Future of Cities and Cars 3
I had thought San Francisco might be the first city with self-driving cars, but it looks like Audi is going to do a test with a small fleet of cars in Summerville, a suburb of Boston in 2018. Check out this article in Wired: Audi Will Unleash Self-Parking Cars in a Bid to Fix Urban Gridlock. They focus on making parking easier for the car owner. Go some place, get out of the car while the car finds someplace to park. Let your car know when you want to get picked up and it comes to fetch you. It does mention sharing the car, so you could make your car work for you while you don’t need it. I had thought that Zip Car or Car2Go might just develop a fleet of cars for this service. Why own a car when you can call for one when you need it? However, this other delivery system would more like Uber, without the need for drivers. This puts the cost of buying a car, insurance, maintenance on the car owner. A car owner can get some reimbursement for these costs, plus you have the car to take on trips. It will be interesting to see what delivery model works out.
In any case, the environment is a big winner since the studies show a reduction in carbon emissions. The urban landscape is also a big winner as the need for off-street and on-street parking will be reduced. My brother, who has driven a taxi for years, has shifted to becoming a bus driver for Muni in San Francisco. Whether public transportation is a winner or loser is to be seen. Those systems that adapt will continue to be part of the transportation mix, others not so much. The fact that Trimet here in Portland, is going to an app based system for ticketing shows they are aware of the coming technology and want to remain a player. Muni doesn’t appear to be as nimble, but my brother figures a bus system will last longer than the taxi businesses, which has been resistant to change (despite his efforts).
In the meantime, architects and urban designers should be looking at what to do with all those parking spaces.