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By Steve Levy

Some Impacts of Driverless Cars

Uploaded: Apr 28, 2016

There was an interesting blog in the Wall Street Journal musing on the impact of driverless cars. The bottom line was that this innovation would reduce fuel use and improve safety but the author raised the question of whether making driving easier, initially less congested and more environmentally friendly would actually increase the incentive for people to drive.

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This discussion is interesting to me for two reasons.

One, it is a good example that better service attracts customers and that the larger number of customers can in turn degrade the service somewhat.

Some of my friends remind me that road expansions initially reduce congestion but soon attract more drivers and congestion returns. My reaction is this is true but more people are served.
Similarly the expansion of BART and Caltrain service now finds the cars more crowded than before BUT a lot more people are served.

So whatever happens with driverless cars, more people will have expanded choices.
My second takeaway is that solving the region’s mobility challenge requires an all of the above approach. We are so short of capacity that I think expanding public transportation, moving toward driverless cars and expanding road capacity and certainly investing in road repair and interchange safety are all good ideas.\
And given the time to implement any of these ideas, I end up with tolerance for all residents and workers struggling with our under investment in mobility options.