in probability to be in the same spot as another driver at a given time).

> The best analogy would be insurance for historical or classic vehicles; if you've ever looked into it, not only do they require certain things normal car insurance doesn't (for instance, they will typically only insure you if your car is kept in an enclosed garage), but because the pool of drivers is much smaller, it is more expensive to get.

I don't think it's due to the pool of drivers being smaller. I think it's because the incident cost is much higher than high volume cars, because both parts and labor are more expensive for low volume productions (custom/exotic). Source: my exotic car.

Drivers are not insured. Vehicles are insured. You think self-driving cars won't need insurance?

In the UK driver+car is insured

Classic car insurance is more expensive because they are more expensive to fix. Insurance for a piece of property is proportional to the risks of damage to or caused by the property, which shouldn't change much in a landscape with self driving cars in play

As to point 1. why do you assume that current patterns of ownership will persist? If self-driving cars can be summoned as needed why would you want the hassle of maintaining a private one especially as parking becomes astronomically expensive?

With regards to point #2, do you really think that multiple manufactures will be able to agree on a single vehicle to vehicle communication protocol that is robust enough to sort out shifting around a parking lot? Or would the parking lot have the infrastructure that communicates to the cars? It doesn't seem an insurmountable task either way.

I mean. We all agreed on IP, TCP, HTTP, etc. no reason to think we can’t do that again.

those protocols were developed when the internet was much smaller and (mostly) in the control of researchers & technologists. now, we have multi-billion/trillion dollar entities jostling for control over a multi-billion/trillion dollar industry.

how's that for a reason?

I would direct you to the numerous things that _are_ standard on automobiles. For example, CAN bus[1] which is used in almost every single car you'll encounter these days and is what allows their modern electronics to communicate with each other.

The auto industry is fully capable of standardizing on something when it's mutually beneficial for them to do so.

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CAN_bus

A lot of things are regulated on the road. This kind of communication protocol could be one of them.

Currently, all cars speak OBD II.

There's a solution for #2, and it's even better than having the car park itself in a traditional parking structure, which has a lot of unused wasted space dedicated to things other than the individual parking space the car occupies (the paths to the parking spaces, stairs, elevators, wider parking spaces so people can get in/out of the car, etc. I saw in Japan, China, Germany (and other places) they have circular parking structures that you just drive your car onto a platform, get out and pay. The automated, robotic system, lifts the car up to whatever level there is an open parking space, and just puts the car in the space. When you need it, it retrieves it and away you go. No stairs to climb, no elevators, no paths for cars to drive on. Very compact and efficient. I imagine it cuts down on quite a bit of theft, breakins, sexual assaults and security equipment (cameras, staff) as you really just need to make sure the entrance is secure. Even better, you can put them all underground. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXWrpE1Khkk

This doesn't look that more space efficient than a normal parking garage. I'm sure better implementations could exist that would make it way better. Also... I'm imagining having to wait in a huge line during rush hour because everyone wants to get their car out, and they have to wait for the car retriever arm to travel to each car and back for all 20-30 people in line ahead of them.

There is a lot of space saving there. There are no "roads" for cars to have to drive on in the garage to get to the space individual spaces, no stairwells.

> I'm imagining having to wait in a huge line during rush hour because everyone wants to get their car out

That problem exists currently, except you wait an hour in line trying to exit the garage and nobody allowing you to back out because they want out first. I don't really see a solution to that particular problem if everybody is going to continue to have their own individual transports taking up space all day while not in use, and then everybody getting off work at the same time and rushing to get their cars at the same time, clogging the freeways at the same time. Well, except for things like Teslas, it would be nice to just summon your vehicle and have it unpark itself and drive to you to pick you up and give you an uber-like map and ETA on where it is. You could be doing more productive things while waiting for your car instead of standing (or sitting) in a line. 20 minutes before work ends, just summon your car so it's out front waiting, or circling the block or whatever.

Very cool engineering!

(reading back over this comment, I might appear overly negative, but I would think all the issues I raise are solvable)

What's the throughput like on those systems? I could imagine at peak times it might take a while to get your car back. You'd also want to make sure you didn't leave anything in the car accidentally. Finally, imagine the trouble one of these breaking down would cause.

they address point #1 directly (still cheaper to drive around, at $0.50/hour). but really, they buried the lede:

> "But no one owns an autonomous vehicle now, so there's no constituency organized to oppose charging for the use of public streets. This is the time to establish the principle and use it to avoid the nightmarish scenario of total gridlock."

their thesis is that now is the right time from a policy perspective to implement congestion pricing on autonomous cars. the driving around aimlessly bit is literally to alarm politicians into action.

a pay-per-use model is economically rational but notoriously hard politically. only recently has technology advanced enough to do real-time pricing, which is arguably more fair than former systems (like flat rate pricing). ideally you'd pay per mile*minute (similar to taxis and ridehailing).

Not a bad idea, but there's the question of why we should single out autonomous cars, rather than having congestion pricing for everyone? Every car takes up space. If it's doing something useful then it's worth it.

you shouldn't limit it to autonomous vehcles, but as the article notes, no one wants to pay for something that was formerly free, so it's politically difficult. but the strategy of implementing it only on autonomous vehicles now provides a wedge for wider implementation later.

But we already have 'no-cruising' ordinances to harass human drivers endlessly circling around looking for fares, parking or prostitutes, artificially creating traffic and the hyperbolic 'nightmarish scenario of total gridlock.'

This is not a new problem, and focusing solutions on autonomous vehicles is pointless discrimination.

Part of the benefit (for me) of traveling by car is thst I can leave whenever I want. If I have to wait even 5 mins for my car to return to me, I'd consider that an inconvenience - if I could pay for short term parking near by, I'd take it.

It's reasonable that you'd pay a premium for the privilege of being able to leave the second you're ready to go, compared with say:

- Telling your car to do rideshare until 5pm, and then stand by until you're ready to go sometime between 5pm and 6pm.

- Telling your car to go park far away and you'll give it twenty minute's notice when you're ready to go so that it can come get you.

- Telling your car to park in a lot where it'll be boxed in and may take a few minutes of shuffling to get itself out.

That said, I definitely can see an issue here where everyone's cars all descend on the downtown trying to perform curbside pickups right at 5pm. You could imagine similar things happening in any parking lot environment (mall, movie theatre, amusement park, etc), where the prime kiss-and-ride location ends up being a giant snarl of self driving cars all trying to save their owners a five minute walk across some asphalt.

I don't disagree, but that one time you have a sudden errand to run or an urgent need to get him,e and your car is off being driven by others... Obvs I'm thinking very much in an ownership mentality here, and in tbe future I'd just grab another random car and head home in that, but this is the mindset that we will have to overcome.

(btw I never commute by car, only by bike ad public transport - so I'm just playing devil's advocate here)

Ride share? I would not let random strangers into my car without being present.

I believe the assumption is that the car is owned by a ride-sharing company, not you. You are not letting random strangers into your car -- you are one of the random strangers.

If it halved the cost of ownership of your car and the service was guaranteed to reimburse you fully for damages (zero deductible and zero higher insurance rates) then a lot of people would, I think.

And you could probably keep personal things locked in your trunk or a high-security locked glove compartment.

Money can be surprisingly motivating.

> and the service was guaranteed to reimburse you fully for damages

That will be of zero comfort the moment you get inside your car, and find out a drunk has puked into the foot well, or somebody was incontinent in the back seat.

