What Will Self-Driving Cars Do to the Housing Market?

The winners and losers.

This week, the US House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on legislation governing self-driving vehicles. The law would allow up to 25,000 autonomous vehicles – true AVs, without a human behind the wheel who can take control if needed – to ply the streets during the first year of the bill.

Up to 100,000 vehicles each year could be added to the total for the next three years. Companies that work on AV technology, such as Alphabet, and automakers would still have to get permits for their AVs and provide safety assessment reports to regulators.

At the state level, 22 states and Washington D.C. have passed legislation and governors of four states have issued executive orders related to autonomous vehicles. Other states are working on similar legislation.

Ford expects to have a fully autonomous vehicle without steering wheel and pedals on the market by 2021, to be used by rideshare services. Initially, the number will be small in the overall scheme of things. Other automakers have similar plans. Alphabet will not build cars, but it’s trying to develop the system that runs AVs, and it’s putting a lot of money into it in order to be the leader and control the industry.

Auto insurers are grappling with it. Some “self-driving” features that allow the driver to take hands and feet off the controls are already available in mass-produced vehicles, and the transition to full AV technology without a driver on board will be gradual. But clarity about this transition is lacking, according to the Insurance Information Institute:

Except that the number of crashes will be greatly reduced, the insurance aspects of this gradual transformation are at present unclear.

So the US is getting ready for fully autonomous vehicles. No one knows for sure when they will be produced in large numbers. But once they are, they will have a devastating impact on the entire job category of drivers, that will join the fate of other jobs that have been automated away.

And the combination of driverless cars and rideshare technologies “will reshape housing,” according to John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

It expects AVs to become “commonplace” in 10 to 20 years – so more than just a few hundred-thousand vehicles on the road. While the transition, including broad consumer acceptance, will have some “hiccups,” the combination of ridesharing and AV technology will be “disrupting entire industries while triggering structural shifts in housing and the economy.”

As AV technology gets cheaper, and as rideshare services are combined with it, consumers will do a basic calculation: What’s cheaper and more convenient for their particular needs – rideshare services based on AVs or traditional ownership of a vehicle? Once the answer becomes clear, consumers will begin to switch – not all consumers, but enough to impact the economy.

At that point, consumers will spend less on getting around and have more time and money left for other things. And given the ease of commute-by-shared-AV, productivity will increase, and people could even get some work done on their way to work.

So the report sees a number of big impacts on housing, including these:

Prime real estate will be unlocked for new home construction as parking lots, auto dealerships and gas stations become obsolete. Additional supply in historically supply constrained locations will likely dampen home price appreciation and alleviate housing shortages in many cities. Due to increased housing supply in good locations, there will initially be less demand for outlying locations, even though commutes will be easier.

Get ready for more homes per acre, with the days of wide streets, massive driveways, and two-/three-car garages a thing of the past. Builders will be able to get significantly higher density, and consumers will be buying a home where 100% of the square footage is truly livable. We’re already seeing apartment developers shifting to zero parking.

Construction costs should decline as transportation costs plummet for moving building products from manufacturing facilities/warehouses to new home construction sites. Construction timelines should also improve for home builders as the transportation of building products becomes a 24/7 operation handled by AVs.

Unneeded garages will be repurposed into “functioning living space,” which would require “complete overhauls.” This would benefit the home repair and remodel industry. Parking garages could be torn down or possibly repurposed, which would benefit builders. All these changes would create more supply of housing closer to city centers.

AVs will make “aging in place” more possible for the elderly, who can stay in their homes and maintain their independence by using AVs to get around, the report points out. This creates some more winners and losers:

  • The brokerage business may get the short end of the stick: “Longer-term housing turnover will likely be suppressed,” and sales volume may decline.
  • Assisted-living facilities may get hit by these aging-in-place trends.
  • But the home repair and remodel industry will benefit by adapting homes to suit the elderly. “Grab bars, slip-resistant flooring, and wider doors/hallways to accommodate wheel chairs are just a few examples of remodeling projects associated with aging in place.”

The report cautions that uncertainties still dominate as the technology, government regulations, and consumer acceptance evolve, and “how it shakes out and who the industry winners/losers will be remain up for debate.” But it’s “imperative” that homebuilders and developers not already doing so “begin strategizing” on how their business may shift as shared AVs become a common feature in the economy.

But it seems you get to own and steer a car for a while longer, if you insist. Read…  What Ford’s New Guy Said about the Future of Self-Driving Cars

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  163 comments for “What Will Self-Driving Cars Do to the Housing Market?

  1. Justme says:

    Off topic, but I think this is important:

    Dislocation alert: 4-week t-bill auction yielding 1.30% today

    Note that 1.30% is *above* the FRB (Fed) 1.00-1.25% target range, and also a big jump from the 0.96% yield at the previous auction just a week ago. Neither the mainstream news media, nor bloggers, have picked up on this as of this moment. Discuss! Why did this happen, and what are the implications?

    Latest auction results:

    Specfic results for today’s auction

    It should also be noted that the yield for the 4-week t-bills came in HIGHER than for the simultaneous auctions for 13-week and 26-week t-bills, who came in at 1.020 and 1.115%, (unchanged from last action). This is a local inversion occurring at the shorter end of the yield curve.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      The 30-day bond market is getting nervous about the debt ceiling – not very nervous, just a tiny bit nervous. Sometime in October, a few weeks after the official deadline, the Treasury will run out of “extraordinary means” by which to find money to pay its bills and service the US debt. That moment in October is 25 to 55 days away. If the US defaults, these bills might not be redeemed on schedule. Hence the skittishness of the 30-day yield. Once the 30-day yield spikes to 3% or higher, the market thinks the US is close to default. For now, it’s just a tad nervous.

  2. cdr says:

    “What will Self-Driving Cars Do to the Housing Market?”

    Very likely crash into them with regularity. Along with crashing into lots of other things and people with regularity.

    • Matt P says:

      Google car has a million miles with no major accidents and all but one caused by the car itself, which was minor. That’s a far better record than the average human driver. There will be issues, but our roads will be much much safer without drunk humans driving around.

      • cdr says:

        1) Google driving over a bridge under construction that has no GPS updates and lots of exits if you are in the wrong lane. Yes, they will manage that perfectly.

        2) Google hitting someone but blaming the driver who did something goofy, but legal. Never happen.

        3) Google following the GPS that does not know about the bridge going out. Never happen.

        4) Where did that giant pothole come from? Google will see them all.

        5) Ahhh … the snow covered center stripe. Google will prevail.

        6) The list is endless. Self driving cars unleashed on the real world are a fantasy and will remain one for a very very very long time.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Instruments can see far better than human eyes that go blind after dark and cannot see through dense rain, fog, or snow, and get blinded by the sun and glare. The technical challenge is bringing all this data together and making decisions that better than humans can make these decisions, and humans are terrible at making these decisions, as 38,000 traffic fatalities last year amply demonstrate.

          Amazing progress has been made over the past few years.

        • cdr says:

          Wolf, yes, computers are amazing but programmers are imperfect. AI is a myth. Please describe the algo pseudocode, or even a reasonable explanation, of how a sensor can see a hidden center line.

          Computer chips are not all seeing, all knowing, and all sensing. ALL only do one thing at a time, just really really fast. Describe the lanes closed with new left turn exit algo while the right lane is ok. I can’t even drive that well and I experienced it, poorly, not long ago.

          Self driving cars are a fantasy promoted by people with no real technical skill or experience. All Myth and fantasy. For at least another 20 years. A tulips scam for investors with extra cash.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          I understand that you’ll never buy one or use one. Good for you!

          But there are already thousands of self-driving cars and heavy trucks being tested around the world. They’re already here! They’re driving in urban and rural traffic. So stating that AVs are a “fantasy” doesn’t make them go away.

          We may not like them (I have very mixed feelings about them), and we may not think that they’re good for us or for the economy, or for jobs, or whatever, but this is something that is happening, and it will have huge consequences — good and bad. And they will upend the auto industry and other sectors in ways that are hard to imagine now. And there will be big winners and catastrophic losers.

          The fact that everyone near the auto sector — automakers, regulators, insurance companies — plus chip makers, software companies like Alphabet, various hardware companies, etc. are preparing for them should tell you that this is serious.

          And if you have a business with long-term plans, it’s a good idea to prepare for this technology – because your competitors will be on top of it, you can be sure of that.

