Autonomous Vehicles Aren’t the FuturePublic Transportation Is – The New Republic

Posted: May 9, 2021 at 11:14 am

In 2016, the president of Lyft, John Zimmer, offered a rosy and ambitious vision of technological progress, predicting that soon most of his companys customers would be cruising around in autonomous taxis. Car ownership would decline dramatically, he said, as people would be able to summon robo-taxis on demand, all paid for by the mile or via a Netflix-style subscription. (Dont drive very often? Use a pay-as-you-go plan for a few cents every mile you ride, he wrote. Take a road trip every weekend? Buy the unlimited mileage plan. Going out every Saturday? Get the premium package with upgraded vehicles.) The idea was utopia: Eliminating parking spots would make room for more public space, and taxis themselves would be hybrid office-entertainment venues, ferrying blissful passengers safely between destinations. This wasnt just remaking transportationit was transforming society. (Transportation doesnt just impact how we get from place to place. It shapes what those places look like, and the lives of the people who live there.) All this would happen by 2021, he predicted.

None of it has come to be, obviously. Last week, Lyft announced that it had sold its autonomous vehicles division to Toyota for $550 million. Waymo, Googles self-driving division, just shuffled its executive leadership. Late last year, Uber sold its self-driving arm to a start-up. In a recent Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Tesla acknowledge it may never reach its ambition of fully self-driving cars. Across the industry, autonomous vehicle efforts have proven to be stubbornly difficult to bring to fruition, consuming billions of R&D dollars and thousands of engineering hours. Meanwhile, the infrastructure needed to support autonomous carsgovernment investment in roads, highways, communications, along with proper regulatory oversightremains inadequate to the challenge. Additional issues present themselves around the law, consumer trust, and even the computational limits of deep learning and artificial intelligence. Despite these enormous obstacles, tech leaders preach continued faithand venture capital investmenthaving spent the last decade promising that our blissful self-driving future is just around the corner.

At a time when fighting climate change and providing alternate forms of mobility should be core parts of urban and transport policy, we seem to be going backward. The federal government has largely left it to states to regulate autonomous vehicles, leaving a patchwork of laws that companies like Tesla, which has taken an incrementalist approach to rolling out self-driving features in a series of software updates, have exploited to do what they want. What little federal policy remains seems ineffective: The recent Biden stimulus plan laid out huge investments in electric vehicles, rather than placing a renewed emphasis on public transport.

See the article here:

Autonomous Vehicles Aren't the FuturePublic Transportation Is - The New Republic

Related Post