17 October 2008

The Future of Driving

In the second installment of The Future of Driving, Timothy Lee explains how self-driving cars may someday transform society. When cars can drive themselves, we will of course be able to do actually enjoyable or productive things while our cars are driving us around. But the higher-order effects are much more interesting...

For starters, self-driving cars means renting car service (what you would call a taxi for, nowadays) will become cheaper and easier because you don't have to pay for a human driver. This will change the economics of buying vs. renting a car and the latter will become quite attractive for people who don't need 100% of a car. More renting of cars means better utilization of each car: the car that drove you to work today can drive away and take other people places all day. Better utilization of cars means much less space in cities needed for parking lots. Moreover, what parking space we do need will be used much more efficiently when intelligent cars can park very densely (park each other in, etc.) and automatically move out of the way when asked to.

This is really fascinating business. Read the article to find out why Lee thinks self-driving cars will change not only city planning, but the design of cars, and retail/commerce.

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