        • cdr says:

          Wolf, My Subaru adaptive cruise control still goes out with bright lights. It’s state of the art. In 5 years it will be perfect, industry wide? See Tulips.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Remember the space shuttle that blew up? A lowly seal ring did that. Nothing is perfect. AVs don’t have to be perfect. They just have to be better than humans — and that’s easy to do … let me tell you how easy … yesterday we drove back to San Francisco from Lake Tahoe, along with everyone else, and it’s mind-boggling how stupid and reckless humans can be.

        • cdr says:

          Wolf said “But there are already thousands of self-driving cars and heavy trucks being tested around the world. ”

          Yes. You are right. This is a good example of let’s wait a few months and then years and see if it ever gets past the talk about the test stage.

        • TeeJay says:

          cdr – I think #5 is a really good point. Has any AV been tested on snow-covered roadways? As humans we are used to “estimating” where the center and shoulders are but what about the computers, when there is almost no visual point of reference?

        • Gary says:

          Hi Wolf. Your resident nuisance here.

          You mention thousands of AV trucks on the road. But why has the railway not switched over to automated trains? You do know that trains don’t even need steering wheels, just back and forth. And they only operate in a strictly controlled environment. And yet I don’t know of any railway that is using AV in an operational capacity (more than just testing). That should be enough to raise suspicions about AV.

          PS. the railway does use remote controlled trains, but controlled by humans who have the train in sight at all times.

        • Wolf Richter says:


          There are a lot of fully automated trains out there. I’ve been on several. It’s kind of spooky at first. For example, fly into Nuremberg and take the subway from the airport to the central station. It’s an automated train. No employee on board. No human has that train “in sight at all times.” That train is underground. There are a lot of them since they run every few minutes during busy times. There are plenty of other trains. One of the first ones were the airport people movers at DFW (decades ago) and Atlanta. These things are so old they aren’t considered high-tech anymore.

          Automated subways see when people are too close or are jumping in front of it, and they hit the emergency brake far faster than a human could. They stop at the same spot to the inch every time. They’re never tired and they never text while driving… They do a great job.

        • cdr says:

          Wolf, one last thing. Maybe 2.

          1) Yes some trains are fully automated. The one at O’hare from remote parking to the terminals is fully automated – on a closed loop with fixed points throughout. A perfect implementation for an automated system. No different from an industrial robot.

          2) Most non-programmers, bad managers, and bad actual programmers only see the 50% to 80% that is easy to navigate and understand. A programmer must anticipate and deal with the odd little events that always crop up. These are the same events that make most bad managers and wannabee experts eyes gloss over and then they employ personal destruction towards the person mentioning the issues. These little details that seem so easy for the dilettante to gloss over and assume away as ‘trivial’ are the ones that can easily cause damage, injury, and death. Self driving cars define this example. Thus, my skepticism. No to few techies buy in but lots of money types and rainbow chasers are completely captivated. “All the companies that are looking into it” are in it just for PR purposes so the competition does not look more advanced to the rainbow chasers, all of whom gloss over, ignore, or assume away the details that define success vs utter failure.

        • wkevinw says:

          As far as the “instruments seeing better than the human eye”, that was debatable in the past. The human eye PLUS brain outdoes the instruments that I have been aware of in many situations. When light is changing, and even the human eye has trouble (e.g. dark and dusk), the self driving systems have caused several accidents to my knowledge, and at least two fatal.

          That does not mean that there are not very good situations to used some kind of auto pilot, e.g. impaired driving, intoxication, fatigue, etc. Because that is such a large fraction of the cause of serious accidents, the statistics for some auto pilot in cars could make them economically viable.

          As usual, I think it’ll be a mixture, as it is in planes, for example. The auto pilots have taken down the number of people in the cockpit by 1/3.


        • Smingles says:

          You have no clue what you are talking about.

          “4) Where did that giant pothole come from? Google will see them all.”

          Errr… yes. They’ll certainly be able to see them far better than most human drivers will. I don’t know what point you were trying to make here? This one isn’t even debatable.

          “5) Ahhh … the snow covered center stripe. Google will prevail.”

          3D maps of the streets that include exact position of curbs, street signs, trees, lane lines, etc.. If the center lanes are not visible, but a nearby fire hydrant is, the car will use sensors combined with the 3D maps to determine exactly where it is in the lane.

          This is a pretty standard approach in the industry to dealing with that problem, and bad weather testing– designed exactly to test these situations– has already been going on for some time now.

          “6) The list is endless.”

          No it’s not, and it gets smaller every passing day. I mean, it’s comical to think that the tens of thousands of engineers, regulators, et. al across the industry haven’t thought of these problems already, but here you, CDR, on the WolfStreet blog with a few simple strokes of the keyboard have invalidated everything.

        • Gary says:

          No sorry, your example of the Nuremberg train is not convincing at all. That seems to me like a special case where a train, in a TUNNEL, needs to basically just go straight from point to point. It doesn’t sound like there’s even any car-switching involved.

          Perhaps in such an extremely strictly controlled environment, automated performs better than human. An AV on the open road is far far different thing.

        • alex in san jose says:

          Wolf I think we may see things like … something like RFIDs implanted below the asphalt, or a standard for white/reflective railings or “fog lines” … I know I’ve been out in Yavapai County, Arizona and before they painted good “fog lines” I was almost like, “Shit, I’d better just pull off and go to sleep until it’s light” I could not see where I was – nothing like mile elevation snowfog.

          I’m in “wait and see” mode regarding (can’t spell autonomous) robot cars, certainly we’re entering interesting times. And entertaining, perhaps.

          My main bitch with robots comes from my background as an electronics tech. Anything with moving parts that does its work in the real world, wears and breaks down and gets dust and hair and stuff in it. The real world is a tough place. I just don’t think we’re gonna see robots everywhere.

          But robot cars are the “soft underbelly” of robotics because cars themselves are all over the place and a lot of modern ones are “drive by wire” already.

        • John Henderson says:

          Please go backwards to see the future of available vehicles.Horses,cars no roads,no white lines,no pavements,no traffic lights etc,etc.

      • JZ says:

        If I am a taxi or truck driver, I am going to bully these boys on the road so that they all ended up in trenches.

        • JZ says:

          I am going to bully these bots to the degree that i will get scratches and google gets lawsuits.

        • cdr says:

          jZ – you and a hundred thousand others. Some really well.

        • Smingles says:

          How do you think you’ll do that?

          The cars are probably smarter than you, lol. And no doubt better drivers. You’ll end up hurting yourself.

        • alex in san jose says:

          JZ – where I am there are two types of bad driver. Firstly you have Asians who probably learned to drive at 40, and are just … bad drivers. But they at least “see” bicycles. The 2nd type are more dangerous, they’re older native-born American drivers in, typically, older American made cars. They see bicyclists and even pedestrians as affronts and I swear they actually aim for ’em.

          I see automo’s as probably driving like dear old Mrs. Huang, not the greatest but not gonna get pissed off and try to run your ass over.

        • JZ says:

          Bots follow rules and human do not have to. If bots fail to follow rules, corporations have no product. If human do not follow rules, they get tickets. That is the fundamental advantages of carbon drivers over bot drivers.

          Remember in the early days of capitalism when works start to smash machines because they thought machines were taking their jobs? You can lock the machine up and hire human securities to protect machines.

          Now these bots on the road tries to take jobs away from drivers? They are not locked up and being protected by humans, they are on the road and guess what, the machines will get smashed one way or another.

          Carbon vs bots, it’s on!

        • Lit the lady bug says:

          How do you know the AVs won’t self medicate with alcohol to treat their depression?

          Answer: you don’t.

      • Ethan in Northern VA says:

        First off, you could wil-e-coyote it and paint the road lines over a cliff and these self driving cars would follow. They’re using machine vision to track the road lines and stay in the lanes.

        They’re using either radar or lidar point clouds to track the surroundings. It should be trivial to receive the radar pulses that the cars are looking for, double the frequency and throw it back at them. Hello trafifc jam or crashes or who knows what.

        GPS receivers are spoofed using open source free software and cheap software defined radio kits. A GPS receiver looks for signals from satellites and looks for the difference in time. That allows them to determine where by the slight changes in time between those satellites. All you have to do is emulate those transmissions locally and bad things will happen. The software is out there to do it already, and it’s free.

        As a geek, and a computer guy, and an electronics guy it seems to me we’re moving into all this with sloppy solutions in a rushed fashion.

        • Kraig says:

          Denmark has an active true AV bus that seems to manage ok. Since drivers are the most expensive part by far, Why not go for AV lanes with AV buses AV mini buses and AV pool cars to help the elderly and others get around? Since you need internet for the AV anyway you can put WiFi in the back along with usb ports. If your converting existing lane.

