Walk or drive?
That’s sometimes a daily decision that we all need to make.
A colleague the other day drove about a half block down the street from his office, just to get a coffee from his favorite coffee shop.
You might assume that foul weather prompted him to use his car for the half-block coffee quest rather than hoofing the distance on foot.
Nope, there wasn’t any rain, no snow, no inclement weather of any kind.
Maybe he had a bad leg or other ailments?
No, he’s in perfectly good health and was readily capable of strutting the half-block distance.
Here in California, we are known for our car culture and devotion to using our automobiles for the smallest of distances. Our motto seems to be that you’d be foolhardy to walk when you have a car that can get you to your desired destination, regardless of the distance involved.
Numerous publicly stated concerns have been raised about this kind of mindset.
Driving a car when you could have walked is tantamount to producing excess pollution that could have been otherwise avoided. The driving act also causes the consumption of fuel, along with added wear-and-tear on the car and the roadway infrastructure, all of which seem unnecessary for short walkable trips.
And don’t bring up the obesity topic and how valuable walking can be to your welfare, it’s a point that might bring forth fisticuffs from some drivers that believe fervently in using their car to drive anyplace and all places, whenever they wish.
One aspect that likely factored into his decision was whether there was a place to park his car, since the coffee shop was not a drive thru.
We all know how downright exasperating it can be to find a parking spot.
Suppose that parking never became a problem again.
Suppose that using a car to go a half-block distance was always readily feasible.
Suppose that you could use a car for any driving distance and could potentially even use a car to get from your house to a neighbor’s home just down the street from you.
Some of us, maybe a lot of us, might become tempted to use cars a lot more than we do now.
In the United States, we go about 3.22 trillion miles per year via our cars. That’s though based on various barriers or hurdles involved in opting to make use of a car.
Here’s an intriguing question: If we had true self-driving cars available, ready 24×7 to give you a lift, would we become more enamored of using cars and taking many more short trips?
Think of the zillions of daily short trips that might be done via car use.
Add to that amount the ease of going longer distances than today you might not do, perhaps driving to see your grandma when you normally wouldn’t feel up to the driving task.
The 3.22 trillion miles of car usage could jump dramatically.
It could rise by say 10% or 20%, or maybe double or triple in size.
It could generate an outsized mobility frenzy.
Let’s unpack the matter and explore the implications of this seemingly uncapped explosion of car travel.
For the grand convergence leading to the advent of self-driving cars, see my discussion here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/grand-convergence-explains-rise-self-driving-cars/
The emergence of self-driving cars is like trying to achieve a moonshot, here’s my explanation: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/self-driving-car-mother-ai-projects-moonshot/
There are ways for a self-driving car to look conspicuous, I’ve described them here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/conspicuity-self-driving-cars-overlooked-crucial-capability/
To learn about how self-driving cars will be operated non-stop, see my indication here: https://aitrends.com/ai-insider/non-stop-ai-self-driving-cars-truths-and-consequences/
The Levels Of Self-Driving Cars
It is important to clarify what I mean when referring to true self-driving cars.
True self-driving cars are ones where the AI drives the car entirely on its own and there isn’t any human assistance during the driving task.
These driverless cars are considered a Level 4 and Level 5, while a car that requires a human driver to co-share the driving effort is usually considered at a Level 2 or Level 3. The cars that co-share the driving task are described as being semi-autonomous, and typically contain a variety of automated add-ons that are referred to as ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems).
There is not yet a true self-driving car at Level 5, which we don’t yet even know if this will be possible to achieve, and nor how long it will take to get there.
Meanwhile, the Level 4 efforts are gradually trying to get some traction by undergoing very narrow and selective public roadway trials, though there is controversy over whether this testing should be allowed per se (we are all life-or-death guinea pigs in an experiment taking place on our highways and byways, some point out).
Since semi-autonomous cars require a human driver, the adoption of those types of cars won’t be markedly different than driving conventional cars, so it’s unlikely to have much of an impact on how many miles we opt to travel.
For semi-autonomous cars, it is equally important that I mention a disturbing aspect that’s been arising, namely that despite those human drivers that keep posting videos of themselves falling asleep at the wheel of a Level 2 or Level 3 car, we all need to avoid being misled into believing that the driver can take away their attention from the driving task while driving a semi-autonomous car.
You are the responsible party for the driving actions of the car, regardless of how much automation might be tossed into a Level 2 or Level 3.
Self-Driving Cars And Distances Traveled
For Level 4 and Level 5 true self-driving cars, there won’t be a human driver involved in the driving task.
All occupants will be passengers.
For those of you that use ridesharing today, you’ll be joined by millions upon millions of other Americans that will be doing the same, except there won’t be a human driver behind the wheel anymore.
Similar to requesting a ridesharing trip of today, we will all merely consult our smartphone and request a lift. The nearest self-driving car will respond to your request and arrive to pick you up.
Some believe that we’ll have so many self-driving cars on our roads that they’ll be quick to reach you.
Furthermore, these driverless cars will be roaming and meandering constantly, awaiting the next request for a pick-up, and thus will be statistically close to you whenever you request a ride.
Nobody is sure what the cost to use self-driving cars will be, but let’s assume for the moment that the cost is less than today’s human-driven ridesharing services. Indeed, assume that the cost is a lot lower, perhaps several times less than a human-driven alternative.
Let’s put two and two together.
Ubiquitous driverless cars, ready to give you a lift, doing so at a minimal cost, and can whisk you to whatever destination you specify.
The AI that’s driving the car won’t berate you for going a half-block.
No need to carry on idle chit chat with the AI.