...and those are the nice scenarios - I could think of plenty of others that wouldn't be pleasant at all for the owner.

At that point, your only recourse would be to send your car off to be detailed/repaired/whatever, while you went to hail a ride service (and hope you don't get another car with the same issue).

Heck - can you imagine getting into your car, only to find that it was inhabited by a chain smoker for the entire day?

Even if it took full pictures of everything before and after the ride, and the identities of the people involved where validated?

I mean there is still the freak cases of them doing meth or otherwise not caring, but that seems likely to be something you can insure yourself out of for a relatively small cost.

Sure, all that is possible, but you'd still be deprived of your vehicle when it showed up all funkified, while you then had to scramble to hail another vehicle - potentially making you late to your next destination. If it's your personal car, then you're stuff using such ride services until you get your car back. With no guarantee that a similar thing will happen to you when one of them picks you up.

> Cruising around the city isn't free (fuel, maintenance, risk of damage)

Says this will cost about .50 an hour (USD) so quite affordable.

I would love it if it cost me only $0.50/hour to operate my car. Conservatively I'd go with more like $5/hour (assume 10mph average at $0.50 per mile).

According to [1], median daily unreserved parking in SF is $29/day, so at 6 hours you break even. You can likely get much cheaper than this by driving a bit further away. Even at the $38 for New York and $42 for Honolulu you still break even around 8 hours.

[1] https://investinganswers.com/articles/most-ridiculously-expe...

Straight from the article:

> "Even when you factor in electricity, depreciation, wear and tear, and maintenance, cruising costs about 50 cents an hour—that's cheaper than parking even in a small town," says Millard-Ball. "Unless it's free or cheaper than cruising, why would anyone use a remote lot?"

I don't have time to dig into it, but $0.50 seems like a wishfully low number.

Doesn't take too long to prove it is too low. Lets say this fancy self-driving car cost $50,000. Lets say it is expected to go 250,000 miles in its lifetime. That is $.20 per mile! If it cruises at only 25 mph, that is $5 in wear and tear alone! Even if you slash the price and up double the life of the vehicle, you are paying more than $.50 an hour.

That's a very simplistic analysis since it ignores the difference in wear and tear between cruising at low speed versus driving at normal speed.

A car that's built to last 250,000 miles of normal driving can likely go much farther at low speed cruising, especially for an EV.

I don't know, that low of a cruising speed suggest a lot of stop and go driving. Even if true, the analysis was meant to be a simple refutation of the $.50 per hour claim, and I really doubt you can increase durability enough to tip the balance. And that doesn't even include regular maintenance- lubrication, tires, brakes. It doesn't include electricity. It doesn't include damage, insurance costs, etc.

When the traffic lights can coordinate with cars, they can avoid the need to stop, at most they may just need to slow down, which can be done without brakes.

An EV doesn't need (much) lubrication, for example, the Chevy Bolt EV maintenance schedule has only tire rotations for the first 150,000 miles:


With low speed travel and minimal stops, there's not much tire wear.

Ubiquitous EV's should reduce the accident rate dramatically.

Realistically, the average speed of any car navigating an urban grid with stop lights/signs is usually going to be a lot less than 25 miles per hour. Maybe more like 5-10, even if it's not deliberately trying to drive slow.

The point is that 50 cents an hour is not an accurate representation of the cost of continuously operating a car for an hour. The IRS allows something near that per mile as a standard mileage rate. If the car is driving more than a mile per hour on average, it's significantly exceeding 50 cents/hour.

How in the world do you figure $0.50 per mile?

Even if you assume a modest 20 mi/gallon at $3/gal, you're looking at about $0.15 a mile. A $40 oil change every 5000 miles, and a more expensive maintenance job every 10000 miles isn't going to push you past $0.25/mi.

Are you amortizing the cost of the vehicle?

$0.50 per mile is pretty reasonable, the IRS reimbursement rate for distance drive in a business context is $0.58 (https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-issues-standard-mileage-rat...)

The IRS comes up with a roughly $.50/mile figure. It takes into consideration the physical wear on the vehicle as well as consumables and fuel costs, among other things I think (averaged nationally).

Electric car, so fuel cost is minimal given low speeds and no scheduled oil changes or other maintenance.

Fuel cost won't remain minimal in this envisioned all-EV future. Governments will need to make up the fuel tax revenue somehow.

> Cars can go do something more useful

Came here to say this. The article seems to have a basic lack of imagination about the types of new vlaue automated cars will create.

It also sounds like a crazy hard logistics/optimziation problem: "I have X number of rolling cars, how do I use them to maximize their value and reduce maintance and resource use?"

Maybe the author of the article has a basic understanding of physics of rock throwing? Those empty cruising cars will be sitting ducks for angry or even simply very bored and irresponsible people.

Right now we have parking lots full of cars without people in them. Seems like sitting ducks for bored people with rocks, right?

Why would anyone have windows in their house if someone could just throw a rock through it?

In reality, people are usually well behaved. The fact that self-driving cars have cameras and sensors like mad means that even fewer people would risk the jail-time they'd get by throwing rocks at them.

The idea that suddenly once cars are driving without people there will be a significant enough uptick in vandalism that it will deter cars from driving around is absolutely laughable.

If this were a realistic threat, we wouldn't have parking lots now.

Not sure it would be any different with people inside. If I'm using an Uber self-driver why would I care if someone tossed a rock at it (so long as the self driving sensors aren't damaged)?

1. Why would they leave the area where they can most likely get work?

2. Why/how would these autonomous cars cooperate in this way? Why would they be willing to pen themselves in at all?

3. If people-sized cars are filling the streets, traffic will be far far worse than it is now, which is the point of the article.

If this is a problem it will get solved

Like how we solved human-driver traffic once and for all back in '83?

Right! Each self-driving car replaces how many other cars on the road? Look at regions where only cabs are allowed - they don't park much either - and congestion goes down. There are solutions.

"Cars can go off and park somewhere further away. Cruising around the city isn't free (fuel, maintenance, risk of damage)"

They can, but then they are farther away when someone calls for a ride. If there's only a few self-driving car rental companies, then maybe it's not so bad, they can send most cars to a remote lot, with a few cars remaining in the city to address demand. But if hundreds of companies are going to have cars on the street, then they'll all want their cars to be crusing near potential riders.

Though a bigger problem is that self-driving cars will cause double the traffic of normally driven cars -- they'll drive into the city to drop off their passenger, then out of the city to a remote lot.

Why have parking when self driving cars can at like taxis?

So, do taxis cause a parking problem? No... taxi's are on the roll because if they are parked they do not generate revenue. Every sensible self-driving car company out there is pursuing a ride service model. I don't see people taking a self-driving car that they own down into the city center and parking it there while they work 9 to 5.

Once self-driving ride services become competitive, people will own far fewer daily commuters. They will put their money into a 4WD that can take them skiing, and leave it in the driveway on work days.

I remember when movies first started coming out on VHS and Beta (yes I'm that old). The video store that quickly popped up in my town quickly realized that renting a VHS player would help with sales and rentals; costing something like $10 a day (with 1 movie rental included). The problem was that they only had 10 players, so that if you didn't reserve one ahead of time, you were playing the lottery on high demand days. On weekdays there were plenty of players available, but on Fri/Sat nights it was crazy. The owner didn't have enough capitol to have players idle on the slow nights, so the problem wasn't resolved until everyone who could, bought their own player.