          True brt 24/7 would be a game changer for the us. (Google images of Freiberg I’m brassau, when there are no cars density can be more without sacrifice.
          I suspect gas station attendant jobs to rise since AV can’t refuel automatically except battery and they are limited in stations and range

      • Kenny Logins says:

        Proof for concept for approval should be driving all routes in a country at random (using same algo and car type but multiple cars), day, night, winter, summer, rain, snow, traffic jams, etc.

        We need to see real case examples not just best case.

        I’ve driven for 20 years and maybe 200,000 miles now without accident. That’s best case too.

        If we compare best cases the comparisons are pointless.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Much less than human-driven vehicles will crash into. 38,000 people were killed in traffic accidents last year involving cars with human drivers.

      Re-read the sentence by the the Insurance Information Institute: “…the number of crashes will be greatly reduced…” That’s what the insurance industry thinks.

      • cdr says:

        Technically possible with a human backup on a limited course for a short time. Technically impossible as a universal chauffeur for another 50 years. Minimum. Utter fantasy. An example of the belief that world class experts who engineer perfection exist somewhere else and they know exactly what to do to fix the problem of the moment. An example of the blind belief in something bigger than yourself. An example that Tulips scams will never die.

        • Smingles says:

          You honestly seem to have no clue what you are talking about, yet conclusively state your (incorrect– about virtually everything you’ve conjectured about) opinions as fact, anyways. Remarkable!

      • Alister says:

        So who makes the live or die decision when a child runs out in front of an AV and it has to decide who to kill….the passenegr or the child. Someone has to program that decision ..and that someone will be a murderer…how will insurance companies handle that, or the courts, the police, the families…..it is an unanswered question. People may be imperfect drivers..but they make decisions that they are responsible for…who will take responsibility when no one drives?

        • cdr says:

          The expert from somewhere else. That’s who did it.

        • cdr says:

          Of course, nothing you imagine will or even could ever happen. The tech is perfect and nearly ready to go. only a commie would doubt it.

        • Smingles says:

          “So who makes the live or die decision when a child runs out in front of an AV and it has to decide who to kill….the passenegr or the child. Someone has to program that decision ..and that someone will be a murderer…”

          No. Just no.

          Murder (n) : the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought (Merriam-Webster)

          If a child runs out in front of your car… and you hit them… because you couldn’t stop in time… that is an accident. There is no murder involved. Tragic? Sure. That’s what happens when kids play in traffic.

          If a child runs out in front of your car that is operated by AI… and it hits them… because it couldn’t stop in time… that is an accident. There is no murder involved.

          It’s literally that simple. Everything else you said doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter who made the decision. You can’t stop a car on a dime when a child jumps out in front of it. It’s tragic, but to suggest that it would be murder is absolutely ludicrous.

        • Alister says:

          Wrong and very simple minded analysis Smingles…A person driving makes a conscious decision to either swerve or not to….if they swerve they may will not hit the child and may hit an on-coming vehicle..but they made the decision. They decided based on their own intuition and risk analysis to either save the child or risk their life. But with an AV that decision is up to the program matrix that is written by programmers…so a programmer will have to input the code that will decide to kill the child and save the passengers or save the child and rock the passengers. It can only be one or the other…if the decision is to not swerve and the AV hits the child than a person other than the passengers decided the fait of that child and will therefore be responsible for their death..so who will that be….it has to be someone….educate yourself a bit by reading this…

        • Smingles says:


          Nope. You’re still wrong.

          “A person driving makes a conscious decision to either swerve or not to….if they swerve they may will not hit the child and may hit an on-coming vehicle..but they made the decision. They decided based on their own intuition and risk analysis to either save the child or risk their life. ”

          No, not really. They will react, but there’s very little to no conscious decision making in the millisecond hypothetical you are presenting. Sure, it was their subconscious that made the decision… so?

          “But with an AV that decision is up to the program matrix that is written by programmers…so a programmer will have to input the code that will decide to kill the child and save the passengers or save the child and rock the passengers. It can only be one or the other…”

          Given the endless variables that could be considered… how athletic looking is the child? Could he get out of the way? How old is the passenger? Is it worth killing a 5 year old if the passenger is 90 years old? And so on and so forth… the likely decision will be the simplest: apply the brakes, deploy airbags, honk the horn, protect the occupant, and hope you don’t hit the child.

          “if the decision is to not swerve and the AV hits the child than a person other than the passengers decided the fait of that child and will therefore be responsible for their death..so who will that be….it has to be someone….educate yourself a bit by reading this…”

          Yes, it does have to be someone, and thankfully we already know the answer to this, because it hasn’t changed: the child is responsible for the child’s death. That’s how this works! If you are driving down the street, perfectly legally, and a child jumps out in front of your car and you run them over because you had no time to brake, you are not at fault. Nothing changes here! It doesn’t matter who made the decision. A person is going to die, accidentally, as a result of this silly hypothetical. If you are driving, and you kill the child… it’s the child’s fault. If you are driving, and you kill yourself swerving to avoid the child… it’s the child’s fault. If AI is driving, and it kills the child… it’s the child’s fault. If AI is driving, and it swerves to avoid the child and kills you… it’s the child’s fault.

          You keep implying and even outright stating that hitting the child will result in someone other than the child being responsible for the child’s death, when that is simply not how this works. It’s not how it worked in the past. It’s not how it works today. It’s not how it will work in the future.

          The fact that we’re talking about, quite frankly, ridiculous hypotheticals… what if 10 Vietnam Veterans mysteriously pop out of nowhere in the middle of the street, and your options are to run them down killing them all, swerve off the Golden Gate Bridge killing yourself, or turn on to the sidewalk killing a 10 year old who would’ve found the cure for cancer… WHAT DOES THE AV DO AND WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATHS!? Goes to show you just how weak the arguments against mass scaled AV are.

        • alex in san jose says:

          Alister – An interesting happening back in the 80s, it happened literally right in front of me. A fairly high-speed road, coming to an intersection with another fairly high-speed road. A lady was coming off the hill of the first high speed road, the light turned red and she had to stop, and her brakes were out! She opted to crash into the traffic light control box, a think almost as tell as me and fairly substantial. Her car got busted up, the traffic control box got smashed pretty good too, and her about 10-year-old son got a broken leg. All in all pure win except Mom probably should have kept tabs on the fluid levels in her brakes and prevented the whole thing. Would a robot car make this decision? The alternative would have been to shoot into the cross traffic, causing at least a few fatalities.

      • polecat says:

        I say we ditch the self-driving autos, and just let our personal Terminators do all the mundane errands … ‘;]


  3. Ron says:

    I recently looked at replacing my Prius and using Uber for around town travel. Costs were out sight relative to owning and operating the Prius. Frankly I was disappointed but before I dump my around town vehicle to use Uber driverless vehicles the costs need to come down bigly.

    • RangerOne says:

      Sure but Uber can actually bottom out prices, once they don’t have to pay a driver.

      I still don’t see it being cheaper than owning unless they subsidize the maintenance with city public transit money. But that may happen as well.

      Cabs could essentially become a core piece of public transit with no need to employee drivers. I would almost guarantee Uber envisions a portion of its profits coming from government funding in the future almost like a public utility.

      • Kent says:

        Let’s see if I can tag things:

        Central Florida cities pay for Uber rides

      • Drivetimer says:

        Don’t use Uber as a means to estimate anything. Uber is losing $900 million dollars per quarter. They don’t know how to run a transportation company; they don’t know anything except how to burn through venture capital as fast as humanly possible. Looking at Uber will not show you a realistic view of the future.

        • Marko says:

          Public transit companies burn through money, too. In that respect, Uber is ready to function as a public transit company.

      • Hiho says:

        Uber business model is based on shifting capital risk and cost onto drivers, why in the earth would they buy their own fleet?

        This uber bullshit about AV is just smoke and mirrors to lure more stupid money in.

    • alex in san jose says:

      Ron – back before the crash I figured my Prius cost me $600 a month to own and operate. Theoretically, I could have kept it and just slept in the thing, or found places to camp out.

      I think a Prius is cheaper to own/operate now, because my payment was $380-odd a month. Shared room, or Prius? You decide!

  4. donpublic says:

    I presume there will be a “fail safe” switch or red panic button on the dash for the consuming passenger to turn off the artificial intelligence and unlock the doors to facilitate an exit should there be an intelligence malfunction —“crime?”—in progress, say while riding through a no go zone doing 50mph hitting pedestrians at random?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Don’t we already have human drivers doing those kinds of crazy things?

