What will NOT change?

Thoughts on Apple Car, Part 101

The other day at a conference, a futurologist made me aware of thinking about change by thinking about what won’t change.

Today, the NYT shared this interactive piece on the future of cities, as impacted by AVs:

There a two points made in the opinion piece:

1. Streets are made for cars.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/27/opinion/automated-vehicles-cant-save-cities.html

Obviously, cities and city streets have been made for cars, and cities in the last century were dominantly optimized for car traffic. The NYT argues that this will need to change. However, they don’t give a timeline.

My question is, why should this change, and would it even be realistic?

Roads and streets are fundamental infrastructure, that isn’t easily rebuilt or remodeled — especially when road funding becomes less clear in an AV future. Who will pay road taxes? The car owners, or the fleet operators? How will road maintenance be subsidised?

With so many questions unanswered, and legislation hardly keeping up with the pace, I can’t imagine roads to change anytime soon.

2. The future city will look different.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/27/opinion/automated-vehicles-cant-save-cities.html

The NYT goes on to suggest a complete rebuilding of city streets, based on which transport mode can move the most people. Public transport wins, followed by walking and cycling. Cars come last.

However, there’s a reason that cars have succeeded widely over any other mobility mode. They combine individual convenience with freedom to go anytime anywhere. They are a comfort zone, on any given day.

No other mobility solution offers those kinds of benefits.


People are lazy.

There’s all kinds of reasons to go with anything but cars. But the emotional benefits of cars have proven so strong until today, it won’t be overcome by a rational argument.

What AVs have the potential to unlock is a combination of both individual convenience and communal necessities for a smarter & cleaner future.

The NYT argues that AVs won’t immediately change congestion or climate situations. True.

But city streets won’t change immediately either.

My bet: Change in cars is faster than in infrastructure.


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