by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright July 2014
When cars become driverless and taxi-like, they will blend in with other transportation modes like busses and trains. There will be less difference in picking one style over any other. In fact, the difference between them is likely to blur. Walking and bicycles will remain different. Light rail sharing streets may become anachronistic again because the big lumbering trains can't dodge like nimbler street vehicles can. If light rail survives, the street cars will become smaller and act independently so they can dodge.
Driverless delivery vehicles will proliferate. The current interest in delivery drones is an example of what is coming. Wheeled versions will also become ubiquitous. The next challenge is "the final meter" -- how to get packages off the vehicle and onto a doorstep or inside a door. One solution: standard delivery doors on buildings that delivery vehicles can open.
A related issue is how locally-based 3D printing is going to mesh with deliverables?
Here are some thoughts on how driverless cars can be abused.
o Making a pig sty of the cars -- not cleaning them up.
o Homeless making homes in them
o Doing drugs and sex in them
o Parties in trains/buses (Will this then become a feature? Will trains and buses become like cruise liners, only much easier to access?)
o How will using these taxi-style cars be priced? Surge pricing? Waiting in line for one? How will homeless living in a car be priced, or kicked out?
o Car jacking? Surround a car so it has to stop, drag the passenger out?
o Car owner (city/company) scrimps on repairs. They stop mid-run. What else can fail? Pig sty?
o Luxury car features? What will it take to get driven around in some kind of fancy car rather than a commodity car? Note: if the commodity cars are poorly maintained, as listed above, then having luxury alternative makes sense.
On farms it is likely that much of the farming equipment will also become driverless. This will mesh with "creations" doing much of the heavy lifting in the business of getting plants grown and food items harvested. An example of that happening today is Big Data being used to manage what varieties of plants are planted even within different areas of the same field.
People will still care an awful lot about how their food is grown. And there will still be a lot of romantic feelings about the farming lifestyle. But there will become more and more of a disconnect between what customers think is happening and what is really happening. It is quite likely that there will be a lot of difference between what is advertised as food growing techniques and the harsh reality. There will be scandals, as there have been in the past. This is because the public enjoys a juicy food growing scandal. It is something they can relate to.
Taxi drivers come first to mind as a group/guild/union that will strenuously resist driverless cars. They will do so as it becomes clear that most of the driverless cars will be used in the interchangeable fashion that taxis are, not the "I own this, I drive this."-fashion of today's drivered cars. They will be competition. The taxi people will quickly be joined by delivery truck driver unions as the driverless delivery truck usefulness becomes tangible.
Taxi guilds have been around a long time. They have a lot of influence on their regulatory environment. So expect that their influence will substantially shape the rituals for using driverless cars. They will work to make the rituals more cumbersome, and demand part of the income stream.
Parents of teenagers, on the other hand, will love the taxi-style driverless. They will intervene to keep the rituals simple and direct and the cars widely accessible. They will intervene during the introduction. For the first generation, parents will see these taxi-style driverless cars as a godsend. But subsequent generations will pay less attention because they will be taken for granted. The taxi guilds, if they are still around, will continue to pay close attention.
Today's big event venues have lots of parking, and lots of vehicles discharging people, and lots of people parking then walking in. As driverless cars become more like taxis how to get to these events will change. Large capacity buses will be used a lot more. Those will link up with driverless at less congested locations, load up, then head for the event. Unless... the driverless cars have the ability to self link up so they can get to the big event venue more efficiently.
Real driving skills will decline. Fewer people will get driving licences and when they do they will use them much more for recreation than for day-to-day transportation.
But, driving will remain alive and well on the video and movie screens. Driving in computer games will remain popular. So will Fast and Furious-style movies where lots of stunt driving is mixed with lots of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Fast and Furious movies will become a genre that fills the social niche that Western movies did in the first half of the 20th century.
Driverless cars are going to make a big difference in how we live. They will not be treated the same as drivered cars are today. They will be treated more like taxis. This will change how our infrastructure needs to be designed, and what are considered important social skills, and it will change how we move between modes of transportation.
Lots of changes and lots of surprises coming.