      • polecat says:

        The first AI vehicle I see I’m gonna lasso that puppy .. and ride standing up, bronco style ….. whilst spray-painting all the sensors !!

        • Lucy says:

          Better be the first one then, because it will quickly be a felony to make any modification to an AI car…. even if you own it.

        • Smingles says:

          And then be held liable for causing an accident and deaths of innocent people?

          You really thought that through, didn’t you?

      • Kraig says:

        Yes and passengers can act as fail safe (look at all the emergency stops on public transit) if you consider the AI a bus driver (even for a bus of one) or taxi driver rather than an Uber drivers or car driver then there is appropriate regulation in place.

  5. Jarhead John says:

    Thank you Wolf—Yes I do insist…

  6. Emanon says:

    ‘Unneeded garages will be repurposed into “functioning living space,” which would require “complete overhauls.” This would benefit the home repair and remodel industry.’

    Has this writer ever looked at the garages in most homes where a woman is living?

    It is quite common for women to fill the house up with so much junk that they take over the garage and use it as a storage area.

    It’s frustrating for men who then have to park their cars outside and let them slowly rust away. It also makes auto maintenance and repairs at home next to impossible.

    Women will ‘repurpose’ every damn room in the house once they have a ring on their finger and their husband’s credit card in their purse.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      My brother has a garage like that, but it’s his crap that is filling the garage.

      And I have a friend who has an old disassembled single-prop plane and a spare motor in their two-car garage. It has been waiting for restoration I don’t know how many years. So they park their cars outside, under a tree that drops icky stuff on their cars.

      So yes, not all garages will be repurposed into living space — and women may not have anything to do with :-)

    • ft says:

      I don’t think women have a monopoly on junking-up garage space; it is an asexual phenomenon and it has been going on for a long time. For example, there are 52 house garages on my block. When I moved here in 1995, only four of them were used to store a vehicle. Now it’s down to one. I was one of the four but am not the one.

      Driverless cars are probably going to be a common reality at some point. I think the systems that support them will be much more expensive to individual users and to taxpayers than anyone predicts, and they will largely morph into driverless busses. The biggest cost will be the gradual loss of individual control over our freedom of movement, which in my opinion is an unacceptable cost. Faithless I am.

      • Kraig says:

        Agree although I think there will be enough demand esp in us for AI assisted cars. ( We already have breathalyser equipped vehicles that courts can mandate, make things like that and intelligent speed control mandatory and you make humans drivers safer, the AI stops them from dangerous speeds, drunk driving, getting too close to car ahead for safety, while the human stops the AI from suddenly flying up the pavement or over bridge that’s out. (Since the cars can talk to each other you can react Tina situation much earlier. Perhaps like mainline compatible steam train here current cars will have to have a dashboard box so they can pick up AV signals and warn other drivers of braking,hazards ahead etc.

        • Drivetimer says:

          “Since the cars can talk to each other”

          Sorry, the AV cars of this generation, whether Level 3, 4 or 5 category, do not talk to each other. This is a common response among the pro-AV community: whenever an intractable problem comes up, it is always explained away by saying the cars will avoid the problem by communicating.

          If any programmers out there know the current specs better than I do, please speak up and let us know whether the AV cars expected on the road in two years will be following universal communication standards. Remember, every car has to be communicating with the same protocol or there is no point. You can’t have Fords talk only to Fords. I know of no company currently promoting it’s proven software to become the universal standard.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          AVs can talk to each other … they’re part of the Internet of Things … but there currently aren’t enough AVs out there to talk to.

          Your smartphone is already talking to other smartphones. Check your mapping software, the red lines of traffic jams… that’s the product of smartphones talking to Google talking back to smartphones. That’s how the Internet of Things works. It goes through a wireless connection to servers and data centers where it gets processed, stored, etc., and then the newly combined data goes back out to devices. That technology is now totally common. AVs are no different. They’re just another device in the Internet of Things.

        • SysEngGal says:

          Wolf, The IOT is not applicable to the REAL-TIME communications required for AV behavior coordination. IOT is not actually real-time; close enough for your map or your household appliance, but NOT for control/response of moving vehicles. For control system communication, REAL-TIME protocols and operating systems are required.

      • alex in san jose says:

        ft – my boss has his garage full of electronics stuff, a drill press, a Smithy that’s been extensively modified and “hotrodded”, tons of machine tool stuff, and God knows what.

        His wife doesn’t have a chance. She had an “art room” until No. 2 son moved back home. The room I sleep in could make a decent art room but it’s full of stuff that her husband’s computer and electronics junk has pushed out of other spaces.

        It’s too bad … I’d really not mind sleeping to the smell of oil paints, I’d like it actually.

    • Mary says:

      Eamon, You’ve got your stereotypes wrong. MEN junk up garages. Women junk up bathrooms.

    • IdahoPotato says:

      Every single thing in my garage except one pair of shoes and one paid of garden shears in used exclusively by the male resident of my house.

    • Brian M says:

      I never realized that wolf was channeling comments from 1957!

  7. Lune says:

    I believe AVs will be a huge disrupter, but not so sure of the rideshare hype. For most people, uber/lyft is just a cheaper taxi. It’s not some drastically new service. And that cheaper part will disappear once investors tire of subsidizing billion dollar losses at uber and lyft every year.

    Most of the changes mentioned in the article aren’t predicated on either technology per se, but an assumption that people will give up private ownership of cars. That will not happen. There’s no reason why people won’t buy their own AV. And the first time they lend their car to a rideshare company and it either doesn’t come back in time because it’s driving someone two hours away, or it comes back with vomit, will likely be the last time they let their car be shared.

    Even parking lots won’t disappear, merely be displaced: if your car could park itself, then you have no problem having it drive 10 miles away to a cheaper lot outside of downtown. But it still needs to park.

    Anyway, there will no doubt be many changes, but predicting the future is a hard business. IMHO, a far bigger factor is people’s desire now to live in more dense areas. If that keeps up, that’ll have far more effect than either ridesharing or AVs.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Correct, it may not be Uber/Lyft. “Rideshare” may mean that the manufacturer continues to own the vehicle and provides the rideshare service. They’re all preparing for that. Ford’s “Mobility” focus is part of that.

      • Lune says:

        Every business wants to convert a one time sale into a lifelong recurring revenue. It’s the epitome of rent seeking. See for example Adobe, who, instead of selling you a one time license and risk that you won’t pay for upgrades on their schedule, now charges a monthly fee to use their software.

        I’m sure Ford would love to do the same. I doubt it will happen. For all intents and purposes, they already own most of their cars. It’s called a lease. Most “owners” of leased cars must comply with restrictions like maintenance schedules and mileage limits or risk having to pay huge penalties.

        What extra profit does Ford expect to eke out by converting a lease into a pay-per-use contract? The vast majority of a car’s expense is fuel and maintenance. Even depreciation, after the first year or two is based on mileage, not age of vehicle. So getting more miles per day out of a fleet doesn’t really lead to significant cost savings.

        Yes, drivers are a big cost factor, but if you own your car and drive yourself, you don’t pay it. Similarly, if you buy an AV, your economics per ride won’t be much more expensive than Ford’s, especially if you buy slightly used.

        IOW, I still don’t see the economic case for Ford to make money providing rides, any more than Uber or Lyft. My suspicion is they’ve jumped on that bandwagon to distract their shareholders from the fact that their primary business is in shambles.

      • Guido says:

        Whenever I hear of Ford making claims, I am skeptical. Ford did not have much success beyond its trucks. Their focus is a licensed technology. I used to work there. People used to wonder why Ford cannot borrow its truck engineers and get them to figure out how to make cars that are robust like that of Japanese or German cars.

        And this was manufacturing, their forte. They were an also ran.

        Now Ford is talking about 2021 for the AV delivery date. Google has been doing this since 2003 and even they are not quite sure about their tech operating like a normal car. Ford, a new entrant to the machine learning field is making claims that beat Google’s. How seriously can we take their claim?

        Do you remember how Ford used to run ads in 2012 that claimed their cars were better than an Accord or Camry? That claim did not pan out well. All they were peddling were Bluetooth in place of a CD player. The underlying crappy manufacturing was still there.

        AV may or may not pan out. I am suspicious about Ford’s chances in that, though.

    • Marko says:

      “Even parking lots won’t disappear, merely be displaced: if your car could park itself, then you have no problem having it drive 10 miles away to a cheaper lot outside of downtown. But it still needs to park.”