I see the same issue happening with any ride service model. Unless some part of it is being subsidized, I find it hard to see how a company will be able to have enough capacity for peak demand while not wasting a ton of capital. And if people have issues with getting a ride service, they'll buy their own, further complicating the profitability margins of ride service companies.

I don't understand how power, internet and retail companies deal with peak demand ! /s

You deal with peak demand by having a supply that is equal to the peak. Automatic Rideshare companies can self balance over a large area, watch the predictable trends that show up during a year and so on and will print money and thus have a lot of capital.

At which point, your costs = costs of owning a car for each commuting user in your area + overhead + profit. So unless you are offering subsidized prices, it will be cheaper for everyone to just own their own car for commuting.

Only if you assume everyone commutes to work at exactly the same time. Rush hour _is_ a thing, but even during rush hour you're no where near the point of having 100% of cars on the road at the same time.

You're also forgetting that most existing cars on the road have way more seating capacity than needed, since they need to account for the maximum number of people who will use that car at once. A family of four needs a car with four seats, even if most of the time that car will only be carrying one person to work and back throughout the week. Self driving cars will be much more efficient in that respect.

> Automatic Rideshare companies can self balance over a large area, watch the predictable trends that show up during a year [...]

That assumes that nearby places have different peak times, which is probably a flawed assumption.

Over a city they definitely do. Such as rush hours. Move the cars to the residential hours in the morning, move the cars to the schools & commercial areas in the afternoon & evenings.

You can also vary your pricing. Planes and trains charge more at peak times when services are in the most demand. Uber has "surge pricing" when there are unusual demand spikes.

By offering discounted fares at off-peak times, and charging premium fares at the busiest times, you can smooth out the peaks while optimising profitability.

> while not wasting a ton of capital

Easy, only companies with absurd amounts of cash will be able to compete, and won't mind burning through billions to dominate the market. The economics of Uber and Lyft don't work right now, but that isn't stopping them.

Google, Uber, GM, and whoever else will compete with one or two heavily funded startups, until one wins and the rest fail because of the dynamics you describe.

And this is...good?

Rich people fighting each other to decide who will subsidize my transportation forever? Sounds good. It also sounds like something that won't happen, or at least won't last.

So I think the GP has the wrong picture.


No until they control the market at which point you will pay all the subsidy back with interest.

Only if they somehow create a barrier to entry that doesn't exist today.

It's not impossible, but if they go into corrupt regulation (how else could they do it?) there is no reason they can't get the same without the throwing a lot of money away first. So, again, they won't.

I think the barrier to entry is inherent in the "rich people..." part of your idea. Industries that have a huge financial requirement in order to lay down the technologies needed have historically been the WORST monopolies (at least in the US, we have examples in Oil, Railroads, telecoms, etc).

Also, you make it sound like corrupt, industry protecting regulation is the exception and not the norm. Where do you live, and does this fantasy place accept immigrants?

No it's obviously bad.

Same way as Uber and Lyft do it – they charge demand pricing.

In which case no one with a limited budget (i.e. most people) is going to rely on this for commuting.

The big difference is that existing ride sharing and driverless ride sharing are compatible with each other. Ride sharing companies can slowly increase their number of driverless vehicles as it makes financial sense for them. Even if they only need them one or two days a week, there is still a balance that can be struck and that balance should increase over time as more people continue to utilize ride sharing services.

Even further a self-driving car can relocate itself to meet ad-hoc demand. This means privately owned vehicles (assuming they are self-driving) could be enlisted to service this additional demand.

Most vehicles sit idle in a parking lot but could be doing meaningful work.

(Queue SitCom script where someone tries to leave a party but forgot to turn off the feature and their car won't be back for 30 minutes...)

>I find it hard to see how a company will be able to have enough capacity for peak demand

I would guess that in most cities the capacity is not limited by capital to buy cars, but capacity of the street network, which cars, autonomous or not, are notoriously bad at utilizing.

I think this is what Uber/Lyft surge pricing does -- I've never been unable to find an Uber when I want one, but sometimes it costs more than I want to pay.

Many rides aren't so time sensitive that they can't be shifted to another time if the price is right (or wrong).

Car sharing companies will likely come up with a subscription service where you pay $X/month for your normal commute, then they can make sure they have enough base capacity for the regular rides and the on-demand rides can use demand pricing to ensure that everyone can get a car when they need it.

Let's replace peak time with commute. So that's one service you can cover. But there's no reason whatsoever self driving cars can't do cargo duty when less passengers are available.

Can the same vehicles handle both tasks? I don't want to commute in a truck, and I bet shipping depot workers don't want to load cars.

Can't see a problem here, the car folds down its seats, the warehouse loads a de facto standard mini shipping container before the car arrives, throws it in the car, off it goes. It might even ascend to an ISO standard, not just a de facto one, such things happened before.

Perhaps, but now the standard shipping container slips a little bit, and gauges a scratch into my seats and sidewall on the first of 4 deliveries. I notice two days later when I'm next using the back. Who pays for the cost of re-upholstering my seats, and for my car-sharing costs during the repair?

My seats?? Noone owns a self driving car, you rent one when you need it. As for the fleet owner, I bet they will solve this in any number of ways somehow including the risk in the cargo fee

I predict plenty of people will own self-driving cars, at least at first. Habits don't die easily, and car ownership is seen as a key part of independence and self sufficiently in America. Some people will want to own them, whether or not it makes sense.

Most of the people go to work around the same time. Additionally, people most go in the same direction. Therefore, self driving car won't be able to serve 10 commuters per day. 2-3 is the max. I suspect, most of owned cars are used to drive to work. So, I don't see how self driving taxi/sharing will solve commuting issue and therefore, owning a car will be still popular.

If people are going at the same time in the same direction, then take more than one person.

Now you're heading home. There are 4 people in the car. Who gets dropped off first? My carpool partner lives less than a mile from me. It still takes almost 10 minutes to divert and drop her off. If you're the last drop off, you lose 60 minutes a day to these drop-offs and pickups.

A problem that doesn't exist in a high frequency mass transit system with lots of transfer options!

Commute traffic is very bursty and very unidirectional. People generally don't commute by taxi today, so replacing commute trips with taxis would both increase the number of taxis and cause the pattern of these new taxis to not match current patterns.

>Commute traffic is very bursty and very unidirectional.

Which creates carpooling opportunities through economies of scale, as Uber/Lyft pool is already demonstrating.

There will be self driving (mini)buses too cheaper than a self driving car ride (more stops because of more passengers carried).

Bus vs car is just a miniature version of hub-and-spoke vs direct flight. Outside of very dense cities (Seoul, Tokyo, New York, etc.), mass transit isn't a very good idea because humans care about trip latency. A lot.

That being said, there's probably still a place for busses during rush hour in a lot of places.

Humans care about trip latency, but there are different components. One person walking five minutes to a designated corridor may save ten people on a minibus three minutes on their trip each by avoiding unnecessary diversion. And this can add up quite a bit depending on how many passengers you are avoiding diverting for. There's a reason why (good) bus lines tend to be direct and on main roads.

