Self-driving vehicles

Self-Driving Cars Are Coming Fast, So Why Should We Spend a Dime Rebuilding Amtrak?

Trains were cutting-edge technology. In 1825.

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A ninteenth-century technology

“It’s like they’re designing the pony express in the world of the telegraph,” Florida State Senator Jeff Brandes (R-Dist. 22) told Fortune, explaining his opposition to a plan to build a light rail system in Pinellas County. "I absolutely believe that technology is going to transform mass transit in a way that very few people can see…It'll definitely be within 15 or 20 years, which is right when the light rail system…would be coming online."

Brandes' logic applies to all sorts of rail infrastructure schemes; the $68-billion high-speed rail line planned between San Francisco and Los Angeles comes to mind. But the advent of driverless cars is also a reason to oppose the recent push to rebuild Amtrak's Northeast Corridor.

Congressional Democrats want to give Amtrak $2 billion this year, and the beleaguered rail company says it needs a whopping $151 billion to bring high-speed rail to the Northeast Corridor by 2040.

I doubt there will be many train riders in 2040. American travelers generally prefer cars because they offer point-to-point mobility, but trains have two advantages over passenger vehicles today: They don't get stuck in traffic, and riders can do other things during the trip.

Autonomous vehicles will eliminate those advantages. In "The Moral Case for Self-Driving Cars" from Reason's August/September 2014 issue, Science Correspondent Ron Bailey explained how autonomous vehicles can solve the traffic problem:

Roadway engineers estimate that typical highways now accommodate a maximum throughput of 2,200 human-driven vehicles per lane per hour, utilizing only about 5 percent of roadway capacity. Because self-driving cars would be safer and could thus drive closer and faster, switching to mostly self-driving cars would dramatically increase roadway throughput. One estimate by the University of South Florida's Center for Urban Transportation Research in November 2013 predicts that a 50 percent autonomous road fleet would boost highway capacity by 22 percent; an 80 percent robot fleet will goose capacity 50 percent, and a fully automated highway would see its throughput zoom by 80 percent.

But don't we need to keep building out rail infrastructure in the short term, before driverless cars are ubiquitous? No, thanks to a 20th century technology known as a bus. Motorcoach travel is the fast growing form of intercity transit because it's cheap, convenient, and like the train, allows travelers to sleep, work, or play during the ride. And the bus industry receives no taxpayer subsidies.

Watch the 2013 Reason TV documentary I made with Naomi Brockwell, which looks at the glorious rebirth of the bus industry and why the government may ruin it again:

NEXT: Adultery, adulteration, and the historical 'married woman' limitation

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  1. …Because railroads have always been a fantastic vehicle for cronyism. Was there another question?

    1. James J. Hill did it without the cronyism and land grabbing by violence.

    2. And social signaling. Don’t forget the SIGNALZ!

  2. Compared to trains, at what speed limit are we predicting self-driving cars will be allowed to operate?

    1. 15 KPH.

    2. You include time to get to and from the station in the average speed?

      1. And how long before NSA “exams”?

  3. John Henry was a Steel Driving Man

    Why do Lefties love trains? Its a style-thing. They force everyone to get in line and go the same way at the same speed. Plus, they’re just so convenient.

    1. Because Mussolini.

    2. You jest, but the train’s apparent egalitarianism and centralization of control really is the control-freak dream. It’s like the early 20th-century graphic of the Progressive Man controlling all automotive traffic from his perch high above the highway–there’s a certain personality that just lives for that kind of thing.

      1. “You jest, but the train’s apparent egalitarianism and centralization of control really is the control-freak dream”

        I wasn’t really kidding. I’m 100% aware how railways are a Progressive’s “Ideas made manifest”, and that the atomistic-independence of the automobile is its stylistic opposite.

