Monday, February 09, 2015

The great 21st-century disruption of autonomous vehicles, home searching by commute time, rail costs, world urbanization, and more

I wanted to post this week on the new general plan Houston is developing, but I'm going to hold off another week or two until the new general plan web site is up.  Instead, we'll clear out some more of the smaller miscellaneous items...
And there's a slew of items about the radical transportation revolution barreling towards us.  First, Uber has launched UberPool, which enables super-cheap dynamic ride sharing (hat tip to Phil).  They're also hiring from Carnegie Mellon and creating their own R-and-D facility to create self-driving cars.  The autonomous taxi is coming very soon, and it will revolutionize cities and transit.  This description of the next decade with autonomous vehicles will absolutely blow your mind.  It will be one of the most disruptive technologies of the century, including the potential loss of up to *10 million* jobs.  I do think he might be a bit excessive in his prediction of everyone switching from car ownership to on-demand autonomous taxis.  I recently visited my brother in California, and his family lives out of their mini-van - there's no way they'd switch.  There's just too much stuff that they always keep handy in their mini-van.  Families in general may not want to get too far from car ownership.  And then there's people who just want a personal status symbol - an autonomous taxi just won't do.  So I don't agree with his prediction of the collapse of the automotive industry.  But extremely disruptive? Absolutely.  Read the whole thing.  Here's a couple of my favorite excerpts:
"A Columbia University study suggested that with a fleet of just 9,000 autonomous cars, Uber could replace every taxi cab in New York City – passengers would wait an average of 36 seconds for a ride that costs about $0.50 per mile. Such convenience and low cost will make car ownership inconceivable, and autonomous, on-demand taxis – the ‘transportation cloud’ – will quickly become dominant form of transportation – displacing far more than just car ownership, it will take the majority of users away from public transportation as well.  ... 
Morgan Stanley estimates that a 90% reduction in crashes would save nearly 30,000 lives and prevent 2.12 million injuries annually. Driverless cars do not need to park – vehicles cruising the street looking for parking spots account for an astounding 30% of city traffic, not to mention that eliminating curbside parking adds two extra lanes of capacity to many city streets. Traffic will become nonexistent, saving each US commuter 38 hours every year – nearly a full work week. As parking lots and garages, car dealerships, and bus stations become obsolete, tens of millions of square feet of available prime real estate will spur explosive metropolitan development."

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