The main reason why non-dense places don't see good bus service is because of labor costs. In developed countries labor is easily the biggest source of cost when it comes to a bus, so agencies will run one 40-passenger bus every half hour rather than three 15-passenger buses every ten minutes. Removing labor makes the latter scenario affordable, and if buses are coming every ten minutes average wait time is about five minutes, which is comparable to Lyft or Uber today in some places.

We are used to busses going at set times from set positions. Why can't I request a $STARTUP ride from A to B, at about 30 minutes from now and let them try to calculate a route based on who else is going now? You could run that when you get out of bed and see what comes up, so that by the time you had showered it would be clear when you could go and then you could make the go/no-go decision.

I mean today it is a no-go decision from be, simply because it takes a minimum of twice as long to go to work by bus as by my car, but with a smarter route, that may not be an issue.

How is that different than just... taking the bus?

The difference is huge.

To take a bus from point A to point B, I have to walk to point C, wait for the bus, get on, wait to be dropped of at point D, cross the intersection to point E, wait for a transfer bus, get on, wait to be dropped off at point F, and finally walk to point B.

With this system I call a cab, wait for it at point A, get on, get dropped of at point B. Rather than my time being fragmented into 3 periods of walking interspersed with 4 periods of waiting, it is just 2 periods of waiting, which makes it much easier to make use of the time. In my experience riding buses, only about a third of the time spent is usable (except for long distance commuter routes), while nearly all the time spent in a cab is usable.

Even if the shared cab took a bit longer than a bus, I would still choose it over a bus for the improved productivity / enjoyment.

Lack of pre-defined and centrally-planned route.

That doesn't seem like a positive. People like predictability. They know their drive home takes X minutes, give or take Y, which is a small number. Having a different route every day makes the value of Y a lot more variable.

There's another aspect to "predictability." Back when I was a bus commuter, it was comforting to see the same faces every day. Even without chatting or acknowledging each other, there was a sort of familiarity to the strangers.

Is that a good thing, though? In practice the lack of a pre-planned schedule means that rideshare vehicles have to divert to get to you, being as much as 10-15 minutes away, which is not much better than just waiting for a bus.

Quickly catching a bus that isn't going where I want to go isn't ideal either.

It can pick you up at your house.

> Which creates carpooling opportunities through economies of scale

Like busses and trains? Seriously. Public transit.

The issue is a geometric one. There is only a fixed road capacity. Consuming that road capacity with deadheading vehicles is the worst usage.

Public transit has other significant drawbacks.

IE, it can't go point to point, and is instead stuck in a movement pattern that isn't changing.

A self-driving taxi might help that a lot. Call up a self-driving uber to take you from your home to the nearest train station, and take the light rail into downtown.

I think it would be feasible for the self-driving taxi companies to have a small fleet of cars in each neighborhood that could respond rapidly to take people for short trips.

That would still significantly increase commute times.

By definition, public transit can only serve a specific segment of the commuting population.

> IE, it can't go point to point, and is instead stuck in a movement pattern that isn't changing.

That's not inherent to public transport. You can easily imagine a public network of bus transit where users send in a request for transit an hour or two beforehand; software coalesces the set of requests into a dynamic set of routes and stops; and tells the user to turn up at a stop (relatively) near the origination point and drops them off at a stop (relatively) near their destination point.

Whether it's economic or feasible is a separate issue. But funding mechanism, transport form factor, and autonomy are all distinct parts of a transportation method, and it's a mistake to think of "private autonomous cars" as competing with "legacy human-driven buses with set routes."

What you described still has significant drawbacks. I don't want to have to input into an app, an hour ahead of time to get where I need to go.

If "on demand mass transit via large multipeople vehicles (IE busses)" were feasible, then you'd already see companies like Uber doing it.

On demand point to point, where you don't have to wait a dozen stops to get where you want, is just strictly better than the alternatives in many many ways.

> I don't want to have to input into an app, an hour ahead of time to get where I need to go.

Sure. Get around this by having preset schedules. Or infer it. These details matter, but you can point out similar issues for public transit as it exists today and for private car ownership as it exists today: both are commonly used, despite drawbacks.

> If "on demand mass transit via large multipeople vehicles (IE busses)" were feasible, then you'd already see companies like Uber doing it.

Not at all. Uber and Lyft are premised on having a large base of independent contractors to perform all the labor and provide all the capital. "Large multipeople vehicles" would require complicated integrations with different municipalities, or for Uber/Lyft to purchase their own fleet of buses. Neither aligns well with their current businesses.

> On demand point to point, where you don't have to wait a dozen stops to get where you want, is just strictly better than the alternatives in many many ways.

Sure. And shared rides is strictly better in one very important way: cost. I'm much less cost-sensitive than the average American, and I take Lyft Line far more often than a regular Lyft.

It's not about what's best, but best in certain situations. I value latency sometimes, and cost sometimes.


Current public transportation is rigidly designed for capturing massive economies of scale (still good), while a dynamic swarm of self-driving vehicles can fulfill last-mile demand with the benefits of economies of scale (market opportunity).

Neither can Lyft, Uber, etc. if there is not available GEOMETRIC capacity.

There is a fixed road area to work with.

Which creates carpooling opportunities through economies of scale, as Uber/Lyft pool is already demonstrating.

Links? I haven't found any way to practically share Lyfts for long-ish trips. I don't see any evidence Lyft or Uber will ever do much with shared-rides.

For self-driving cars, people wanting to save money will drive their own cars before they share rides. If you have a car, you've sunk a lot of money into it and so the per-ride cost is fairly small. Even a self-driving car has to price-in wear-and-tear.

It's a shame, that would probably solve a lot of their problems with the ratting system.

The existence of self-driving cars isn't going suddenly dematerialize existing automobiles. It would be, at the least, a long transition process for everyone to switch.

Not only do many people have significant capital sunk into their cars but a lot of people would have trouble affording the cost of using a self-driving taxi and some number of others would simply object for whatever reason.

Moreover, maintaining a car and using a self-driving taxi is even more expensive - cars sitting around still decay and require maintenance as well as insurance.

There are different parking problems. For example, today we can have a long line of taxis waiting for people to arrive at an airport.

I suspect these are more easily solvable since there is more flexibility about parking spots (the cars don't need to be within walking distance and only a few need to be close by). But there will still be idle cars that need to be put somewhere during off-peak times.

And the reason there's a long line of taxis at the airport is because the drivers wants the fare. If there was one or a few companies that owned all the cars, they would make sure there always would be close to an optimum amount of cars at the airport. Cars not in use during low demand hours are either just parked somewhere where the parking is dirt cheap or in for service.

Well, that's not the real issue, the real issue is that unloading and loading of taxis at airports is at best chaotic.

The local airport has similar issues with Lyft or Uber, which are in a separate zone from the taxis, so if it were possible to optimize better they probably would've tried already.

Why would self driving taxis behave different than human driven taxis? I mean, the same argument (cars don't need to be in walking distance) applies to taxis whether a human drives it or a computer?

Yes. I drove a taxi for a time during college and I remember drivers would camp at the airport for hours to get a $100 trip but would resent “short trips” despite you actually making more money on multiple short trips than a single airport run. Many of those drivers would use the airport wait time to take a shower, play poker, socialize, sleep. (For those not familiar, taxis at major airports wait in a slow moving off-site queue before you actually ever see them arrive at the terminals; that off-site often resembles a third-world village with everything from laundry, food vendors, ping pong, etc.) Drivers line up their cars, and they do their thing, returning to the vehicle from time to time to move it forward in the queue.