      2. Hawkins: What do you see there, Captain?
        Captain J.G. Williams: I see a car and two people. Wow! Look at that… son of a bitch!
        Hawkins: Much more than a car and two men.
        Captain J.G. Williams: Well, that’s all I can see.
        Hawkins: This man’s dangerous. This little joyride he’s on is undermining the entire balance of this country.
        Captain J.G. Williams: Sir, this is just one car… I mean, a little exhaust isn’t going to upset the whole balance of the universe.
        Hawkins: You are missing the metaphor.
        Captain J.G. Williams: There’s a meta-who?
        Hawkins: I am talking about our entire way of life, Captain. We live in a society that has the greatest tranquillity ever created by man. Furthermore, this society is more protected than any other in history. And do you know why?
        Captain J.G. Williams: Well, I figured…
        Hawkins: Because of the system. The system of our existence which has been worked out so perfectly. In fact, it is that system which dispelled the desperate quest for the impurities contained in mobility. The mobility which had driven this nation like rats, scurrying in every direction that led us nowhere. Nowhere! Now, we have removed that addiction and brought order and tranquillity… the two most fragile flowers in any civilisation. And this man, this fool, is defecating on those flowers! Staining the natural hygiene of our society and tampering with the world’s most perfectly balanced system.
        Captain J.G. Williams: Sir… what do you want me to do about it?

  4. And the bus industry receives no taxpayer subsidies.

    Only if you don’t count the streets they drive on.

    1. Or the gas taxes they pay.

      1. I thought local streets were paid out of general taxes?

        1. I assumed he meant long haul buses.

          1. Long-distance buses use local roads too.

        2. Which the bus companies pay.

          Or do you consider it a subsidy when you drive on the streets of the next town over?

          And its only a subsidy because for some damn reason we seem to think only government can provide roads.

          1. Or do you consider it a subsidy when you drive on the streets of the next town over?

            Why not? Anything I’m using without paying for it is a subsidy.

            1. And your subsidizing the people from elsewhere that drive on your roads – so effectively cancels out.

              1. Yeah, that makes sense.

                1. Because road socialism is so efficient.

        3. The problem with this argument is that we would still need local streets even if we had Europe’s passenger rail system.

          This is because you cannot deliver furniture by rail. And now with Amazon everything else.

          Even if you could have walkable neighborhoods without streets for cars and trucks, the stores would need trucks…unless we all live in arcologies with train stations built in the basement.

          So, since you’d need those streets with trains or without trains, its not a specific subsidy to buses.

  5. The first woman to be raped in a self-driving car has already been born.

    1. Shut it down. This wins.

      1. They let a woman host a news show?! And look at that hair.

  6. For freight, particularly minerals, coal and other bulk raw resources, trains are about as efficient as it gets. For passengers? Not so much.

    1. The same could be said of Panamax freighters. And yet we’re not trying to subsidize a cruise liner.

      1. Not trying to subsidize freight either – only passenger rail.

    2. Our intermodal stack trains also make retail supply chains possible (Walmart and UPS, for example, could not exist without us).

      Lawn mowers, washing machines, everything you can think of is shipped on the RR. And the hottest train on the CSX is the orange juice train, which uses stainless steel tanks and equipment to move millions of gallons of oj from Florida to your fridge. But we would love to get eastern coal back, which had fat margins and kept the crews out making money.

    3. “For freight, particularly minerals, coal and other bulk raw resources, trains are about as efficient as it gets. ”

      Not quite – river barges are the most efficient way to transport bulk commodities. Of course the delivery areas more limited.

      1. We could build high speed rivers for passenger use.

  7. but trains have two advantages over passenger vehicles today: They don’t get stuck in traffic, and riders can do other things during the trip.

    Trains have no advantages whatsoever.

    Ask anyone who’s had their passenger train sidelined to allow higher priority cargo trains to pass about not getting stuck in traffic.

    And buses and aircraft allow you to do other things during the trip while using existing road infrastructure to allow great flexibility in adapting to future demand changes.

    Aircraft can make the same trip as a train in a fraction of the time – hours instead of days to cross the country – at a fraction of the cost.

    There is no case for trains whatsoever except for in a tiny corridor in the NE that’s been stable for decades. Everywhere else its cars, buses, or airplanes for a reason.

    1. John Candy hates you.

    2. I agree with this – assuming there’s a limited “pot” of Amtrak money it’s ridiculous to waste huge chunks of it in Montana or Iowa.

