Transportation as a service needs better cities, not smarter cars


I just discovered some declarations from a former vice chairman of General Motors and a Bay Area think thank that confirm what I recently proposed about driverless cars.

Quoting Bob Lutz from this post at

  • Our daily travel… will migrate to standardized passenger modules as the demolition of the traditional auto industry accelerates
  • Within 20 years, human-driven vehicles will be legislated off highways.
  • the companies that actually manufacture cars will become less valuable as the importance of those that own fully autonomous fleets grows.
  • As transportation is commodified into an on-demand service, the market for individually owned cars will shrink, and be kept afloat by only a few car fanatics.

The same post includes this prediction by RethinkX:

“shared autonomous electric vehicles will account for almost all road travel by 2030 thanks to their low maintenance and fuel costs, as well as their ability to work around the clock.”

and the related chart, from the Atlas:

Transportation as a service needs better cities, not smarter cars /img/transportation-as-a-service.png

I’m very happy to read these statements, because they all confirm what I wrote about the crap in “connected cars” and above all the need to call driverless cars with their real name, and remake cities accordingly.

In a nutshell, I see the statements above as influential confirmations of my own ideas that:

  • once cars can drive by themselves, the very idea of personal, self-owned object becomes unsustainable and makes no sense at all anymore, no matter how you look at it
  • The future that the chart above calls “Transportation-as-a service replacing cars”, is not only unavoidable: is a very good thing that should be accelerated, not opposed

What my proposal to call and manage driverless cars with their real name adds to the picture in the piece is basically two things.

First of all, the idea that the transition to this new transportation culture should be made as easy at possible, but not struggling to make cars impossibly complex, er I meant “smart”. We should, instead, push to “remake” cities and roads to use sensible driverless cars in the right way. That task would be both much easier to manage, and much better for cities anyway, for many reasons. Because the real question is not, as someone asked, “When will self-driving electric car technology be so good that you won’t need a car?” The question that is really worth asking, and answering, is: “When will cities be(*) so livable that you won’t need a private car?”

Second, but equally important, my proposal deals with the fact that, as good as “Transportation-as-a-service” is, it would be a really bad thing if “Companies like Lyft, Uber, Google, and other technology companies” (or governments, I would add) took charge of it. The potential for surveillance, privacy violation, political control and discrimination in such a scenario is just too great to let it happen.

(*) also thanks to SOMTs, of course. That’s the whole point

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