Autonomous vehicle “drivers” don’t need to shower, use the bathroom, eat or sleep, so instead they can be constantly moving rather than camping at airports. A car in motion is generating revenue, so I think autonomous taxis would be fewer in number than human taxis as well as behaving in revenue-optimizing ways (i.e. not camping at the airport.) Theoretically, those airport taxi villages would likely turn into charging stations with a few employees to provide necessary services.

> A car in motion is generating revenue

Not necessarily. A lot of the self-driving taxi utopia is based on the idea that self-driving taxis will serve commuter traffic. And the major facet of commuter traffic is that you're going to have a high-volume, unidirectional traffic flow--once that car drops off its worker, there is no demand for it make any trips nearby. So if that car is in motion, it's still not carrying anybody, so it's not generating revenue.

Assuming a rational market (never guaranteed), there would be low fares during off-peak hours, and in the reverse direction, with higher fares at peak. So, you'd get some "induced demand" and shift in demand by travel being sometimes being very cheap.

It's sort of like congestion pricing.

Uber has done some of this already.

Taxis do park. (Hotels, airports, train stations)

Not parking means excess capacity is creating traffic jams. So to avoid paying for storage, self driving cars are going to consume energy and space in travel lanes.... cities should charge the f out this.

There was recently a segment on NPR with a researcher for future automation. I’ll try to dig up a link but he made the opposite point of you. He claimed self-driving cars will give us more traffic but it will be much more efficient thanks to software. The lanes would be able to get shrunk from 12ft to 6ft due to better control and by doing that, you’re now able to possibly double your available lanes on a single road for the increase in cars.

There can be single passenger cars too instead of the current 4-5 seaters, which will take up less space than current cars.

This is an often overlooked point. Once near zero accidents are proven, all types of vehicle design options become feasible. Super narrow, super light, etc. It may even be feasible to change the roads. I fear we’re a long way away though.

good luck passing the crash tests

The crash test standards are passed by humans. If we get to a point where self-driving has dramatically (>95%) reduced crashes, crashworthiness becomes less of a pressing issue and we may be well advised to reduce the standards.

(I'm fairly bearish on the prospects/likelihood of self-driving cars in my lifetime, but that's orthogonal to the point above. If they exist, we might not need to build mini-tanks anymore.)

No, let’s use the 6ft freed up for a protected bike lane.

a sibling comment is imagining a future where automated cars will be so good (and pervasive) that we no longer design cars to survive catastrophic crashes and can build them in any size, down to a single seat. I am going to take it a step further and say that lanes will become obsolete at this point, and we just pack them together as close as allowed by width.

in this vision for the future, is it still necessary to chisel out 6ft on every surface street for humans to ride self-propelled bicycles?

It seems that slightly over 10 feet may be better for current cars, rather than the common 12 feet. https://www.citylab.com/solutions/2015/07/10-foot-traffic-la... . See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_diet#Lane_diets .

It's tough to see how to get down to 6 foot wide lanes when there are so many vehicles on the road which are wider than 6 feet. A Ford F-150 (thirteenth generation), which is the best selling pickup in the US, has a width of 79.9 in = 6.6 feet.

Or, consider a family with 2 parents and 3 kids, where all three need car seats, plus room for strollers, extra clothes, and so on. I looked at top DDG hits for "car for three kids" and all of them were over 6 feet in width.

Then there are service vehicles, like garbage trucks, which are well wider than 6 feet. (https://www.reference.com/vehicles/size-typical-garbage-truc... says a popular model is "approximately 102 inches" = 8.5 feet). Where do they drive without blocking two lanes of traffic.

It would also be impossible to use by any RVs. https://campergrid.com/average-rv-length-width/ says "Travel trailers or a camper trailer on an average are around 20 feet in length and 8 feet in width". Others are larger; "Class A RV width stands at an average of 9.5 feet".

Or conversion vans for people in wheelchairs.

These are all solvable, but there's a lot of existing - and expensive - systems in place which would need to be changed to make that vision come true. At the very least you need to wait until people who don't have narrow self-driving cars no longer have the political influence to keep others from kicking them off the road.

I imagine that on a more free market economy probably Ubers would have QR codes, username handles, or some other way for you to just scan your phone (or type a code) near the door of the ride-sharing vehicle and the driver agree to the ride in the spot. This would be very nice to reduce queues and traffic at airports or other agglomeration places. It just doesn't make sense to wait 5-10min at a large airport like SFO, JFK, LAX, or ATL for a Uber ride while you see just many people being dropped off in front of you. This only happens thanks to the taxi monopoly.

It'd be better for everyone if you could just walk in any car in these scenarios.

No its just what really rich people used to do in London have an employee drive their car around the block when the traffic wardens showed up.

The partners at one place I worked at in London did this.

> I don't see people taking a self-driving car that they own down into the city center and parking it there while they work 9 to 5.

Maybe we'll have a AirBnB type of service where you would rent your self-driving car to others from 9 to 4 and the "AirBnB car" company would make sure it goes where there's demand.

This way people owning the cars are still sure to have their own ride even when there's high demand.

I could not even imagine the headache of such a system. For example, I drive what I like to call beater cars. They are paid for fully in cash and generally are not worth more then a couple thousand if that and we are talking Canadian dollars. I like this because I have kids and they are hard on my car and I am also hard on my car. I like to eat in my car as I work in the community and do a lot of driving around so often grab food to go and park and eat. I have spilled countless times despite my best intentions. I have had a bottle of soap leak on my floor not realizing somewhere from the till to car the cap flipped up. I have had a kid fall asleep in the back and pee their pants. Coffee down the dash. Found old fruit under kids seats. You name it. It will be a big headache if you get some kid who rideshares with his mom in your autonomous car while you work that pees all over your seat. Or tracks mud in. Or pukes. Or every other thing I would like to not deal with. I just have a hard time seeing how we get past all that without some insurance covering issues like these.

I would have mine continuously drive around the block.

Another option is to have the car drive out into the suburbs in search of free parking to abuse.

For a family, the car would drive home to be available for other users. Each trip thus turns into two trips, one to drop a person off and another to pick a person up.

The ride service model doesn't work except for the people already tolerating ride services. Lots of us want to keep our junk in our cars. We haul around our snacks, spare shoes, and raingear. Our cars might get dirty, but at least it's our own filth, not a puddle of a stranger's vomit.

You can presumably still keep your own car even if everyone else is renting one for each single trip. It won't make sense financially, but it won't be more expensive than today. It will be more clearly a leisure expense, as in, you'll know which part is your transportation cost and which part is the extra you choose to pay for keeping your junk and having the filth be your own. Who knows, it may be a fairly popular alternative. I certainly value those things, just not enough to pay thousands of dollars extra for them.

The car as a service option won't be the solution for most families, because they have a lot of nonhuman cargo they need to store in their car: strollers, diaper bags, sporting equipment, etc.

Parents already unload and load the stroller and diaper bag at their destination, what's the big deal about doing it at the origin?

Some people will pay extra for car storage, other people will opt for the discount of not owning a car.