    3. airplanes don’t get stuck in traffic, either, and you can things on them during the trip. Curiously, no carrier is owned by the govt. All are controlled by it, but less so than they used to be.

      1. “airplanes don’t get stuck in traffic”.

        Travel by air much?

  8. Just imagine how much capacity will go up with self driving buses!

    1. Hey, why not start with self-driving trains? No need to worry about steering or lane changes.

      1. Or operators sleeping with the throttle wide open.

      2. Because such trains would still be limited to going where the tracks go. A bus can go anywhere there’s a road. Even change routes on the fly.

        1. What are switches, chopped liver?

          1. Exactly – and switches have the advantage of being placed exactly where the government thinks you might need to go and nowhere else. It saves you from the tyranny of choice.

    2. buses have the same problem as trains. Once I’m in my car only traffic and parking costs can make me batch up into mass transit.

      1. What about fuel costs? Wear and tear? Rest stops?

        1. You’re still paying all that when taking the plane, train, bus. Best you can say is that you’re dividing the costs for that trip up between the other passengers, but then you’re paying a premium (profit) on top of it anyway.

          It only works economically if you don’t take a lot of long distance trips. Otherwise at some point the cost curves meet and it becomes cheaper to drive.

          And that’s before figuring in the benefits of having an on-demand vehicle at your destination (without incurring increased cost from renting).

          Rest-stops – that’s what the spouse is for.

          Seriously though, I’ve driven across the country many times solo and its less than 4 days from the eastern Florida coast to the San Diego coast (it takes the same amount of time on Amtrak – *without* rest stops). Rest stops are easy, showers cheap at truck stops and better than washing up in the sink on the train, if you don’t want to stay at a hotel.

          All-in-all it costs me about $400 to make that trip (staying in a hotel each night, half that to catch 4 hour naps at a rest stop). It costs approx $430 *minimum* to take the train. *If* you book a week early. That’s just for a seat. To get a ‘room’ that will cost you $1500+

          So I could drive and be just as uncomfortable as taking the train for half the price or drive and stay in a hotel each night for less than a third of what it would cost to take a sleeper – and I don’t have to deal with transferring my luggage between trains in the middle of the night.

          1. We’re talking buses not trains.

    3. buses have the same problem as trains. Once I’m in my car only traffic and parking costs can make me batch up into mass transit.

  9. we shouldn’t spend a dime on Amtrak regardless of self-driving cars or the kind already on the roadz.

  10. Me: Do you come with the train?

    Naomi: Oh, you. [giggle]

    1. Going with recycled material, I see.

      1. I use it every time there’s a vehicle and a pretty girl.

  11. From the Bailey article:

    “More than 90 percent of all traffic accidents are the result of human error. In 2011, there were 5.3 million automobile crashes in the United States, resulting in more than 2.2 million injuries and 32,000 deaths. Americans spend $230 billion annually to cover the costs of accidents, accounting for approximately 2 to 3 percent of GDP.”

    Just imagine how many trains politicians can build with the 2-3% GDP savings enabled by the auto!

    1. Perhaps if auto manufacturers attempted to distract the politicians with something shiny they’d leave the transportation market alone.

      I’d suggest creating a means whereby a convoy of 6+ autos would automatically merge into a single, giant vehicle intended to symbolize the unity instilled by etatism, like Devastator.

      1. Auto-centipede?

        1. Ready to form Human-Centipede! Activate interlocks! Dyna-therms connected. Infra-cells up; mega-thrusters are go!

          Let’s go, Government Force!

          1. Votetron!

        2. Hell yes, and those idiot comments about cars being so clean that their exhaust is cleaner than the intake air could lead to air so clean it has negative pollution by the time it exits the last car in the centipede.

      2. Carbuncle?

    2. “More than 90 percent of all traffic accidents are the result of human error.”

      And computer and sensor failures will replace human error as an accident cause. We call this “progress”.

      1. Based on Google’s safety record with first-gen autos in the Bay Area, the number of accidents caused by self-driving cars will be massively reduced as soon as they hit the market, to say nothing of refinements to the technology that’ll ensue.