      Good point. Another thing to consider is that people will still need to travel during rush hour. A car sits around 95% of the time because the owner does not need a ride most of the time. AVs that handle the rush hour loads will need to go somewhere during off peak hours.

  8. mvojy says:

    Think of all of the special tax revenue that cities get from parking garages. It would all be lost when people no longer need a car or to pay for the high price of urban parking. Then you have to think of all of the parking ticket revenue being lost as well. Future mayors of the big cities will finally have to reign in their spending.

    • Marko says:

      Interesting to see how this effects the consortium that bought the next seven decades of Chicago’s parking meter revenue. The Chicago Parking Meter deal has been widely criticized, but it may turn out to be quite a good deal if AVs drive to the suburbs or big parking lots during non peak hours and no longer park on the curb. Maybe Chicago lucked out and sold at “Peak Parking.”

  9. JB says:

    Spot on article . I heard a realtor on the radio say that currently many new home buyers (particularly the millennials) in urban environments would only purchased a home that was located in a rideshare market.

  10. prepalaw says:

    Would never step into one of those things (driverless vehicle). I value my freedom too much. You step in for a trip to the airport. The vehicle detours to your local police station for de-briefing about why you read and comment so much on Wolf Street. That is not as far fetched as it sounds.

    • TJ Martin says:

      Ten points to the gentleman in I assume pre-law .

    • Greg says:

      That’s funny made my morning. I read wolf street regularly. Guess that makes me a subversive .

    • david says:

      More likely, “Zero Hedge.” Then you’re screwed. ;)

      • alex in san jose says:

        I already assume I’m on every kind of list. Just joined the DSA, Bernie’s group, for instance.

  11. nick kelly says:

    When someone says something will happen in 20 years this is code for saying they have no idea when it will happen.

    They are saying it will happen in the future.

  12. TJ Martin says:

    OK … sorry Wolf but there’s a serious logical disconnect going on here . On one hand the pundits are saying the future of AV’s is imminent .. yet at the same time are deluding themselves into thinking parking lots and dealerships will become passe’ ? What the _____ !

    Seriously ? And just where in the hell do said pundits think those AW’s will be purchased never mind parked ?

    And isn’t the whole point behind AV’s supposed to be the continuation into perpetuity of the automotive industry despite the fact that the automotive economy self drive or autonomous needs to wither and die ASAP ?

    Honestly .. when I read quotes like those in the article not to mention a very dysfunctional congress and senate wasting precious time on such abjectly futile measures that at best are a good 50 years away as the increase of technological improvements slows down exponentially while ignoring immediate needs such as infrastructure , medical care etc ..

    … any hope I might hold out for this rapidly growing Collective Stupidity of ours rapidly wanes into the sunset .

    • Suzie Alcatrez says:

      Parking can be located miles away. No need for each building to be surrounded by enough parking spots for their 10th busiest day.

      Drop you off at the door the. Drive 2 miles away to the parking garage. Summon your car when you are ready to leave.

    • polecat says:

      No worries ! … All those busy AI bees will be wisked away, to be held is storage on a slow-moving super-sized floating pig drone .. awaiting the next transmitted command order, courtesy of your friendly nieghborhood brainiac/psychopathic C • E • O .. !

    • Guido says:

      We live in times where everybody talks of hyper loops, mars trips, and self driving cars as if they have no risks at all.

      I suggest we should get the AI engineers, the bezos’ and musk’s, the rah-rah journalists to make the first trips.

      Especially, with that hyper loop. I can think of so many journalists that don’t tire of singing praises of it. Anybody who thinks it is a great idea should be on the inaugural hyper loop. The rest of us hoi-polloi can use these case studies to understand risks involved.

  13. Vespa P200E says:

    AV is pipe dreams for the automakers. Can’t come soon enough with car sales-apocalypse.

    That said 1 fatality accident by hapless pedestrian or rare situation beyond algo (not to mention initial release software bug) will shut it down for months.

  14. Kent says:

    I’m not certain why making a car autonomous changes any of today’s dynamics. If you prefer a taxi to owning a car today, how does getting rid of the driver change anything?

    The concept must be that there are millions of people who currently prefer to own their car than to use taxi services. But would prefer taxi services if the price was dramatically reduced because you could get rid of the driver.

    So the question is “is that true?”. I don’t know. Secondly, AV’s are going to be much more expensive than non-AV cars due to sensor costs + proprietary software. Does the shared cost of the driver make that huge of a difference? I don’t know that either.

    And as for the garage thing: my HOA requires all homes have at minimum a 2 car garage. Also, you are NOT allowed to park your car outdoors overnight (must be in the garage). Almost all cars are parked outdoors all night because the garages are storage areas for junk.

    • Suzie Alcatrez says:

      So you can never own more than 2 cars??

      Seems like you might need an autonomous car to park outside your HOA.

    • Smingles says:

      “The concept must be that there are millions of people who currently prefer to own their car than to use taxi services. But would prefer taxi services if the price was dramatically reduced because you could get rid of the driver.

      So the question is “is that true?”.”

      I would say yeah. Particularly for the urban dwellers and younger generations.

      I have a car. I don’t enjoy driving it 99% of the time. Given that I own it, though, it doesn’t make sense for me to pay for ridesharing services except when I’m going out drinking (basically the only time I use Uber). But in a hypothetical future where you can ‘summon’ an autonomous car for relatively cheap, I could see it being my primary mode of transportation. I don’t expect it to be this ubiquitous for 10-20 years, though. But I do still expect them to be on the roads, and fully capable, well before then.

  15. James says:

    Have you driven in Florida ? (….ok, Not over last weekend but behind a elderly driver doing 15 in a 40)

    But the rise of the machines (AV) will most likely in the first generations be like having a slow, agonising painful vehicle taking up road space. For those who enjoy driving.

    -South Florida is a dangerous place to drive as the standard of the drivers, is beyond poor…..ok, most of Florida (not singling out immigrants or the elderly). Would the average driving standards actually statically improve with more AV…..? Yes.
    -less drunk driving
    -less distracted drivers (ie texting)
    -mental zen

    I’m like Wesley Snipes from the movie Passenger 57. I am not the best at not being in the drivers seat.
    -first generations AV will suck, and be unable to interpret the road. (Think about taking a right, on a Red after making a complete stop….?) not if the car in front of you is an AV. Ok, first generation will suck. Something a little as a sticker on a speed sign confuses an AV….will the default be driving the speed limit? (Try doing 15 in a 40)
    -learned helplessness with grow, as the next generation will opt not to learn.
    -as Wolf mentioned, some housing communities will suffer. The Real Estate business has the walking score, which will become more valuable.

  16. Bobber says:

    Great, now Google will know the shape of my arse and my weight too.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      It probably already knows that :-)

      • alex in san jose says:

        Hahahaha!! Google-azon sure knows I bought a pair of 34 waist shorts a few months back, then bought 32’s, and in a while will buy 30s. They have a good idea of the proportions of my ass.

    • JB says:

      And don’t forget amazon . They have your complete buying history .

  17. Bobber says:

    Also, can you imagine the level of advertising they’ll put in those AV’s? Step into an AV and you are a captive audience. Google wants to own every second of your attention span.

  18. Alister says:

    I can see it coming….former uber, taxi, truck, FedEx, usps, ups, delivery, dominos….drivers lining up to buy those new homes with all that cryptocurrency they will make sitting around watching vehicles drive themselves selves…letting their kids live in the former garage because that $15 an hour job at Starbucks did not pan out because of the automated barista……yes. …what a future….The only shortage of housing Wolf…..will be the free housing that Uncle sugar will have to provide to keep the masses of basic minimum wage serfs from rioting and revolting in the streets. Good things will not come from this…..

    • Bobber says:

      Yes Alister, and it makes me wonder whether these automated businesses will have any customers at the end of the day. It seems like a self-reinforcing downward cycle. As you automate, you pay your workers less, which reduces demand, which requires more wage cuts and automation. It ends when there are no more workers to cut.

    • TeeJay says:

      Alister – Some CEOs are seeing this same future and have begun floating the idea of a “Guaranteed Minimum Income” for citizens. Welcome to the new (almost) jobless society!

  19. stan says:

    “…that will join the fate of other jobs that have been automated away.”

    might also have read “…jobs that have been taxed away.”

    Take all the taxes off of wages and put them on the automated vehicle and then driverless cars won’t make much sense.

