Organizing Our Cities Around Autonomous Vehicles
If Donald Trump’s election can be interpreted as a backlash against progress and the future, Robin Chase is here to say the future is coming much more quickly than many of us think, particularly where autonomous vehicles (AVs) are concerned. Chase, who co-founded Zipcar, believes that AVs will go on the market as early as 2020. Chase is a proponent of what she refers to as FAVES (fleets of AVs that are electronic and shared) as those will be much better for the environment and urban congestion than independently owned fuel-guzzling AVs. With FAVES, according to Chase, people will be able to travel at a cost of around $2 for maybe 10 percent more time, which will help accelerate the adoption rate. Transitioning to FAVES is the fastest way we can electrify passenger vehicle miles, says Chase. In what Chase refers to as the hell scenario of AVs, the low cost and effort of a ride will lead to an explosion of unnecessary trips. “I can imagine there being 50 percent more cars on the road at all times,” said Chase. To ward off this dystopic future, it’s important to engage these questions now before it’s too late.
Chase talked about the different roles for AVs in urban versus rural eras, and addressed the perennially difficult question of job loss. There are over three million truck driver in the U.S. and almost 700,000 bus drivers, and transitioning to a driverless future will unequivocally be difficult. Businessmen think in the abstract, said Chase, and when they talk about hypothetical new jobs for these truck drivers, often don’t realize there isn’t necessarily a one-to-one relationship as far as location, skills, and timing are concerned. Chase believes that the increased ease of commuting will make more jobs accessible to more people, and that reorganizing cities without parking structures and street parking will at least be a step towards re-employing those who lose their jobs. As truck drivers are often white men and taxi drivers are often first generation immigrants, this issue bridges the partisan and rural/urban divide, and will require a diverse coalition working together to solve it. Chase laid out her new mobility protocol for cities, which she is in the process of getting mayors to sign on to, and can be found at Osmosys.org, where Chase will be curating best practices and ways for people to engage in our autonomous future.