by Paul Wynne

D R I V E R L E S S  E A R T H

Issue 018 May 21st, 2016

UBER will eat public transportation

Ever seen a bus sluggishly cruising down the street with only 1 passenger? The other 39 seats vacant?

Of course you have. Every day. And you've probably thought "How can that be efficient?". It's not.

Which is why Uber, Lyft, Maven etc, will utterly destroy the public transportation system. Nobody ever actually wanted to share their (slow) journey with other people. It was just the only option available. Until now. Driverless cars will finally provide the transportation system we've always wanted; fast, cheap, private.

Buses will become pointless. The thought of paying to sit in a 25 year old seat, trying to avoid the gaze of other passengers as your bus stops and starts its way endlessly to deposit you at a place that isn't actually your destination, will become humorous.

Once you arrive at your 'destination' you'll need to get out your phone and order an Uber to get you where you actually need to be, so why not just do the whole journey by Uber? No waiting at sketchy bus stops, no waiting for buses that don't arrive, no stopping for 10 minutes at Every. Single. Bus Stop.

And trains will suffer the same fate. With no train driver to pay, no vast amounts of diesel fuel and no tracks to repair, the costs of riding solo in an autonomous car will fall to less than the cost of a ticket for a shared ride in a stinky, noisy, slow train. The rail networks will remain useful and viable for freight transportation, but for people-moving AVs are the way of the future.

For outlying rural areas driverless cars will be a godsend. I lived in a mountain community where the bus service only ran in Summer. What? How can that be useful to anyone? What...you don't need groceries in Winter? How are old people who don't drive supposed to survive? Driverless ridesharing services will supply a vast untapped demand for mobility that is just waiting for the new technology to arrive.  

Seniors and the Disabled will finally be able to have some sort of equality with car owners, at a fraction of the price of ordering a taxi for every trip to the grocery store. Because if you haven't noticed taxis are hella expensive. The last time I got a price for a trip to the airport it was $100. That's just crazy. The trip would only take one hour and about 2 gallons of gas. How does that equate to $100? At first I sided with the Taxi Drivers when Uber and Lyft started eating their lunch. But now, I'm not so sure. Somebody somewhere is making a lot of money, but it probably isn't the drivers.

And it is the drivers that are the most expensive component in the transportation equation. When UBER transitions to driverless cars, their overhead will dramatically drop. Drivers, even 'private contractors' need paying, cars don't. It won't take long to recoup the cost of the fleet of driverless cars, after that it's all gravy.

"But won't all these driverless 'taxis' clog up the streets?" I hear you say. "Nope." The extra vehicles on the roads will be cancelled out by their intelligence. Working together traffic flow will actually be faster with MORE cars on the roads. The 'Phantom Traffic Jam' is the biggest cause for commuters blood pressure rising. You stop, start, stop, stop, stop, start, accelerate, hard stop, your way through rush hour. The traffic jams encountered are nothing more than a mirage. There is never a visible reason for what causes them, which makes them all the more frustrating.

The reason is human over-compensation. When the brakes lights go red in front, you brake, the guy behind you is taken by surprise, he brakes harder, the guy behind him looks up from his texting just in time to slam on the brakes and come to a complete stop. Five hundred cars later a guy rear-ends a stationary car because he was tailgating.

Now you have a real traffic jam caused by a phantom one. Autonomous cars don't over-react, they don't tailgate, they don't text. They keep a smooth flow at an optimum speed democratically chosen by the group as a whole, which maximizes efficiency, and they can keep a shorter stopping distance between cars literally making the line of traffic shorter.

So, no, driverless cars won't cause more traffic problems. They will solve problems of all types, for all types of people.

The Weekly Autonomous Vehicle Magazine