  20. Pat McKim says:

    I do remember as a kid seeing popular mechanics with flying cars everywhere. Then Peter Thiel, who is a bit younger than me, says “They promised us flying cars and all we got was 120 characters.” I have been been in technology since I was at the Naval Academy in the early 1970’s. I used the Navy’s tech and became a budge analyst in the Pentagon after that, then onto the Senate Armed Services Committee working on “Star Wars” among other things. Then material technology and finally for 20 years software / internet technology. The first thing you learn in Navy is “Murphy’s Law.” What can go wrong will. We have people doing stuff on silly smart phone and think this is earth shattering. But it doesn’t really do anything. Wolf says that systems can recognize better than people. In controlled environments yes, but not where Murphy reigns. when lenses get film on them and when problems occurs. Even planes don’t self fly. I will be the Navy’s collision problem occurred because of laziness and an over reliance on technology. What about the pilots in Air France coming back from Brazil because none of them knew how to really fly without instruments and the instruments screwed up. Neil Howe who the fourth turning and understands human nature figures its going to be 20 years minimum. This is being push by people that want to make a disruptive change where it might not be necessary. Supposedly everyone will give up their cars to wait for a non-human taxi to come pick you up?

    Much of this is caused by loose money that allows some companies to burn through cash and just get more printed money from the stock or bond market. In this world a huge feedback mechanism (the cost of money and interest rates and losing money for years) just went away. Everyone thinks anything is possible. The French Revolution occurred during the Assignat Fiat Inflation in France. how did that turn out.

    It won’t work until there are years of experiments. Think of a world where the government controls everything. It can shut down your car and lock you in your house.

    this could easily be another example of where the government says its working just great, like the economy.

    I don’t buy the BS and won’t be an early adopter. Being an early adopter of a personal computer (1986) gave me huge upside and no downside. This has huge downside and little upside.

    Read the Rise and Fall of American Productivity. Lots of free money is being spent on this and no tough testing has yet been made.

    Eventually the rubber will meet the road and it will be back to the drawing board for forgetting Professor Murphy.

    what a joke.

    • alex in san jose says:

      Pat McKim – Hell I’ve got some Navy stories and I wasn’t even in the Navy.

      Some piece of electronic equipment mounted in a rack with sliders so it can be pulled out like a drawer for maintenance. Guy in charge of approving it pulls it out and SITS on it, and the rails etc buckle. “Nope! Not sailor-proof!”.

  21. Old Farmer says:

    A friend bought a Tesla so that she could use the autopilot feature to be driven to work (East Bay to Palo Alto). What she found was that there are stretches of road where that functions well, and other regions where it doesn’t and you have to drive. I suspect that AV will develop along those lines–there will be places where it works well, and places where it doesn’t. The automobile is only half of an invention–the roads are the other half. And many roads are not up to AV requirements (poorly marked lanes, inadequate signage, etc.).

  22. Wu says:

    I find it unbelievable that you didn’t mention Tesla in this news. Tesla will have this well before Ford. Stop supporting the big 3 automakers who haven’t turned a profit in years yet have sucked up trillions of dollars from hard working people.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      “Tesla will have this well before Ford.”

      Maybe not, according to data collected by the California DMV and reported in May for the year that ended on November 30, 2016.

      The report shows how many total miles the AVs of various companies drove on public roads in California over the 12-month period without human intervention, and how many miles on average they could drive before human intervention occurred (the “disengagement”). Waymo’s vehicles drove on average 5,127 miles per disengagement; Ford’s vehicles, 196 miles, Tesla’s vehicles 3 miles per disengagement. I’m no judge of this, I just show what data I can get:

      Waymo/Alphabet/Goggle: 635,867 miles driven, 5,127 miles/disengagement
      GM/Cruise: 9,668 miles driven, 34 miles/disengagement
      Nissan: 4,099 miles driven, 28 miles/disengagement
      Bosch: 983 miles driven, 0.6 miles/disengagement
      Mercedes: 673 miles driven, 2 miles/disengagement
      BMW: 638 miles driven, 638 miles/disengagement
      Ford: 590 miles driven, 196 miles/disengagement
      Tesla: 550 miles driven, 3 miles/disengagement


    • Vespa P200E says:

      You’re kidding right?

      “Stop supporting the big 3 automakers who haven’t turned a profit in years yet have sucked up trillions of dollars from hard working people.”

      TSLA has recevied $6.5 billions from US gov meaning taxpayers for peddling cars for the 1%.

  23. Steve M says:

    My understanding is that the on-board computer of an Automated Vehicle is interacting with GPS and other external data sources feeding into it.
    If true, then the biggest hurdle to a world full of AVs would be:
    Russian, Chinese, NSA agents, terrorists, 14-year-old mischief makers.
    Since no one has been able to fully thwart a determined hacker to date, how will anyone or anything stop one from taking over the driving wheel?
    Kind of reminds me of economic models which never take corruption into account.

      • Steve M says:

        That’s not what the word “potential” means.
        The article demonstrates that it already is a problem.
        Thank you for the reply.
        I’ll bring it up to the salesperson years from now when he asks “What’s it gonna take to get you in one of these babies?”

        • Wolf Richter says:


          This is the kind of thing that drives me nuts about the Internet of Things… everything is connected and can get hacked. Thank God I don’t have a pacemaker. I use an analog thermostat and the like, but some day our fridge will go out, and by then we might not be able to get one that is NOT connected to the internet, Corporate America/Asia, governments, and hackers.

          Young people seem to be cool with it, but outside of my computers, my server, and my phone, I want nothing connected to the internet. Alas, my preferences will be obviated by events.

        • Dan Romig says:

          Amen to that Wolf! A ‘Smart Refrigerator’? Hell no! I want my fridge set to keep food and beverages chilled – at a constant temperature. Do I want a fridge that photographs its contents to send me an alert on my smart phone when I’m running low on milk? Of course not, I make a shopping list to take with me when I go get groceries, but Samsung makes these damn things.


          What I would like to have is a smart rear diff on my sport-coupe like BMW and Lexus have.


          As far as human drivers’ quality, Wolf is correct in that many if not most drivers are not that skilled, and AVs would benefit them. Since I just turned 55 years-old, my reflexes are not quite as quick as in days past, but my experience driving in Minnesota for 39 years, and having a high performance car with proper winter and summer tires depending on season, makes me an able driver.

          I would like to watch an AV motor along in a January snowstorm with blowing winds in the Twin Cities to see how far the technology is. My completely open rear diff controlled by brake for traction-control, plus old-school ABS and Dunlop Wintermaxx tires on my ’95 SC400 allow me navigate damn near anything in the winter.

      • Maximus Minimus says:

        I bet, the presidential car won’t be a self-driving car any time soon.

  24. Bin says:

    None of this sounds like a bright future to me. I want to live in an outlying area away from the Crime and undesirables. I enjoy driving and working on my car in the garage.

    • polecat says:

      A Madmax conversion ‘project car’ .. in that garage of yours !

      I took the words ‘crime’ and ‘undesirables’ and extrapolated ..

    • alex in san jose says:

      Bin – Except for the meth lab down the block, the pedo films being made a block over, the credit card scammer in the trailer next door …. trust me just because you don’t hear hip-hop on the street doesn’t mean you’re away from crime in “the rurals”

      Source: Have lived in the rurals.

  25. raxadian says:

    The numbers of crashes will be reduced? Yeah right. Just how many more people needs to die because of self driving cars before they realise the technology is at an alpha stage at best?

    • polecat says:

      All your running man belong to us !

    • polecat says:

      I can just envision ‘the Tech Giants’ .. at the behest of an all knowning, and benevolent CONgress, to allowing a confluence of IA with the Internet of Things, thus forming a synergy of such kafkian horror, that come one day, people everywhere will have to strategize on an on-going daily basis, how to keep from getting .. uh … ‘reborn’ by these bots on wheels, whether inside of them or not !
      The whole premise of this supposed @utonomus vehicle utopia reads like distopian scifi .

  26. Deca says:

    “AVs will make “aging in place” more possible for the elderly”

    Nonsense. I somehow doubt the costs will be any different than calling up a cab today. You think the elderly don’t know how to call a cab?

    You don’t think that local governments won’t be taxing these transactions(since they’ll have less revenue from all the car drivers, mechanics and even car parts stores, gas stations, etc. put out of business)


    “At that point, consumers will spend less on getting around and have more time and money left for other things.”

    Sounds like all the time I was promised for my paper-less office. And I haven’t gotten a dime for the last fifteen years of productivity gains, because workers can’t, it’s built into the system that the owners of capital capture all the gains.