Think about all the transitions of "stuff" that an average family with 2 kids will need. Maybe one of those kids is a toddler, maybe another one is a little older and plays baseball. Somehow you gotta pick up the toddler from day care after work (diaper bag, maybe a stroller, car seat), and the older kid from school (books, projects, instruments) and get the older kid to baseball practice (bat, glove, maybe a couple balls). Plus you have your own stuff, maybe a laptop bag. You've gotta transition all this stuff all over the place without ever leaving anything in a car? You're gonna carry your laptop bag, your kid's school stuff, and all the toddler equipment to baseball practice? God forbid you have to do some grocery shopping on the way home after baseball practice. That sounds like a nightmare.

I agree that families with small children have a need for car-as-storage, but that passes after a couple years (per child). I'm not so sure about sports. For hardcore athletes, then yeah. But for your weekly biking or skiing or surfing trip, the equipment can be hauled on and off larger car-as-service's hired for the purpose. The rest of the time, store the equipment in a fraction of the space you would use to store a car with the equipment in.

Disclaimer: I was never a regular in any big-equipment sports.

If I'm wrong, well, like I said owning a car might still be fairly popular when they self-drive.

Any sport that requires an external rack for equipment like bikes, kayaks, or skis is a major hassle with rental vehicles. Sure some rental agencies already offer vehicles with racks but dealing with all the various options and configurations becomes a huge problem for logistics and inventory management. So they often don't have what you want when you actually need it. I'll keep my personally owned vehicles regardless of cost.

With regards to sporting equipment I was specifically thinking about baseball, but football and hockey can also tend to have lots of equipment.

> Another option is to have the car drive out into the suburbs in search of free parking to abuse.

This doesn't sound like abuse, it sounds like a good idea.

The point of expensive parking is to reduce the contention for parking spaces. If the car drives a long way away to park where parking is less contested, that seems like a win.

It's abuse because in suburbs the parking is provided at the expense of the property owner, intended for the benefit of those using the property.

Neither I nor Walmart would be pleased to have empty cars showing up to park on our property.

Maybe we're thinking of different things.

I had in mind just the side of a road that doesn't have parking restrictions. Anybody is allowed to park there.

Perhaps you are talking about a free car park outside a supermarket or similar? In which case, yeah, fair enough, that would be abusing the free parking.

It's still an issue for the road owner, which will generally be a town. The town pays for that road surface, with the expectation that it will be mostly used by those with some other purpose for being in the town.

It's a bit like the complaints about Waze sending cars down minor little suburban streets. The town hadn't intended to be paying for the transportation infrastructure of a nearby major city.

I like this future.

The driveway...

That nust be a different planet than the one I live in.

My grandmother had Alzheimer's, and was often asking me, a 12 year old kid, to take her places. The zoo, "mom's house", Betsy's, school, and "the store". Often 5 different places within 30 minutes.

With self driving cars and a voice interface...

I have this crisp mental image of thousands of older people wandering city roads as their cars try to get them to their imaginary destinations.

I could imagine safety features, as part of the car's OS, such as: "if grandma wants to go somewhere, take her for a 10 minute ride around town and return home".

On the other hand, nostalgists might keep them occupied.

"The nostalgist is an interior designer specializing in recreating memories for retired people. Rather than settling for a typical ‘retirement village’ experience where everyone’s apartment looks the same, the wealthy elderly of 2030 will have the luxury of living in a space inspired by their favourite decade. Nostalgists recreate the setting of their preferred time and place for seniors wishing to relive their past, from a small-town 1970s living room to a 1980s university dorm room."

Better yet, the embedded AR displays in the glass will just flip to VR mode and give her a virtual ride without leaving the garage...

My grandparents had it as well, and I recall a time they called my uncle because they'd gotten themselves to Menards but then couldn't remember where they where and needed him to get them back home.

I wonder if they could have brought a fob that had addresses saved under names ahead of time. Get in the car, tell it to take them home, and it reads the address of "home" off of the fob.

Of course, then there's the issue of payment and them needing to independently keep track of their money, but it's a start maybe?

That's an interesting thought (also imagine really drunk or high people giving instructions to their car).

Sounds like something out of Black Mirror.

Las Vegas!

We should wait until a problem actually manifests itself before trying to solve it. At this point, this is just pure armchair speculation. No one knows what the second order effects of self-driving cars will be. Ride sharing may become even more prevalent than it is now and people may eschew car ownership altogether. Who knows?

For non-disastrous problems, we should wait until a problem manifests before implementing a solution and paying the costs of its tradeoffs. However, it would be wise to theorise about solutions so that we have time to design cheap ones.

Wait for a problem to manifest and then there will be huge backlash against fixing it because of how expensive the change will be because business models were build and scaled using the old rules.

Agreed, it is quite possible that an influx of "steady state" (compared to human piloted) vehicles for humans to follow around will improve traffic conditions overall. A large component of traffic is the "accordion effect".

The accordion effect applies to highway traffic, though. The study discusses central cities that have (for good reason) expensive parking.

A steady stream of moving cars is not appropriate for an urban center, as they would form a barrier to walking, cycling, scooting which is apparently a thing now, etc.

There a multitude of easy fixes for this. I believe in London if you drive into the center, you have to pay a road fee or something like that.

Seems to me that this would fix the issue.

Also, I think that self-driving cars will have people sharing cars rather than owning one themselves, this will lead to fewer cars being owned overall, but not necessarily leading to less traffic since when you own a car it mostly just sits in your parking space.

Fewer cars means that those self-driving cars will probably be always on the road, which won't lead to any traffic savings.

Honestly I don't see it as a problem, because the cars will drive a little further away to avoid having to run all the time, and I can just request my car to drive back to me when I am about to pay. In the places where I live, 5 minutes of driving means no-cost parking, as opposed to expensive parking; most likely it will be more effective to be able to use the parking that is a bit further away more effectively.

And should I go somewhere to e.g see a movie or eat at a restaurant, the car can park so far away that there will be plenty of space for manual cars.

That's the congestion pricing that the article was talking about.

At the moment it's a bit if a blunt instrument as you pay it once, then can drive around as much as you like for that day

Relatedly, cars also clog the roads looking for parking spaces.

The SF Transit Agency says that accounts for 30% of traffic, although it's unclear how accurate that number is[1], it's probably safe to say it contributes a good deal.

1. https://archives.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/san-francisco-t...

On the other hand, I've seen both Uber and Lyft drivers blocking entire active lanes of traffic on busy streets to pick people up. Would that we had traffic-increase numbers for that.

I live on a 4-lane parkway. Amazon logistics drivers park their vans in the right hand travel lane while they're delivering packages rather than go around the block to the side street.

I can tell when I'm going to get a package from the honking of horns.

Sure, but at some point people _have_ to park their cars to get to their final destination (do some business in a building, or whatever). Self driving cars by their nature can go on unattended on the roadways, after letting their person out, to avoid parking fees.

What is preventing a company with a self-driving fleet purchasing a few parking lots or cutting deals with them? The cost of it would be a rounding error next to their investment in a self driving fleet.

Honestly, I think they should be provided at the outskirts of the city or metro area, and riders should transition to some kind of transit or circulator vehicle to get to their final destination. Or to a bike or e-bike or some kind of urban-friendly light electric vehicle.

With automated parking (for individually owned vehicles) and, you could just step out of your car and onto a waiting vehicle.

No they won’t. If they are that clever they can work as taxis, go back to my house, or find a free parking outside the city.

But more importantly, the second this happens, cities would switch their congestion charges to be by the hour instead of on entry. Cameras could be moved from city limits to being on every traffic light.

