Autonomous cars as public transport

Zack Kanter wrote earlier this year on “How Uber’s Autonomous Cars Will Destroy 10 Million Jobs and Reshape the Economy by 2025:”

Morgan Stanley’s research shows that cars are driven just 4% of the time, which is an astonishing waste considering that the average cost of car ownership is nearly $9,000 per year. … It is now more economical to use a ride sharing service if you live in a city and drive less than 10,000 miles per year.

 A full 60% of US adults surveyed stated that they would ride in an autonomous car, and nearly 32% said they would not continue to drive once an autonomous car was available instead. But no one is more excited than Uber – drivers take home at least 75% of every fare. It came as no surprise when CEO Travis Kalanick recently stated that Uber will eventually replace all of its drivers with self-driving cars.

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. With their $41 billion valuation, replacing all 171,000 taxis in the United States is well within the realm of feasibility – at a cost of $25,000 per car, the rollout would cost a mere $4.3 billion.

I’m highlighting this in light of my reflecting on public transportation recently. I wrote that “cars are just privately managed public transportation.” In shifting to autonomous vehicles, maybe they’ll come to be seen as that way.

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