        1. When everybody’s self driving car is maintained as well as those in Google’s SF experiment, I’ll buy in. Until then, I look at the beaters on the road today and am not encouraged. Of course the government will ensure the proper and safe operation and condition of sensors, computers, firmware, actuators and other systems by regular mandatory detailed inspections, so all will be well.

      2. Its funny – we’ll replace human drivers and then 100% of all traffic accidents will be the result of mechanical failure.

        Its why you have to be very careful when using percentages. They don’t always mean what you think they mean.

  12. It’s true, capitalism is the root of all evil in modern society.

    Our prehistoric forebears are often portrayed as spear-wielding savages, but the earliest human societies are likely to have been founded on enlightened egalitarian principles, according to scientists.

    A study has shown that in contemporary hunter-gatherer tribes, men and women tend to have equal influence on where their group lives and who they live with. The findings challenge the idea that sexual equality is a recent invention, suggesting that it has been the norm for humans for most of our evolutionary history.

    Mark Dyble, an anthropologist who led the study at University College London, said: “There is still this wider perception that hunter-gatherers are more macho or male-dominated. We’d argue it was only with the emergence of agriculture, when people could start to accumulate resources, that inequality emerged.”

    1. Hey, didn’t they try a self-suffiency movement in Cambodia? How’d that work out?

      1. Try not pitching in, in a hunter gather society when your fully capable and see how long you make it. Hey, maybe they were enlightened after all.

        1. So they didn’t have unions or welfare? It does sound appealing.

      2. Hey, didn’t they try a self-suffiency movement in Cambodia? How’d that work out?

        Are you a man? If yes, then just shut up. If not, maybe you should reread what I posted, particularly this line:

        “the earliest human societies are likely to have been founded on enlightened egalitarian principles, according to scientists.

        That’s right, scientists. Are you a scientist? No. Let’s see, who should I believe, the scientists or the woman who is not a scientist … hmm, this is a tough one. Do yourself a favor honey, think before you post next time.

        1. I am a gay male non-scientist. Calculate that.

          1. I am a gay male non-scientist. Calculate that.

            Gay non-scientist, huh, that makes it a little tougher. What race and ethnicity are you? This is the only way to know how your argument “stacks” in relation to a scientist.

        2. the scientists or the woman who is not a scientist … hmm, this is a tough one.

          Intersectionality strikes again!

          1. Believing either can make you broke fast.

        3. Enlightened egalitarian principles

          Like what? Like we all starve equally? FFS, division of labor has allowed that nitwit to stare at his navel for a living and now he wants to get rid of it?

          1. The navel gazers always think they provide something that people in a primitive society would want to support them for.

            IRL, philosopher kings did poorly if they did more philosophizing than kinging.

          2. Like what? Like we all starve equally?

            Starve? Not likely. The enlightened egalitarian principles were an evolutionary advantage:

            The authors argue that sexual equality may have proved an evolutionary advantage for early human societies, as it would have fostered wider-ranging social networks and closer cooperation between unrelated individuals. “It gives you a far more expansive social network with a wider choice of mates, so inbreeding would be less of an issue,” said Dyble. “And you come into contact with more people and you can share innovations, which is something that humans do par excellence.”

            Look, you can’t fight science. Your world view is wrong. Best to accept the truth and move on.

            1. Yes they were. The advantage was to starve out the slackers so that the hard-chargers could go on to invent agriculture and inequality which have given us an even larger evolutionary advantage.

        4. Lol, shut the fuck up you butthurt douche bag.

    2. In other news, Mark Dyble is a pissy pussy.

    3. “enlightened egalitarian principles”

      Uh-huh

    4. Paging Dr. Pinker. Dr. Pinker to the Anthropology Department.

      “A study has shown that in contemporary hunter-gatherer tribes, men and women tend to have equal influence on where their group lives and who they live with. . . . The authors argue that sexual equality may have proved an evolutionary advantage for early human societies, as it would have fostered wider-ranging social networks and closer cooperation between unrelated individuals.”