This is exactly what would happen, if only because congestion would spike as people used roads as moving parking spots. One way or another, the economic cost of doing this would normalize.

Another self-driving car non-problem, like the trolley problem. This is what happens when academics with too much free time ("Adam Millard-Ball, associate professor of environmental studies") start pontificating on the subject.

The big problems with self driving cars are 1) too many "fake it til you make it" people involved, 2) the good sensors cost too much, 3) machine learning vision isn't reliable enough at identifying objects, and 4) crap designs that make very optimistic assumptions about roads, rather than doing full ground profiling.

This article is assuming most people will own cars.

I think its highly likely that when we get to this level of autonomous driving that its most likely that someone like Ford or Telsa will operate fleets with enough coverage that most people will opt for pay when you want one. So when you are done with the use of the car, it just goes back into the fleet, and onwards to the next passenger.

Imagine not actually having to choose a car type but being able to use a commuter 99% and an SUV for the 1 ski trip a year, and a minivan for a night out on the town with lots of friends. This is going to drive people towards a fleet approach - its just plain a better fit for their needs.

The main problem with central planners (and I believe most transportation planner would classify as one) is that they believe they must know the answer to everything from a centralized standing point.

Indeed cruising for a little bit while the driver does a quick errant might be better than parking when it's pricey. We do that all times when there is more than a driver in the car.

However, it feels arrogant to me to decide that when self-driving is a thing the cars will just clog the roads cruising while the drivers aren't there.

This ignores a bunch of things. Here is an unexhaustive list: a. The risk of collisions is greater driving than parked. b. Autonomous ride-sharing services would probably be a thing in this scenario (be it running some errands while the owner is busy or just deployed full-time like this). c. There might cheaper denser far away garages that the vehicle could just immediately head to thanks to availability awareness. d. It is very unlikely that the auto sector would program vehicles to clog traffic like this on purpose (though someone hacking their car to keep running nearby might happen). e. Parking in San Francisco is very expensive. However, San Francisco is not the only city in the world and cities are vasty different from one another. Usually, for example, they are not islands and vehicles could drive, say, 10min to a parking lot on the nearest city (maybe giving a ride to someone else in the way).

I'm not saying that we should not consider doom scenarios, but reality has shown it most central planners fear too many things that don't happen often. We all use the Internet today, and it is relatively easy to fire a few threatening messages to people around the power to terrorize them (and get away with it). However, it just barely happens if you count in statistics.

Plus we can just tax empty vehicles that are driving around.

(similar to how we charge a fee to leave an empty vehicle in a public space)

It's bizarre how difficult we choose to make easy problems.

Please don't. Taxing is evil and has unintended consequences.

Just charge for road use instead.

* For reference on unintended consequences of taxation I recommend Frédéric Bastiat's "That Which Is Seen, and That Which Is Not Seen" essay. Link: http://bastiat.org/en/twisatwins.html (you can just jump to 'Taxes' or - better - read the whole thing as it is very interesting and not that long).

He's more recognized for the Broken window fallacy/parable https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_broken_window

“Just charge for road use instead.”

I am fine if the road fees are proportional to income. Otherwise we are creating a world where public infrastructure is only available to people with plenty of money.

Road fees should be proportional to the use of the road. If two people eat the same type of hamburger, why should one pay more per calorie than someone else? It’s the same hamburger, providing the same exact nutritional value. It’s obscenely unfair that two citizens of a country are charged differently for the same exact service. It seems that is a distinct violation of the equal protection clause.

Isn't that how income taxes work? Two people pay a proportionally different amount based on their income?

I think the earlier poster is stating that an equal % tax is regressive against low income folks (sales tax being the classic regressive tax). Lower income earners pay a higher percentage of their income towards sales taxes than rich folks.

> It’s obscenely unfair that two citizens of a country are charged differently for the same exact service.

I consider "fairness" in government to include optimizing for equity over equality, because even before one considers the moral aspects, a government treating everyone exactly the same is fundamentally bad for social stability.

That's probably why it's better to finance public roads through taxation. We certainly shouldn't strive towards a world where infrastructure is only affordable to some people.

>Just charge for road use instead.

They do, through taxes. Regional monopolies like inexpensive roads and transportation benefit everyone, even if you're not the one physically driving on it.

But they do not benefit everyone equally. Everyone benefits from inexpensive food; should the government make food tax-funded? If I mainly eat lentils, I would prefer to pay for what I use. If I eat lots of beef steak, I would be very happy to have others subsidise me.


1. The cost of a dead-end residential street mainly benefits the people that live there. Everybody else just pays for it.

2. A truck drives down the road hauling cases of beer. Part of the cost of this trip is paid for via general funds. Everybody contributes a small $X to the truck's journey. Person A drinks a case of beer, so they get 1 case of beer per $X. Person B doesn't drink beer, so they get nothing for their $X.

3. Person A commutes by car to their job every week day on Highway H. Person B walks to work and never drives. Both people pay $X for Highway H, but only one of them uses it directly.

These costs are so diffused that people assume taxation is a fair way to slice it up. The real fair way:

1. The people that live on the dead-end street pay for the dead-end street.

2. The cost of the truck's journey gets factored into the price of the beer. Person A will have to pay the inclusive price to buy a case of beer. Person B pays nothing, giving them $X back to spend elsewhere.

3. Person A will have to pay to drive on Highway H. Person B saves $X. Person A thinks maybe it is smarter to not drive so much.

> Person A commutes by car to their job every week day on Highway H. Person B walks to work and never drives. Both people pay $X for Highway H, but only one of them uses it directly.

You seem to have completely forgotten about second-order effects. Person B still benefits tremendously from the logistical effects of Highway H on shipping, social mobility, government force projection capability (the original reason for the Interstate Highway System in the US), and many other factors.

Those second-order effects can still exist when the cost-of-use is covered directly.

>Everyone benefits from inexpensive food; should the government make food tax-funded?

Yes, and they do. What do you think agricultural tax-subsidies are?

Also the strawman problems you pose just to solve are a bit absurd, for reasons that I mentioned before about the nature of regional monopolies, and the fact that road costs are already covered at different levels of the government.

>What do you think agricultural tax-subsidies are?

A good example of failed policy.

>Also the strawman problems you pose just to solve are a bit absurd, for reasons that I mentioned before about the nature of regional monopolies, and the fact that road costs are already covered at different levels of the government.

Not "strawmen problems" - concrete examples of mismatched cost and use, which you do not address.

No. There is a big, big difference between a economically productive use of the common spaces and this unproductive abuse.

Unproductive abuse is a DDOS attack against the infrastructure that inhibits economically productive use of the space.

Cities should tax unproductive use at a prohibitively high rate to stop this DDOS attack.

But who defines “productive?” I might consider someone going to work as “productive,” but someone going to a friend’s house as “unproductive.” Productive is really a matter of opinion unless you want to consider economics; a homeless person riding a bus generates no income for anyone — so should they pay more to ride the bus? Unless they are actually going somewhere to engage in commerce, that would be, by definition, unproductive. Going to a friend’s house is equally unproductive from an economic sense. Who gets to be the arbiter of “productive?” That gets to be a dangerous slippery slope.

The city government.

Governments exist to define and allocate common resources.

A tax is just a fee administered by a public agency.

Or correspondingly, a fee is a tax that is administered by a private entity.

