Carmageddon is Coming
Angus Hervey

It doesn’t work this way and it won’t happen in our lifetime either. Let’s take a look at the hero image for this article. I’ll list just 10 issues:

  1. Economics — If you’re going to use autonomous cars for everyone, who will build them? Who will build them if nobody will own them and ROI will be close to 0? You said it — the cost of transportation will be almost free. Tesla won’t make a million cars without having customers to pay upfront. And neither will other companies.
  2. Missing picture — In the image above you have stores and people everywhere. Those stores need merchandise. Those people need to travel by vehicle to get there or back home. This means the street needs to be cleared off and parking needs to be there to pick-up and let-off people. As it happens today.
  3. Cities — Nobody affords to change entire cities for adding a few meters of street or some parking spaces. The best case scenario is for those places to become new buildings. Maybe new cities will be built with autonomy in mind, but when’s the last time you heard of a new city, in your life-time, built from scratch?
  4. Savings — People won’t care about the cost savings. If they would, everyone would be driving the same car that offers the best performance / money spent, today.
  5. Privacy & intimacy — family members, friends, lovers — all use cars for purposes you won’t be able to cover with autonomous cars. Sex, for instance.
  6. Health — no car will be used 24/7. They will get dirty quickly. People drink. Drunk people puke. Microbes. Rain.. shoes. You get the idea. People ride with Uber because the owner of the car takes care of it. People don’t love taxis as much, for the exact same reason — the driver doesn’t care for a car that’s not his.
  7. Availability and convenience — my car is never empty. I always have a ton of stuff with me, in case I need it. Not to mention baby stuff. If people will travel by autonomous cars, do you think they will carry all this stuff with them, everywhere they go? NO WAY! Don’t you, sometimes, take clothes that you leave in the car just in case it will rain? I doubt people will give up convenience. Remember we pay wardrobe to keep clothes for us, when we enter some place. People do pay more for convenience. Also — nobody will deliver services without having a car to drive places, with their own tools inside, just in case.
  8. A mix of vehicles — most people are poor. Changing mobile phones is one thing, changing all cars probably won’t happen over the course of ten lives. What will the millions of people who purchase Teslas today do? And what will Tesla do without new customers? (Tesla as in any company you’re thinking of, going on this route)
  9. The pleasure of driving + fear of the new technology. Some won’t let go. :-)
  10. Digital Literacy — only 5% of the world’s population is able to use a computer to perform a set of actions you and me consider normal. The rest are not. So I don’t see them using smartphones with apps to hail rides with no driver inside. My parents definitely won’t, and neither would yours.
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