      1) That’s not what egalitarianism means 2) Would they also argue that inequality may have proved an evolutionary advantage for later human societies? Or that authoritarianism is evolutionarily advantageous? There’s nothing clumsier than using social science to argue for an arcane postmodern ideology.

      1. Not to mention the fact that that’s not science.

        1. In the old, semi-forgetten sense of philosophy being queen of the sciences it is.

          Of course, so’s literary criticism.

      2. This is a very old argument. Consider the following:

        In 1847, the pre-history of society, the social organization existing previous to recorded history, was all but unknown. Since then, August von Haxthausen (1792-1866) discovered common ownership of land in Russia, Georg Ludwig von Maurer proved it to be the social foundation from which all Teutonic races started in history, and, by and by, village communities were found to be, or to have been, the primitive form of society everywhere from India to Ireland. The inner organization of this primitive communistic society was laid bare, in its typical form, by Lewis Henry Morgan’s (1818-1861) crowning discovery of the true nature of the gens and its relation to the tribe. With the dissolution of the primeval communities, society begins to be differentiated into separate and finally antagonistic classes.

        This is a footnote to the Communist Manifesto by Engels. Of course, this line of thought derives from the sort of nonsense JJ Rousseau argued in Discourse on Inequality.

  13. Libertarius……you own a train!!? I would be a hawt engineer, driving that sexy orange juice train from coast to coast.

    Hmmmm. I can see it now…

    Sippin on orange juice, oh shit we just ran over a moose, and it’s head popped off and landed on the caboose!! Oh shit!!!! They’re gonna hang me with a noose! Damn, I can’t worry, I have to hang loose, maybe they’ll forgive me cause I’m long like the couse…..oh crap, damnit!!!! we just ran over mother goose!!!! My career is over, they’re gonna drown me in the sluice!

    1. Booooo……se!

      1. You can’t handle your booze, so go to bed and take a snooze. Your hay looks like some off brand couscous.

        All you do is stare, for a scarecrow you can’t repair, your just a bitch that replaces parts with hair and charge prices that do laps in the air. I would never dare to put my crow in your care, and no you can not try to sex me up and live in my lair, so take care.

  14. Other than some very basic freeway driving tasks, I don’t see a lot of self-driving functionality being implemented on a widespread national basis in the next 50 years. That said, fuck Amtrack.

    1. Plus you’ll be required to take over at a moment’s notice so forget doing your nails or whatever. And even then, imagine the carnage if I’m in a chain of vehicles going 200mph across the Brooklyn Bridge and my vehicle craps out. Ouch.

      1. Squirrels will be a much larger problem.

        1. Squirrels will be a much larger problem.

          (Sheesh. You could at least have done this yourself.)

  15. Over a million people commute into Manhattan every work day. Chicago, Boston, and other large cities all have similar numbers.

    Where are you going to park all those self driving cars?

    1. They’ll all be hovercrafts so they’ll just hover in a stacked formation over the water.

    2. Outside of recharging & maintenance, they wouldn’t park.

      1. No, they’d park because traffic over the course of a day varies so greatly.

    3. Enh, cars are just not the optimum solution for such places whether they’re self-driving or not. Maybe for occasional use but certainly not for commuting.

    4. Over a million people commute into Manhattan every work day. Chicago, Boston, and other large cities all have similar numbers.

      Where are you going to park all those self driving cars?

      Obviously the solution is to have all commuters drive(n) to a single location, like a metro station, where their PUBLICLY-OWNED car will be taken over by another deserving citizen.

      1. What Knarf Yenrab! said @ 7:21PM.

    5. Over a million people commute into Manhattan every work day. Chicago, Boston, and other large cities all have similar numbers.

      Where are you going to park all those self driving cars?

      At your place.

  16. Google navigation cannot give me changes in driving direction fast enough for me to make decisions. It could, but then our enemies could use it?

    Oh you don’t think they would? You think they like you? Why? Is it your pompous self-smugness or that you are a gullible imbecile?

    Hey kiddies, still waiting for that all electric car that will drive me non stop from LA to Boston.

