Posts Tagged: Self-Driving Car



Google’s Self-Driving Car Approved For Use In Nevada

Here we go, folks . . .

A variety of media outlets are reporting that Google’s self-driving cars have been approved for use in the state of Nevada. This is the first-ever license issued under new state-specific legislation permitting the testing of autonomous automobiles. Under the legislation, all vehicles will be required to have at least two passengers inside the vehicles at a time.

In case people think this is just some isolated, Google-centric, pie-in-the-sky fantasy it’s worth noting that major manufacturers like BMW and Audi are pursuing similar products and General Motors has gone on record as predicting such a market shift by as early as the year 2020.

Regular readers of The Gondola Project know that we:

  • once conceptually outlined a scenario by which the vehicles may be deployed throughout the developed world and;
  • laid out ten strong reasons why the technology has the very real potential to destroy and/or radically alter the public transportation industry.

Does this mean Public Transit should start shopping around for a tombstone and casket? Not at all.

But it does mean Public Transit should start monitoring its cholesterol and getting to the gym a few times a week. You bet.

This fight is going to come sooner than expected and the Public Transit industry is completely ill-prepared for it. Public Transit advocates will point to developed transit cities like New York, Toronto and a revitalized Los Angeles as evidence to the contrary, but Google and the auto manufacturers would never be so stupid as to fight the battle in those cities.

Instead they’ll choose to fight the battle in largish American urban regions with high populations, extensive road infrastructure and little in the way of formalized public transit.

Places like Tampa Bay, San Diego and . . . Las Vegas, for example.

Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.



Could Google’s Self-Driving Car Kill Public Transit?

Google's Self-Driving Toyota Prius. Image via Endgadget.

Last week at the TED 2011 conference, Google unveiled their self-driving car. And while an interview and test drive with CBS news was both fun and informative to watch, the issue of the technology’s impact on public transit was never addressed.

If the self-driving car becomes a reality in the next, say, 20 years, one has to ask the very valid question of what purpose, truly, will public transit serve in the near future?

Will it kill public transit as we know it?

That may seem alarmist, but it’s certainly worth asking and answer to the above question is anywhere along the spectrum from possibly to probably. But whatever the impact, it is a game-changer the likes of which public transit has never seen.

Last fall I laid out what I thought was a fairly convincing scenario for how the technology might be adopted within our lifetime and the requisite comments and disagreements ensued. So rather than just assume an inevitable that we can’t possibly predict, here are 10 reasons I think public transit could have a very rough ride if this technology gets off the ground:


ONE. It’s an easy technology to spread virally.

Technology that requires the participation of others to increase its usefulness propagates rapidly. Fax machines, email bank transfers and facebook are only useful to the user if other users exist as well. Google’s cars are to be “learning computers” that improve with time. The collected wisdom of millions of these cars will be infinitely more useful than a couple dozen. People who initially purchase these vehicles are likely to pressure their colleagues and friends to purchase them as well.


TWO. You can work while you drive.

One of the single greatest advantages transit has over the private automobile is that it allows riders to be productive while another individual does the driving. Granted, transit agencies rarely capitalize on that advantage, but let’s assume most agencies did. That competitive advantage vanishes when your driver is replaced by a computer.


THREE. Safety.

Public transit kills and injures thousands of people per year across North America. Not necessarily riders, but pedestrians, cyclists and other motorists. And while the initial argument in favour of driverless cars will be the elimination of accidents caused by other private vehicles, it won’t be long before people start to notice that the driverless cars are actually safer than public transit.


FOUR. Lobbying Power.

Google is richer than God and Donald Trump combined. One thing that could prevent this technology from developing is not having active co-operation from a municipality friendly to the idea. But you can bet that with the power and money Google wields, that’s unlikely to happen. Google is bound to find a willing municipal partner willing to a gamble on technological innovation.


FIVE. The Bay Area.

See number 4, then apply it to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, Google’s home territory. The Bay Area is technological innovation. They will want to be first.


SIX. It’s A Consumer Item.

A driverless car would be consumer-oriented and customizable to the needs of every individual and family. Public Transit has yet to shed its image as a charitable item and position itself as a pleasant, consumable good. Whether right or wrong, consumable goods are simply sexier in the eyes of the public than social amenities. What happens when Apple launches its inevitable cute, little, white iCar?


SEVEN. Public Transit is likely to adopt the technology, too.

Let’s face it: Bus drivers are expensive. So is scheduling. So are rail tracks and subway tunnels. If a transit agency recognizes that they can offload the cost of maintaining all their track infrastructure onto the local roads department, you can bet they’ll do it.


EIGHT. Non-drivers will become car-riding non-drivers.

There’s a large segment of the population that doesn’t drive. Many of those people don’t drive by choice, but others are prevented from driving for any number of legal, social, economic, or health-related reasons. But nevertheless, the stigma of not driving is likely to remain. This technology eliminates that problem. At first only licensed drivers are likely to be allowed to “drive” these vehicles, but if the technology proves itself, those restrictions will be lobbied away in order to open a massive new market for the private car.


NINE. The car as office and living room.

Even more than the current crop of soccer-mom SUVs that have more amenities than a Manhattan condo, a driverless car will become an extension of one’s entire life. Travelling is a disruptive process because it forcefully disrupts our lives and routines and puts humans in contact/conflict with other unknown strangers. A driverless car would eliminate that disruptive process. Anything you can do while sitting suddenly becomes something you can do in Google’s vehicle – in an environment customized to resemble that which you already know. The productivity and efficiency such a development could create would be one of the strongest arguments for people to adopt the technology.


TEN. People will want to ride these.

Admit it: You know you want to already.

Want more? Purchase Cable Car Confidential: The Essential Guide to Cable Cars, Urban Gondolas & Cable Propelled Transit and start learning about the world's fastest growing transportation technologies.