Andrew Pohlman wrote:
I've followed this for decades as it has developed in Silicon Valley by some of the smartest people on the planet. The developers took the "expert system" approach, and are building in all the best stuff. Like fuel efficiency, safety, logistical efficiency, convenience. ….
The "best stuff" from the point of view of Silicon Valley (Google et al) is the change of the ownership model. Self-driving cars will be the norm in the not distant future. The implication is that private ownership of cars will vanish or at least shrink to insignificance. It makes no sense to spend time and effort on parking if you can hop in a vehicle at will that will take you where you want to go whenever you want to.
What this means is that the conventional car industry is fighting for its existence. There has been a marketing dichotomy between the concepts of "luxurious, effortless, travel" versus the "freedom" and "exhilaration" of driving yourself. Self driving cars throw a spanner into this paradigm. The silicon valley concept has forced the conventional manufacturers into trying to re-invent themselves for a future where most vehicles will be self driving taxis. Google has spawned a lot of the technology, while Über has popularized the marketing model albeit with drivers for the moment.
The ownership model is in any case unsustainable as the world population grows at 100+ million people per year. If every one drives and has a personal car, the world will be covered with ever more roads. Shared vehicles are more efficient. One person pods would use less space. Average speed would go up as one of the main causes of snarl ups is someone accelerating too hard and then having to brake hard which causes everyone behind him to brake hard as well, sometimes stretching back miles, something which an automated "intelligent" system would eliminate.
Implicit is a complete restructuring of the generation of wealth and the concentration of wealth. Maybe we can say hyper concentration of wealth in the hands of the tax agnostics. Amazon has wiped out the bulk of the book retail and distribution industry and has used its logistics to deliver all sorts of goods. It has now moved stealthily into food in a big way which will have the same effect on supermarket chains that these same chains had on the mon and pop shops of the past. In 3-5 years even chains as big as Walmart will have a struggle on their hands. Amazon, google and company have the grossly unfair advantage that they are completely tax agnostic unlike their competitors who, while doing their best to "optimize" their tax, nevertheless remain tax participants to a greater or lessor extent.
What I have never seen is an economic discussion of where this goes. Jobs eliminated, or downgraded by technology, population increasing and wealth hyper-concentrated: where do the hyper-concentrated companies get their customers from in such a scenario? If you have no control over where you food comes from and must compete for a "mac-job" how does enough "money" go round to keep the whole thing moving.
The only thing I can be sure of is that the average employee today has no conception of what the economic, political world will look like in 20 years time. The difference between a future distopia and a future utopia might as well rest on the wings of a butterfly. Self-driving cars are in the meantime a given. Whether we will be allowed to drive at all in 20 years is still an open question but that a prohibition will come eventually is evident.