Eric Roper at the Strib writes: Minnesota planners begin to envision driverless future.
“We’re sitting here fighting about a train — a billion-dollar train that it tells you when you have to be there and where to go,” said state Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, who owns a Tesla. “Pretty soon here you’re going to have cars that can just pick you up wherever you are and take you to wherever you want to be.”
But others like David Levinson, the lead author of the U report, said large cities will still need high-capacity transit to serve busy urban areas.
“Cars, even driverless cars, can’t move as many people per hour past a point as trains can,” Levinson said.
Now my fuller response to Eric Roper (to be clear, Eric never said his questions were off the record, and he was talking to a blogger, so he should have been aware):
Do you think we’re planning enough for the arrival of this technology? It seems like there’s enough unknowns that folks like the Met Council don’t have much to say about how it will affect land use. And I’ve gotten some vague answers from Minneapolis, which is looking into it.
What should cities and states like the Twin Cities and Minnesota be doing at this point, if anything, to prepare and plan for the shift?
As you gathered no one [at the Metropolitan Council] is planning for [driverless cars]. Now, it is hard to say what the effects will be (I have my ideas), but my concern is not that we are NOT planning for driverless cars, but that we ARE planning for nothing to change. I.e., all of the plans and forecasts assume today’s technologies remain unchanged 30 years into the future, which seems implausible. This is a good time for alternative scenario planning rather than forecasts.
As a consequence of extrapolative forecasts (both in computer models and in people’s mental models of how cities work), cities like the Twin Cities (and others) are planning for more highway capacity when all the expectations for driverless cars should be more efficient use of road space (closer spacing between vehicles both laterally (narrow lanes) and longitudinally (shorter headways or gaps between vehicles). Given that roads are very long term investments and hard to reverse (i.e. roads are historically unbuilt at a much slower pace than they are built), building road capacity for needs that may soon disappear seems unwarranted and a classic example of a white elephant.
Is it fair to say then that they could be commonplace by 2030?
Common, but far from universal. The median age of a car on the road is about 11.5 years, so if that still holds, the median car on the road will have been built in 2019.