What kind of effect will driverless cars have on the transportation scene? It may well be as big a change as the Model T Ford had on buggy-whip manufacturers. Reason.com explains. Excerpt:
Over at the New York Times, the op-ed page is featuring an article that asks, “Google Wants Driverless Cars, but Do We?” Who is the “We” of which author Jamie Lincoln Kitman speaks? Kitman worries about the “millions of truck and taxi drivers will be out of work, and owing to the rise of car-sharing and app-based car services, people may buy fewer vehicles, meaning automakers and their suppliers could be forced to shed jobs.”
This is akin to asking “Ford Motors wants horseless carriages, but do we?” The nascent automobile industry did not ask permission from the hostlers, hansom cab drivers, horsebreeders, passenger rail companies, and prominent carriage manufacturers like Brewster and Kimball to flood the roads with cheaper, faster, and more convenient transportation. In 1914 there were 4,600 carriage companies operating; by 1929 there were fewer than 90.
First up, note the title of that linked NYT article: “Google Wants Driverless Cars, but Do We?” My first thought when I cast optics on that headline was “What’s this ‘we’ shit, Kemosabe?”
But it’s the conclusion to the Reason article that hits the real point: I have got a better idea: Why don’t we let Americans choose for themselves in the marketplace without having to ask permission from politicians, bureaucrats and other would-be central planners?
Because crony capitalism, obviously. The taxicab companies are doing some heavy lobbying to shut down ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft (full disclosure; I am a regular and enthusiastic Uber user) and the reason for that lobbying is obvious:
They can’t compete without it. The old-style taxi companies can’t compete with the new ride-sharing model with their filthy cabs, long wait times and rude drivers.
The addition of cost-saving (eventually, at least) driverless cars just adds to the problems of cab companies. In larger cities, it will remove any reason for plenty of folks to own a car, and it will forever change commuting. Imagine riding in to your workplace while reading the news or answering emails, and on arrival ordering a car to pick you up at 5:00PM; no parking, no stress over traffic.
But whether or not driverless cars take off should be up to consumers, not government.