When you initially mentioned the “network” no one wants to address around autonomous cars, I…
Mitch Turck

Mitch, thank you for taking the time to read my comment and article, and provide feedback and criticism. I feel like this is an important conversation to have around autonomous vehicles and I appreciate your willingness to engage me in it.

When you initially mentioned the “network” no one wants to address around autonomous cars, I thought for sure you were referring to the modern-day limitations of data storage & transfer. But sure, roads!

Ha! Yes, I do that on purpose. One, to get people thinking about the road system as a network (which it is), and two, because both networks are important and need to be addressed, but are not addressed in the conversation about autonomous vehicles. But we’ll get to that part later. ;)

That said, I maintain that new tech around autonomous vehicles will solve the road problem.

I completely agree with you, but I don’t think we entirely agree on what that solution is. I would suggest that you’ll find the solution I put forth appealing and fairly straightforward, once explained.

The problem is that it isn’t logic — it’s just the present-day state of affairs.

You are absolutely correct! The entire arrangement around roads is wildly illogical. Please note that I made no attempt to discuss a solution to these fits of illogic in the article, I just provided a survey of the landscape, described the present state of affairs, and called out the major problems that need to be addressed. I will develop a solution in future articles. The reason I started by explaining the problems is that the solution I’m going to describe isn’t obvious unless one understands the problems. After all, one can’t solve an equation unless they understand the variables in the equation being solved.

I’d say it’s just easier for us all to recognize that people in general are horrible at projecting need when there doesn’t appear to be immediate need.

I completely agree. However may I suggest that because people in general are horrible at projecting need, putting a political body in charge of funding decisions is an excessively bad solution to the problem of maintaining roads, for exactly the reason you put forth: People (en masse) are horrible at projecting need, and now instead of convincing a few who have economic incentives (as occurs within a market), we have to convince numerous persons who have no economic incentives.

However, markets are very, very good at projecting need, and good at addressing that need so that a solution exists at hand when the problem becomes evident and requires attention. Businesses have incentives to address needs as they arise, politics only have incentives to address needs that threaten to become critical.

After all, markets provide… well… just about everything you use in your life. Markets are very fluid, very flexible, very responsive in decision-making and funding, while political decision-making processes and funding mechanisms are the exact opposite.

But, that’s the beauty of technology: its ever-increasing speed and scale solves problems with less and less need for human analysis and decisioning.

Unfortunately there is a flaw in your argument here. The flaw is that “ever increasing speed and scale” applies to hardware and software, not mechanical systems (vehicles) or structures (roads & bridges). No amount of speed and scale in computer chips and software can fix a busted road. And boy, do we have a lot of busted roads.

cities like New York are moving towards automated full-speed tolling which has zero impact on traffic pattern.

This depends on an extremely high-risk political decision that will be made long after the value of making the decision evaporates or is circumnavigated. That’s the problem with relying on central planning — the planners don’t have strong incentives to make fast, informed, high-quality decisions. The people making choices aren’t experts in infrastructure or technology, and their decisions will be slow and lacking the information required to make good choices. This is a fundamental flaw of central planning described in the Economic Calculation Problem.

When I publish the solution to the constraints described in the article, readers will see that tolling is like when Neo asks Morpheus about dodging bullets — when you understand our solution, you won’t need tolls.

Tolls for driving are like an access fee for Facebook — whatever revenue you can generate by charging for access is actually a subset of the total potential for revenue available by not charging for access. This issue with tolls, where charging a fee reduces the number of users, called “demand risk” or “revenue risk”, is a fundamental problem in tolling that has led to the bankruptcy of numerous tolling facilities (and websites).

Furthermore, (and these are points left out of the article for brevity), tolling is dangerously risky in that you base your entire revenue stream on a single line of revenue. Any business will tell you that selling one product engenders an enormous risk, and that diversified revenues are much safer than a single revenue item.

Besides, even if the city were to adopt a digital tolling system, that doesn’t actually support the adoption of next-gen vehicles. Tolling is a solution for the last generation, not a solution for the next generation.

Give me some time to complete the article explaining how to solve these problems, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised (in several ways) with the solution we’ve come up with.

But if you’re impatient, you can learn more about us easily enough with a quick search. :)

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