    This story reads like an info-mmercial for bogus technology no one wants. I’m sure that oligarchs are quite excited about a technology that will imprison the vast majority of its users.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      The biggest part of the expense of a taxi or rideshare vehicle is the driver. Take out the driver, and the cost drops by a whole lot. Insurance rates for self-driving cars will be lower too, according to the insurance industry. So costs drop again. And there are other benefits. So do the math.

    • Smingles says:

      ““AVs will make “aging in place” more possible for the elderly”

      Nonsense. I somehow doubt the costs will be any different than calling up a cab today. You think the elderly don’t know how to call a cab?”

      Cabs suck, and I don’t think comparing ‘summoning’ an autonomous car to take you anywhere with calling a cab company and *hoping* they show up is at all a fair comparison.

  27. mean chicken says:

    “We’re already seeing apartment developers shifting to zero parking.”

    Just in time for EV’s and their charging stations?

  28. ML says:

    Sharing a vehicle only works for people that don’t have a need to personalise/customise their car (automobile).

    Reliability is an issue – who would do the servicing and where?

    Roads shared with driverless vehicles? We are going to need separate lanes for each. A bit like bicycle only lanes here in UK.

    Street parking is a thieves paradise as it is.

    Invevtably there will be teething problems, and sceptics. And millions of dollars wasted and lost on failed ideas.

    Don’t take any notice of the insurance companies: they are simply assessing and pricing risk

    I am reminded of the prediction by Daimler motors at the beginning of the c20. The maximum number of cars in the world would never exceed one million. Because there is a limit to the number of chauffeurs.

    Share the car? Be driven by GPS. Bliss – if you like that sort of thing. I look forward to sharing your mobile ohone.

  29. Tristan says:

    Antonymous vehicles will kill homeowners, freeing up inventory.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Human drivers are very good at that. 38,000 people were killed last year in traffic accidents involving human drivers. Many of those killed were homeowners.

      • Kenny Logins says:

        You have to die of something.

        I can see cheaper easier transport being attractive, and a replacement of auto deaths (if the offered safety improvement is to be seen) been made by more sedentary behaviour by people who now take a car more often and die of heart disease and the like.

        All those taxi and lorry drivers now sat at home unemployed and getting fat on bad food because they’re depressed.

        Not that self driving cars will happen any time soon.
        We’ll get some, urban fair weather unicorns.
        The slow path of augmentation to all cars being self driving is decades away at best. Until then expect more ‘aids’ to creep into your manual driving car.

  30. Enrique Bermudez says:

    The reaction of French Taxi drivers’ unions to this dynamic need only be imagined. The AVs of Paris 2027 will function quite nicely for their scrap metal value in being turned into barricades rather quickly I would think.

    And the reaction of everyone else who is “disrupted” out of their livelihoods in one way or another. Truck drivers. Teamsters. A new age of anti-capitalist radicalism. Can see this happening a million miles away.

    Can the “internet of things” truly manage active resistance from 21st Century Luddites? Can the “internet of things” withstand some large-scale technical disruption to its intrinsic architecture? (Not saying the current infrastructure of society can well manage this either, mind you.)

    The best growth industry will be in ever more security/surveillance to counteract what will surely be some rather vigorous resistance from actual people I think.

  31. yooper says:

    Build them, people will come…. they will come from far reaches of the world, but build them, people will come.
    People are blindly marching down the path of being totally controlled in the name of technology. Does it produce a better world. Most definitely. But , whose world , my idea, your idea, AIs’ idea. Stay tuned, Hunger games is about to begin.

  32. Maximus Minimus says:

    This summer I was testing a street navigator software, something the self driving cars will rely on. I was trying to get on the highway, and usually used an well known access point, but the navigator was suggesting a different one. So I took the suggestion, and when I got to the access point notices there is a illegal right turn sign. So I ignored the navigator, turned at a traffic circle and returned to my original location. At that point the navigator was so confused that it directed me east instead of west.
    The whole point is that had I followed the navigator, I would have made an illegal turn, and would have been hopelessly lost if I did not know the area.
    I know of a similar story with Google navigator that resulted in a number of fines. The navigator did it excuse did not work with the police.

    • cdr says:

      People infatuated with self driving cars ignore and dismiss stories such as this. Fantasy thinking prevails.

      Self driving cars are almost a litmus test for immediately finding out who is technically oriented and who is technically infatuated and fantasy oriented. A self driving car enthusiast appears to actually believe that all problems are nearly solved and it’s ready for a ramp up for serious testing. Real world details don’t register at any level with these people. Remember, experts are working on this and any problem that can’t be addressed logically is OK to ignore and it’s OK to be dismissive towards the people with the issues, thus making self driving cars a practical reality very soon. Just ignore what doesn’t work and it all works!

    • alex in san jose says:

      Maximus – When I’m giving someone directions to the shop here, I tell them to use Google Maps but do not use Google directions because “computers don’t drive” – just look at where the shop is, it’s easy. (But not for a computer at Google, apparently.)

  33. Ambrose Bierce says:

    being a former big rig driver let me say you are better off with a computer guiding that machine. i don’t see this as a real economic game changer, although it does promote the notion you can live anywhere with a set of solar panels and water purification, a hydroponic garden, and a vehicle that will take you to the doctor a hundred miles away. people still have social needs. we are conditioned to gather in groups and yell at talent-less musicians. just as that extra space in the garage was already taken.

  34. peteybee says:

    IMO, the immediate effect of AV’s will be to make traffic worse.

    Partly as a side effect of extra caution needed to ensure safety.

    I get Wolf’s point about “compared to sloppy humans”, but the “elederly FL driver” metaphor is a valid point as well. Picture this – there is a line of cars waiting to merge onto a congested highway in a NYC or Jersey suburb with aggressive drivers. The car at the front of the line is playing it safe- and all the drivers going by and not letting it in know . . . sucks for everyone behind that car, no?

    Another factor leading to increased traffic will be that AV’s can do stuff like go find their own parking etc, circle around aggressively to do so. Part will be simply because it becomes less of a hassle to drive for some people, and there will be more cars on the road.

    Moreover, I have a feeling auto manufacturers will lobby to alter the construction standards of roads to make them more computer-friendly – and this will mean even more sprawling land use.

    The real solution to the problem of urban/suburban transport is increasing vehicle occupancy. AV’s seem to lead toward the opposite.

    • Marko says:

      “The real solution to the problem of urban/suburban transport is increasing vehicle occupancy. AV’s seem to lead toward the opposite.”

      This is a good point. Thinking of commuter rail, the benefit is that you are not stuck in traffic when going downtown for work and you don’t have to find a place to park. With an AV, you no longer are stuck in traffic, since it flows more smoothly than when humans drive and you don’t worry about parking the car when you get to your office tower. Compared to the train, you don’t have to share the AV with hundreds of other people and it picks you up at your house.

      As an urban planner that dislikes what cars have done to our built form, I am hoping for the best regarding AVs, but I am expecting the worst.

  35. Shawn says:

    Call the technology behind AVs what you will, but it’s not AI. AI code principles are being used but the real reason we have self driving cars today is due to Big data and engineering advances. AI has been around since 1956. The Japanese had a Manhattan type project on it in the 1980s and today, we are no closer to having real artificial intelligence than we were back then. Sure computers can now beat Grand masters in chess but that’s because they are a lot faster then they were 30 years ago. Yes, AVs are coming, sure they might drive a lot better than humans. Though if that were the case, shouldn’t have autonomous military drones by now (think Vulture droids in Star Wars), given that military technology is usually 10-20 years ahead of civilian tech. So, lets try to separate AI as a field of study from all the silicon valley hype.

  36. Kasadour says:

    I think it’s fun to talk about AVs, but the reality is that individuals aren’t going to give up the driver experience.

    We own a 2016 BMW 750 xDrive, and it’s a thrill to drive. I’d say it’s partially AV: It’s equipped with safety features like blind spot assist, active lane keeping, brake assist, advanced collision warning . . .in my opinion it makes my husband LESS careful as he becomes a bit reckless with a false sense of security. I told him these features only go so far, and they do. There are just too many conventional cars on the roadway, even here in Oregon. All it takes is one small clip of the fender at 80 mph and it’s game over.

    There will be no true autonomous vehicles filling the roadway. And besides, the transition it too great. There would have to be massive changes in the legal structure to handle such a transition.

    In AVs, drivers will still have the ability to manually control the AV, right? It could be problematic if reaction times diminish because of the false sense of security AV owners will have when operating one, especially at high speed.

