Will riders/ “drivers”, really be interested in self-driving cars… or are we just in love with the idea?

People really don’t want completely self-driving cars, or at least some that do, don’t realize that they won’t. Allow me to explain…

Firstly, lets start by giving the benefit of the doubt to the so called future autonomous cars, and say that they will be perfected to avoid all accidents; human casualties, rain, snow, potholes, birds flying at a windshield, etc. :)

Now lets think about why we have cars…

We have cars so that we can get from point A. to point B. in the fastest way possible. Or, to go totally off the beaten path, where there are no roads perhaps.

Some of you might now say, wait wait… I don’t have a car, don’t use a car, I use Uber! or I use Lyft! or I use a Taxi Cab!

Now Uber just announced that they will launch their first self-driving fleet in Pittsburgh this month:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2016-08-18/uber-s-first-self-driving-fleet-arrives-in-pittsburgh-this-month-is06r7on

But please allow me to interject here for a second by thinking out-loud.

  • Autonomous vehicles will have to drive the EXACT speed limit.
  • Autonomous vehicles will only be able to drive via the same route, following one another, as they would be using the same map API.
  • Autonomous vehicles will only work when there is a GPS signal.

So… let us now address the 3 points above.

Most of us want to get to our destination as fast as possible, and we speed to get there (let’s be honest). The same thing for our Uber, Lyft, or any and all Taxi Cab drivers. We see a yellow traffic light, assess the situation, and go slightly faster over the speed limit to make it before it turns red. We ask our driver to speed up and driver faster because otherwise we will be late for our flight, dinner, show, or appointment.

However, with autonomous cars you will only be driving the exact speed limit, and the cars will be like sheep, driving behind one another in the same route, using the exact same map API.

How many times have you told your Uber/Lyft driver to not take a certain route because you will be stuck in traffic, but they said… “this is the route that my cell phone Waze/Google Maps tells me”.

Or, how many times have you waited to be picked up by that same Uber/Lyft driver and they keep circling around you in the longest way possible, and you know there is a street they could have turned on instead to get to you but their map API doesn’t allow it, so they are taken in a circle, only to hit traffic and your 2 minute wait just turned into a 15 minute…

And what about being able to get to a little off the beaten path winery in Napa, or a lovely cabin in Lake Tahoe? If there is no GPS/Wifi service, that autonomous car will have no idea where to go, and how to get there. I have had plenty of experiences where my GoogleMaps couldn’t guide me to my destination because of the lack of service.

In the end, I think autonomous vehicles will be more accepted by and change the public transportation industry, and the trucking industries, where it is the same routes, at a constant speed, where either cargo or a bus/muni needs to get from point A. to point B. at a constant speed and travel in a herd like mentality, at any time of the day, possibly even 24/hours a day.

The benefits to the public transportation sector is why I believe there is lots of interest from city municipalities. However a number of cities tend to also think that everyone will have an autonomous car, and as such there will be no need for parking, and will reduce traffic.

But I believe everyone is overly optimistic about the acceptance of autonomous cars, are pouring billions into the process, but in the end cities, automakers, and on-demand startups might be in for a very big surprise.

Regardless of the outcome, learning and innovation go hand in hand. All life is an experiment the more experiments the better!