In the end, they're the same thing.

A "user pays" model accomplishes price signaling. A tax does not.

> Just charge for road use instead.

Now this would have unintended consequences.

Basically this would make transportation proportionally more expensive for poor people.

Like food and water are?

Yeah, like food and water are, so why add to the burden and make it worse?

Both of those are tax-subsidized. One as agriculture, the other as a regional monopoly, precisely because of the price discrimination that would result without it.

This is certainly something that happen already. I'm driving, SO needs to drop off a letter, or pick up coffee, or some other sub-5 minute task. You can bet I'm going to be circling the block, because making right turns orders of magnitude easier than thinking about looking for parking. I suppose you could do this most existing ride services' non-shared options, but there certainly isn't a 'real' way to do this. before self-driving cars take on this role, we might have to think about how something like this would be handled.

It is very unlikely that the auto sector would program vehicles to clog traffic like this on purpose

I think this is key. There may be a lot of autonomous cars in the future but they will come from a handful of companies who will face public pressure not to program them to allow grossly wasteful or antisocial behavior.

> they will come from a handful of companies who will face public pressure not to program them to allow grossly wasteful or antisocial behavior.

One hopes. But one could also say: they will come from a handful of companies that will endeavor to make it seem that _the things that are most profitable for them and convenient for their customers_ are one and the same as the public interest.

There are already narratives at hand that will make this easier: "40,000 lives a year!", etc.

I've gone from being kind of excited about robot cars to realizing that we will have to be very vigilant.

There are already narratives at hand that will make this easier: "40,000 lives a year!", etc.

That's not a concern, considering that the narrative right now is that self-driving cars are dangerous. Given the number of accidents and fatalities, the entire self-driving car industry would need to go an entire year without a single accident of any kind to even come close to claiming that they are as safe as a bad human driver.

That may be the narrative, but I don't think that's the data.

The data is that currently, self-driving cars are more dangerous than human-driven cars. The data is that there have already been 6 fatalities despite self-driving cars being owned/used primarily by drivers in the lowest-risk populations, in some of the best road conditions for driving. The data is that self-driving cars are far from ready to taking over the roads.

I don't consider Tesla's autopilot to be "self-driving", but rather a limited driver aid.

Uber's crash is the only fatality I'm aware of in a truly self-driving car.

Being very vigilant is always good, but come on! "40,000 lives a year" is not something we were conditioned to believe is good because if fits someones agenda. It's unambiguously a very large public benefit by almost any moral standard.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but that existence (or, it should be said, the possibility) of that very large public benefit is exactly the thing that could be used to shield those companies' business decisions from any constructive criticism or regulation.

"Last year, Senator McClellan caused 40,000 people to die by voting against the Make AV Companies Invulnerable Act"

This will happen -- only if cities do not plan for this. Self-driving cars would not need the same type of parking that other cars would need. You could probably fit MULTIPLE times the number of self-driving cars into the same space as a normal parking lot if people don't actually need to go inside of it.

(Which is why articles like this are important.)

This is a great observation, in a sense you can treat the system as a large queue- SDVs slowly moving forward in a parking lot towards the exit during the day. The one closest would be invoked. This obviously only works with a taxi system, not "owned" SDVs.

Also you can basically stack them and use elevators.

I think the problem is that most of us do not currently have chauffeurs; issues like this can be resolved by asking WWMCD (what would my chauffer do)? Likely, he/she (they) would drive up to a few miles away to a vacant parking lot and wait for your summons, rather than cruise around. If a police officer tapped on the glass, they would move onto another spot, perhaps go fuel up while waiting.

By adapting ourselves to a future that has personal, automatic chauffeurs, we start to realize we no longer need proximity to our car. Parking is no longer a problem, costly parking garages are no longer necessary, parking meters disappear, ... it even gets to a point where entire metropolitan areas can "ban" parked cars, allowing all street space to be used for travel (no longer have to widen roads for more flow) and/or beautification/lower collected pollution. And since we have a chauffeur driving us, we can sleep or do work the car, meaning we can start our commutes much earlier / much more widely varied reducing "rush hour" congestion. We no longer have to leave work to pick up kids and take them to soccer practice - the car just does that for us. I have only scratched the surface. Just remember, WWMCD?

I don't see anyone actually owning a self driving car, and hence I don't buy that they will be cruising to avoid parking. Why would anyone want anything to do with owning a car that could just be summoned at any time to taxi you where you need to go? No -40 gas-ups... no scheduled maintenance... no insurance.. no car payment...

Hello, I am from the future. You will not be able to buy a self driving car. You will however be able to rent it, on an hour, minute, or per mile basis. Not too different from what you can do today with a lyft/uber. It will be "your car" only if you book it for let's say 3 full months. The very next day it will drive away on it's own. Max period of 'ownership' will be 6 months.

This will be known as "THE FLEET SERVICE", and every major car manufacturer, car seller, and car renter will jump on it. Lyft will be competing with GM will be competing with hertz.

There is so much more money to be made when one car is servicing many people, and when you pay for it non stop, or it plays ads to you during your commute. Records your schedule, destinations, music preferences, and unencrypted http traffic and sells it to advertisers. You can buy, sorry, rent the privacy X models, for a premium. Sometimes the cars will take different routes, to make sure you drive buy a starbucks, perhaps you will request it to stop to get a coffee. This will be advertised as a "learns your preferences and the things you love", but most of the time, it will just choose to slow down a bit when it drives by that huge billboard, you should really look at, while on the highway.

Think of this like when comcast owns the router in your house, and makes it be a node for their xfinity service, and has you locked out of admin panel. Or when your ISP injects JS in the html served to you. Or for when you run serverless on amazon. Point being, there is more money to be made in a renter's market than an owner's market.

You will, however be able to buy a semi-autonomous vehicle like you can do today, but fully autonomous will be prohibited, as the main companies will lobby with dumb excuses like "Who will be responsible in the case of a fatal accident? The company will be". Also, if you spend 150k to buy an autonomous model, and we update the service, your model gets no update and stops working in a year. The rented models always work. Governments will be against this, but will finally comply when law enforcement and tax agencies get free access to all information, though they will deny that is the case.

Hackers and open source enthusiasts will "hack" some cars to modify them to run custom software (linux self driving distro), or install adblockers and location spoofers for privacy reasons. A practice that will instantly become illegal and be branded as domestic terrorism.

This is excellent :)

This is a fist stage solution. The second stage is that the vehicles wander off to find something useful to do. The entire idea of parking and parking lots can be eliminated with some clever pooling of resources and predictive modeling.

The environmental benefits of replacing fields of asphalt and cement with greenery and open space will be huge.

I wonder what kind of useful things the vehicles can come up with. Even when you don't consider a scenario where they become sort of sentient, if there was a method to make them offers and let them decide which ones to take.. might lead to interesting results.

this would be a welcome repurposing for ad-tech real-time bidding markets

Can't these cars just, you know, drive themselves somewhere else? If I know I'm going to be at work, for example, it'd be reasonable for my self-driving car to drop me off at work and go home (preferably recharging itself) before coming back to pick me up at the end of my shift, no? Why sit there perpetually wasting energy by circling around? Not like I need my car (and if I do, then I can recall it and wait).

For cases where I'm someplace for less than an hour, then sure, maybe this would be a problem. Even then, though, no reason why the car can't find a less-congested spot and idle about over there.


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