Self Driving Cars Can and Should Beat Out Public Transportation

I just read a really frustrating article on wire titled “Autonomous Vehicles Might Drive Cities To Financial Ruin.” The title should be enough of a red flag, but I figured i’d dive in and see what was up. Well, It’s actually worse than I expected. The writer complains that self driving cars will lower city tax revenues because cops won’t be able to pull them over and fine the driver any more. Cities make billions of dollars in parking violations and it’s certainly true that these revenue sources will deplenish if you take out the human error involved in driving around. She goes on to frame this as a sort of social justice concern, worrying that such a loss in revenue may mean public transportation being cut, disproportionately affecting minority groups. Of course she doesn’t make note of the fact that police traffic stops, tickets and fines, disporationaly affect minorities. It’s worth considering how lowering the amount of traffic stops might actually be the ideal social justice perspective. However that’s not her major error. The real flaw in her thinking comes from not realizing how these self driving cars will ultimately lower the cost of travel for everyone. Uber Pool and Lyft Line, services where you can split your ride with strangers, already have driven the cost of ride sharing close to that of public transit. One of my recent rides in Atlanta was $3 for 5.5 miles of travel. Atlanta’s bus service MARTA would have cost me $2.50. Imagine how much lower this could get if there was no driver to pay. Maybe instead of her call to “press pause on aggressive plans to deploy driverless cars in cities across the United States”, we should actually be looking to accelerate the process by getting regulations out of the way.

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