  17. Also my car doesn’t rat me out to the feds, not yet anyways.

    1. It will! /Tom Selleck

    2. Yeah, they will all have gps tracking devices ” only to track your milage so they can tax it” within 10 years. If your parked at a bar more than 3 hours you’ll most likely have company within minutes after leaving.

      1. That probably wouldn’t work, as we’ll probably shift from auto ownership to a subscription service. They’ll have to tax the auto-subscription company by their mileage (and presumably you by the gizmos you carry around).

        1. That’s highly unlikely.

          1. I don’t someone’s hobo vomit or sexual leftovers in my ride.
          2. I want my ride available *immediately*, not in 30 minutes when one is free. May as well take the bus.

          The only way that people will go to a subscription model (in places where care ownership is not *already* low – like crowded NE urban areas) is if its significantly lower than ownership.

          And right now, the cost of ownership is really damn low, doubly so when compared to average incomes.

          Most of the ‘poor people need mass transit’ is less that they can’t afford a car and more they can’t afford the *space* to keep it.

          1. 1. I don’t someone’s hobo vomit or sexual leftovers in my ride.
            2. I want my ride available *immediately*, not in 30 minutes when one is free.

            1. Since all activity in the vehicle will be constantly monitored, no problem.
            2. Join the Party, then, Comrade.

          2. The only way you’d have a dirty or late (meaning

            1. Post got eaten, but the gist was that companies will compete against one another, eliminating concerns over timing and cleanliness via the get-what-you-pay-for model, and subscriptions to auto services will be the norm for the same reason that streaming video will eliminate DVD and Blu Ray ownership.

              Unless you subscribe to Billy Jo’s Discount Auto service in the middle of rural Utah, you’ll never wait 30 minutes for a car.

              1. I live in a place that is, functionally, identical to the middle of rural Utah (rural Arizona) but with more alcohol and easier access to hookers.

                Which is why these car-share programs will not (IMO) take off except in the places where car ownership is already low – like heavily urbanized areas that are not car friendly (IOW, the major NE cities).

                After all, nobody walks in LA.

                1. That’s a possibility. I like the rural life (blessed is the day when you can daytrade on high-speed internet from the middle of a farming community with low housing and COL expenses), and I can imagine that a lot of farmers would rather have their own truck to haul stuff in on top of farm equipment. I’d rather buy a beater auto pickup than have to wait five minutes every time I wanted to move something from point A to B on my property.

                  The equipment will all eventually be automated, but I’d think it would be limited to specialized ownership among rural residents (like farming tractors or even lawn tractors), whereas suburbanites and urbanites would have little reason to have a garage, much less a car in it.

                  The only big downside is that soon enough we won’t know the joy of mowing our own lawns on zero-turn mowers once HAL takes over duties.

                  1. the joy of mowing our own lawns

                    As a city boy… I just can’t even.

                    1. It’s great. The zero-turn mowers are like riding in a go-cart with whirling blades attached.

                    2. As a rural dwelling redneck type, you can fuck of with that “like a go cart” shit.

                      Mowing sucks balls.

      2. I can have my self driving car drive itself home and then pick me up when I tell it to.

  18. I’d like to point out that the law does not allow 5th wheel buses or multi trailer intercity buses. Such buses have long existed including those that have the tractor controlled from the trailer. If the law allowed tripple trailer buses with the same length as commercial trucks it would easy to offer 400 plus seating with plenty of room for baggage in a double decker. This is compared to just under 50 in a typical motorcoach.

    1. That’s why trains are so desperately needed. Need a government provided solution to a government cause problem. And this one even causes *more* problems that will require more government solutions. Its like a win-lose for the government.

  19. We must keep the choo choo’s because they are dehumanizing and treat people as a collective mass rather than as individuals. This is why the proggies love them.

  20. Given that the left is trying to kill Uber/Lyft, I can only imagine they will go all out to kill the self-driving car.

    1. Au contraire, i think they’ll try and mandate them eventually

      1. They’ll mandate them after they try outlawing them.

    2. Think it’s more the politically corrupt urban politician fueled by taxi cartels that’s trying to kill Uber. Most of the knee-jerk hipster left loves the idea, and more than one drives for them.

