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Self Driving Cars and their impact on Charlotte.


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Given the long time spans discussed here in regards to transportation It seems only logical to include the impacts that self driving cars will have. Every major manufacturer has plans for and working prototypes for self driving cars (SDC). SDC's stand to be the most revolutionary change to transportation since the transition from horse and buggy.


Major Benefits include:

  • Improved safety, near 100% reduction in nearly 33k automobile deaths each year.
  • Improved highway capacity, estimates range from 50% to 200% increase in capacity for existing highways.
  • Vastly improved land use. Elimination of parking near homes and businesses since SDC can be summoned on demand. 
  • Far fewer cars needed since SDC can be shared between users and deliver it's self to it's next task autonomously.
  • Makes electric vehicle simpler since SCD can go charge it's self at central stations when not in use.
  • Make personal transportation orders of magnitude cheaper. You don't have to pay for a car that sits around 90% of the time. Pay a company for transportation time or miles on their fleet.


Impacts to Charlotte.

  • Elimination of most parking decks and lots.
  • Low cost of transportation might dramatically change the face of public mass transportation.
  • Eliminate or reduce need for expanded highway capacity.






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I would love to see Charlotte embrace driverless cars, but my concern is how most people (or more specifically, politicians) would react to this.

I think most politicians would embrace this. I would be a MASSIVE transportation upgrade with out a dime of public money. The savings to the state would be huge. Reduced highway upgrade spending, reduced police and EMS. 


I think both parties can find some huge pros. 

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I think most politicians would embrace this. I would be a MASSIVE transportation upgrade with out a dime of public money. The savings to the state would be huge. Reduced highway upgrade spending, reduced police and EMS. 


I think both parties can find some huge pros. 

It's an inevitability, but its going to take a long time IMO. The success of these one-off driverless car tests is still a ways off from a system that would allow a highway full of automated cars. But beyond the technical aspects, I would think that the transition would be rocky, where you approach having as many driverless cars as traditional ones on the road, and if you're striving for increased capacity, at what point do the traditionally-driven cars become such a great liability by comparison that they are done away with? As passionate as, say, gun rights advocates are, imagine how much more intense and widespread the debate will be when its about car rights! 

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The larger issue that must be resolved before self-driving cars can enter the market is liability. When (not if) accidents occur is the 'driver' (occupant) liable? The company that designed the software? The company that designed the hardware? The city/state/nation which built the road? What if the driver / occupant neglected maintenance in some way that led to an accident? 


Until the larger questions of liability can be settled on a national basis by the courts it is very unlikely any company will sell these vehicles to the public -- to do so in the current legal climate would be financial suicide for any company (including google).  Make no mistake, there is a huge industry built upon our current liability laws that will fight to prevent these precedents from being established.


Sorry, I guess I am in a pessimistic mood tonight.

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There seems to be an underlying presumption that everyone wants to own a car that transit will lose its appeal. The problem is that no matter how smart these cars are, there is still only so much physical space for them on the road. People will still want to live in an urban environment and not have to drive to work, even if they are able to do other things than the act of driving. Because of that, transit will still be a significant component of the transportation system. The interesting thing about self-driving vehicles is that transit would also benefit from the efficiencies of automation and the appeal could potentially increase.


I want to know who is held responsible when my car gets the "blue screen of death" that results in actual deaths.

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WAY too many variables and limitations to there ever being a totally autonomous vehicle fleet in our lifetimes.  First off, all "self-driving" car proposals currently have a kill switch.  That way, in an emergency or by choice, the "driver" still has the ability to override the car's software.  That, thereby, eliminates the possibility to perfectly streamline the flow of traffic via car-to-car communication.  Second, imagine the ramifications of somebody hacking the software on a fleet, city, or country of vehicles full of people overconfident in their vehicles ability to pilot itself.  A single skilled hacker, let alone rogue nation, could have the ability to seamlessly kill millions in the matter of minutes.  Even if slight, that type of possibility would elminate the chance of this EVER happening while hackers can keep up with encryptions.  How often do you read about governments hacking each other, and they supposedly have the best firewalls available.  Even major software companies get hacked.  I don't like to be a pessimist when it comes to viewing the future in a sci-fi, idealistic manner, but this type of system just has too many limitations.


I also have to agree with the point that too many people are going to NOT want autonomous vehicles.  Think about the millions of muscle cars, street cars, collectors, and pimped out ricers (not racers) out there.  They will always exist.  And think about the NASCAR fans, wrap your head around a fully-automated stock car race...


Will self-driving cars exist, yes.  Will they be the norm, eventually.  Will we have an on-demand self driving fleet replacing our transit systems?  Not likely, unless they're all on literal rails.

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Several Issues brought up here.




While this seems like a big deal it's not as bad as you think. First off manufacturers already get sued for vehicle malfunctions all the time and often end up paying out even when they are not in the wrong self driving cars (SDC) are covered with cameras and sensors can will provide a wealth of data about every accident. 


Automation is a part of life and things are becoming more automated every day the liability issue for SDC is not unique to cars. Hell look at air planes they are massively automated make thousands of decisions a second that keep the plane in the air. 


The end the liability will shift to the automakers, and they will put that price in the car, but that price will be a net reduction in liability due to the massive safety gains due to the technology. Or better put...


"Vehicle automation technologies have the potential to reduce crash and injury rates, improve the effectiveness of recalls and safety improvement campaigns, and increase the information available to investigators and litigators. These developments, should they manifest themselves, could eventually reduce and rationalize the liability and litigation costs that are collectively incurred—and ultimately passed on to consumers—by automakers, suppliers, service providers, insurers, and other automotive actors."


In addition liability is somewhat of an unknown, but it's safe to say it not a show stopper otherwise why would car makers even be pursuing the technology.


It won't work, it's too complicated.


Wrong, it already does. There are dozens of self driving cars on the road today by various manufacturers and universities and google in testing. So far there have been ZERO accidents that were the fault of the car.


People this is not the Hyperloop, this technology is here now and working. You will start to see parts of it in cars in the next couple years. Ford is soon going to have a feature that will automatically apply your breaks before you hit something. BMW has Super cruise control which regulates your cars speed based on the speed of the car in front of you. 


What about existing cars?


Every SDC on the road makes it all the safer for regular cars as that is one more piss poor driver not making bad decisions. SDC is infinitely more aware of it's surroundings than you are, it will avoid an accident with you before you even knew what was going on.


But what happens when the computer crashes?


These will not be running windows, lol. But seriously computers run far more complicated things than cars every day, think jet fighters, and airliners, rockets. Oh and they run your car now, when was the last time your cars computer crashed?

Just want to point out that they likely won't be "driverless cars" so much as "self driving cars", that is, there will still be a driver required to be in the car.  Which would throw a wrench into a lot of your predictions.

I think the U.S. Department of Transportation would disagree with you. See below


Full Self-Driving Automation (Level 4): The vehicle is designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip. Such a design anticipates that the driver will provide destination or navigation input, but is not expected to be available for control at any time during the trip. This includes both occupied and unoccupied vehicles.



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