One of the books currently on my Kindle device is The End of Traffic and the Future of Transport by David Levinson and Kevin Krizek. While I haven’t completed the book, it does a good job of looking back at where we were, where we are, and where we’re headed.
One of the future items is the rise of the autonomous car. Google, Tesla and others have already started to design and develop passenger cars that incorporate artificial intelligence to get us from Point A to Point B without our having to think about it. Instead of focusing on traffic around us, we’ll be able to read the paper, check email, text friends and do other chores that (hopefully) we’re not already doing while our hands are on the wheel. They further suggest that we’ll no longer have need of owning our own vehicles, but will be able to subscribe to Mobility as a Service (MaaS.) Sounds great, right?
But here’s the rub. While at first blush it would seem like this would take vehicles off the road, unless we start being more willing to share the ride we will end up with just as many rolling cans on the road as before; maybe even more, since now the kids can be transported separately from our own destinations. Yes, the roads may be safer (assuming no one decides to hack the G-car grid,) but they’ll still be crowded. AI may make it less tiresome to drive, but the traffic will still exist.
There are already “technologies” to reduce congestion on the roadways. Take the bus. Sure, it may not pick you up at your door, but the walk to the stop might be doing you some good, too. Once on the multi-passenger vehicle, you’ll be able to read, text, email, work, etc. until you reach your destination. Your driver may not be blessed with AI, but he is a professional trained to deliver you safely.
How about carpooling? Think of it as Uber for friends. You and some of your workmates who live in the same area can get together and pool resources/money to get you to work. You could even expand to include folks who live in your area of residence and work in your area of travail. I know for a fact that this work; my father did from the ’60’s until he retired in the ’80’s. He provided the van and his passengers paid for gas and insurance. He made some great friends as an added benefit.
Finally, if you work close enough to home, you could walk or bike to the office. The exercise you get will reduce your stress levels, make you sharper at your desk, and maybe even keep you in shape so that you can better enjoy your life AFTER you no longer have to worry about how you’re getting to work.
So, yes, the future does look rosy. New technologies can help us to live better lives. But more importantly, existing infrastructure can be better used to make the world a better place now!
Oh, and I do recommend reading the book. It will get you to thinking.