  21. Oh come on, a self driving car will mean plenty of time for sex. No getting road head behind the wheel, when there is the back seat……for the entire ride…….you can ride!!!!

    Just tell the car: Take me to crakcerbarrel!!!!

    Car: which one Vampire?

    That one in Tennessee where we got stuck in dead stop traffic and couldn’t move so we are berries from the woods with an effing Doritos truck right fucking there!!!!!!!!!! So we missed going to the damn Cracker Barrel!!!

    Car: Oh my. Right away. What a horrible childhood experience…….um…..can I watch?

    Me eat? You wouldn’t fit in the stooooo……oh….

  22. The problem with railroads is regulation – since they need rights of ways and such it is easier to pile on cronyism.

    But railroads and cars are disjoint. Amtrak gets you from Chicago to Seattle in a moving hotel. The “driverless car” is a small box and you have to pull off for decent food, and will have to wake you up to refuel it in the middle of the night during the trip.

    Also the fuel economy differences – even far over buses.

    Maybe “driverless cars” will be hyper- regulated into almost non-existence like trains. Or the government might demand the cars act as portable jail cells with GPS if they think there is an “amber alert” (there was a show called “bait car”).

    Will the “driverless car” see my motorcycle? Will we need special laws to protect robots like the disabled (will they work in heavy snow? Rain? If power is lost to traffic lights?).

  23. As I see it, driver controlled cars may be more prone to driver error, but a driverless car will be subject to programmer error, which will necessarily multiply any mistake by the number of cars using the same operating system. Regardless of the actuarial facts, all it will take is one commuter turned into a mess by a thousand cars’s onboard control crashing, and the public will kill the idea dead. There won’t even have to be any crashes, just a city-wide gridlock and a bunch of commuters scared stiff because their cars just stopped.

    To err is human. To screw up 10,000 a second requires a computer.

    1. Pedestrians are probably most at risk from driverless cars since they won’t have the transponders that will be required for all cars.

      So, obviously, we need choo-choo trains instead of driverless cars … for the children.

      1. You’re not thinking like a statist. The solution is put the transponders on the people. For pedestrian safety, of course. (Not to mention you can also track their location and movements.) The next step, to avoid the danger of someone forgetting their transponder and getting hit by a driverless car (and to keep liberty-loving wackos from going off the surveillance grid) is to implant the transponders.

        If you’re not for personal transponders, then you must be siding with the terrorists, or you want to see roadkill children!

  24. We are already seeing partial “self-driving car” features in higher end cars, like radar cruise control that automatically maintains correct following distance, automatic parallel parking, automatic collision avoidance, automatic high/low beam adjustment, GPS navigation systems, etc. As the technology improves the partially self-driving car will evolve into the fully self-driving car.

    We will also see self-driving airplanes, buses, and trains.

  25. Why?

    Self-driving cars won’t become the norm for a long time yet. This would also displace the cost to the public overall as they would have to buy the cars, which no doubt won’t be cheap, and will almost certainly cost vastly more than maintaining Amtrak.

    The cars will be heavily computerized, which means they will be very vulnerable to hackers. indeed this might become such a problem that people go back to manual driving again. More to the point, the cars can be tracked at all times. We can expect that government will know your location at all times, but will also institute a by the mile tax, or several. If you don’t pay, or for some other reason, government turn off your car, because you know a kill command will be mandated.

    That said, I wouldn’t mind a self-driving car, if: it had sizable storage capacity so fewer shopping trips would have to be made; it could run in autonomous, unplugged-from-the-net mode, operating on pre-loaded maps, learned routes, and verbal commands from the driver (which should protect it from hacking); no tracking or kill switch in governments’ hands nor taxes based on tracking.

  26. The driverless car is not just around the corner. It’s going to meet widespread public and personal opposition for many of the reasons noted above. People have been in control of their cars for their entire driving career and want to remain in control (even if that control is less safe than giving up control). People, psychologically, just aren’t going to sit there and let the computer drive them. That’s too scary.

  27. I love trains. And I like high speed rail.

    But why is it so expensive? Is the land really so expensive?

    Or is it corruption?

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