DFC is located in a pretty rural part of Ontario, so, with all the snow this winter, we’ve been seeing many vehicles that are rare birds for city dwellers. ATVs, snowmobiles, and any number of hulking trucks with huge plow blades have all muscled through the drifts and past our offices. With our humble SUVs, we’ve been glad to see them blazing a trail!
What we haven’t encountered in our neck of the woods, and won’t for a while, are some of the most contentious vehicles in development: autonomous cars. Besides the nasty winter conditions, I just don’t think these cars are equipped for the kinds of decisions that are made out here — can you imagine an itty bitty driverless Google Smart car taking on a moose??
But while the powers that be work the kinks out tooling around Northern California, thinkers are casting forward to when driverless cars will be publicly available in urban centres. One big question is, will urban centres be ready for them — particularly in the area of parking?
Parking spots are premium real estate in a lot of cities. If you’re a driver, you need to leave your car someplace once you’ve arrived at your destination, because, naturally, you’re no longer driving it. Driverless cars break this whole logic chain down. Professor Adam Millard-Ball of the Environmental Studies Department at UC Santa Cruz has written a paper on exactly this problem.
“‘Parking prices are what get people out of their cars and on to public transit, but autonomous vehicles have no need to park at all. They can get around paying for parking by cruising,’ [Millard-Ball] said. ‘They will have every incentive to create havoc.’ […]
Under the best-case scenario, the presence of as few as 2,000 self-driving cars in downtown San Francisco will slow traffic to less than 2 miles per hour, according to Millard-Ball, who uses game theory and a traffic micro-simulation model to generate his predictions. […]
‘Even when you factor in electricity, depreciation, wear and tear, and maintenance, cruising costs about 50 cents an hour – that’s cheaper than parking even in a small town,’ says Millard-Ball. ‘Unless it’s free or cheaper than cruising, why would anyone use a remote lot?’”
The post-apocalyptic-movie vibe of driverless cars circling a downtown with no one to pick up is a frightening one to contemplate. Besides the inevitable I-for-one-welcome-our-new-robot-overlords aspect — how are we regular folks (defiantly not wealthy enough to jump on the driverless car bandwagon) going to get downtown? I refuse to be made a second-class citizen to a metal box with wheels! Like any good post-apocalyptic movie, I sense a revolt of the underclass brewing. When driverless cars come to my neighbourhood, the moose and I will hold the line!