    When we were in a Germany, we rented a brand new Mercedes with all the drive assist and crash prevention features- I told my husband to disengage it and drive. We got up to 260 kph on the autobahn between Roerhmond NL and Düsseldorf- it absolutely scared the you-know-what out of me, but that car was built for speed. So why not? Someone in a Ferrari passed us on the left. Crazy German drivers.

    • Dan Romig says:

      Yet as of the year 2013, the number of road fatalities per 1 billion vehicle-kilometers in Germany was 4.9. In the US, it was 7.1 (Wikipedia). Why? Because German roads are much better built and maintained, and German drivers have a much more stringent licensing procedure to go through. Crazy German drivers are better drivers.

      I have been in the back of a Mercedes cab outside of Munchen doing 180 kph, and it was smooth as silk! We were not the fastest by far, but it felt perfectly fine, and it made me frustrated to drive so slowly back at home for a bit.

      • Kasadour says:

        Yes, I know the German highways are awesome. They’re flat and I believe built of concrete not asphalt. As fast we were going, peeps were passing us too.

        We drove through Italy, too, on a different occasion- Milan to Venice to Rome. What a difference a country makes. I think we must have gone through 100 tunnels. The Italians don’t believe in mountain passes. They just bore through and make tunnels. Lots and lots of tunnels.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      It’s risky to extrapolate from a sample of the size n = 2 to the rest of the universe. You’re liable to get some sampling error :-)

      • Kasadour says:

        There are 250 million conventional cars on the roadways in the United States. There exists an infrastructure built for and around these cars. We are an automobile-centric society and we love cars. Cars are awesome.

        Cars are built more and more to promote and enhance driver experience. Who’s going to give up the driver experience for an AV? They may as well take the bus.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Almost everyone I know who lives in the Bay Area would rather NOT drive on a daily basis. It’s a total mess here. You spend a lot of time sitting in traffic or looking for parking. It’s expensive. Traffic tickets (generated by cameras) and parking tickets are important revenue sources for municipalities. And they’ll get you. In rural areas, driving may be fun, but not so much in the congested areas where a lot of people live. It’s just a hassle.

        • alex in san jose says:

          Wolf that’s my experience here in the Bay Area too. Yeah we have our car nuts but in general, the vast majority would rather not have to do “utility” driving if they have an alternative. Plus there’s the whole doing out and partying thing, getting caught drunk driving can be a life changer.

          And a friend 15-20 years older than me. It takes him 45 minutes to get from his house in old-town Santa Clara to Vishay on the other side of 101 and I was amazed the he just started riding the bus. “It’s the same 45 minutes, but it’s their gas, and I can read a book”.

        • Kasadour says:

          Sitting in traffic anywhere in the US wouldn’t be more or less miserable in an AV. I’d prefer to be in full control. But that’s me.

        • Smingles says:

          “Cars are built more and more to promote and enhance driver experience.”

          What driver experience? Most Americans live in cities (about 80%). There is no driver experience. It’s a grind. Leisurely Sunday drives don’t exist any more for most people.

          “We are an automobile-centric society and we love cars. Cars are awesome.”

          You might want to look at the rates of people getting drivers licenses… they’re plummeting. And it’s not just the younger crowd, either.

          “Who’s going to give up the driver experience for an AV? They may as well take the bus.”

          Who’s going to give up the driver experience for a taxi? They may as well take the bus. Well, that was an easy argument to dismiss.

        • Kasadour says:

          Whatever. I enjoy driving for the most part. Don’t you?

          Sure, I don’t like traffic, and I wouldn’t wanna be stuck in an AV in a traffic jam unless I could disengage the controls and break traffic laws of my own volition (not that I would), otherwise I could take a train or a bus.

          And come on, you don’t know that cars are built for driver experience? Really? People aren’t going give up control of their motor vehicle, they’re just not. I’ve been in the car business for over 20 years. It’s not going to happen.

          The safety features (called Distronic Plus on Mercedes models) can sometimes be annoying when all you want to do is drive a bad-ass car with some serious throat. Get real.

    • Maximus Minimus says:

      Those are close to speed of that Formula 1 cars in straight sections of the track, and they have spoilers to prevent them to take to the air, having the shape of airplane wings.

  37. Vichy Chicago says:

    I was just starting to get used to operator-less elevators and now I have to deal with AV!

  38. mvojy says:

    Will there still be gas attendants in the future? Will AV’s just pull into a gas station and fill up their own tanks? Seems like the future is full of jobless people sitting outside, homeless watching the robots living the life we humans used to.

    • cdr says:

      A conundrum. The flaw in the system. It was all so perfect until you noticed this problem.

      Well, self driving cars are going to be perfect providing you work hard to ignore all the problems that exist and the likelihood none will be solved (outside of the spectacle of public tests and their press releases) for decades.

      Like so many things that surround us, the only problems that exist are the ones people forget to ignore. Self driving cars are almost foolproof and will be common on the road in three years, according to my analysis that looks at the only things that actually matter to true believers.

      Why oh why would so many companies be testing them now otherwise? (Secret: they use x-ray robot vision to see things people can’t and their programmers used AI so that the robots figure out what it all means without human intervention. Then they use robot wireless to keep the other robot cars informed as their hive mind grows secretly.)

      No, really, they use tech that nobody outside the robot car R&D departments knows anything about. Laser and radar scanners that multi-thread and processors with a hundred cores that parallel process. Not even Intel knows about them. Or the Air Force. It’ll be a big surprise in three years when the robot cars appear in showrooms.

      Seriously, this must be what self driving car true believers think, or something similar. Techno illiterates. – Very similar to the people who think the Draghi’s ECB plan is exactly as he publicly promotes.

      • Alister says:

        Can’t wait for one of those northeast ice storms that knock out power for a week…. while all those electric AV owners sit idle..I will enjoy driving my big ass v8….
        wonder what Tesla suggests to do when there is a major power outage?

      • cdr says:

        Or will people not be concerned about the disclaimers that robot cars can’t see the center line under fresh snow? They will happily wait (since these cars won’t have steering wheels or pedals) until the snow melts or until the robot snow plow comes along?

        Or will the xray vision in the robot cars prevail and heroically bring everyone home like a big St Bernard? Yes, the trillions to quadrillions of (fantasy) RF sensors newly buried on the center lines and boundaries will tell our hero how to stay in the lane. Good government makework for the robot car makers?

        • Guido says:

          Hello cdr,
          This is Elon here. I have lately been running out of ideas to milk the tax payers.

          Thank you for the buried RF sensor idea. This is a great idea as the Chinese won’t be able to dump their stuff in the market and ruin the party (the way they killed the solar party). This is a better idea than my self driving car where a passenger lost his head, pardon the pun. If I can convince the swamp that only I can bury RF sensors, I am all set until the next big idea.

          Time to contact the CNN reporter with man-love for me. You wouldn’t believe how I got them to convince that Iron Man comics came after my Tesla idea. CNN had better luck with that meme than the one with the rumors they spread in the last election. Well, you win some and they lose some.


        • cdr says:

          Sorry elon, robot road de-icers are coming in V2.0. The design is still secret. Thanks for the govt subsidy idea. Maybe the Chinese want to kick in? Sell you some shares?

  39. raxadian says:

    Self driving cars won’t be cheap. And they will have to be replaced every few years. At least for the first decade or so it will be actually more expensive. Unless they pull a Uber and operate at loss.

    Not to mention that while power plants and peacemakers aren’t safe from hackers, a self driving car is basically a dummy yelling “Hit me!”

    And driving the elderly? Are they crazy? What if someone has a heart attack? Do you trust the car AI to call 911?

    Seldf driving would be perfect for trains, but for cars, us still decades too early.

    Not to mention self driving cars and robots will have to pay taxes…

    Honesty there are way too many reasons why the world is not ready for self driving cars. And even if the laws are made and people gets used to it, having a vehicle that depends on the Internet or a very least a GPS doesn’t make me feel safe.

    Is bad enough that you car can get hacked, now they want a car that gets hacked and you have no control over?

  40. John K says:

    Following the lead of other technologies, self-driving cars will make us even more stupid and lazy than we’ve already become.

    There once was a time when we made an effort to remember things. now there’s no need because you can do a search.

    There was once a time when we knew how to get to particular places, or figured it out by looking at a map or by asking directions. Now there’s no need because your phone bleats out the route turn-by-turn. Self-driving cars will make us even weaker since we won’t have to pay attention at all to the routes by which we are transported.

    There was a time when we patiently waited, and exercised extended concentration. Today, if your electronic device does not respond instantly, you go on to something else.

    There was a time when we expected that preparing food takes time, and that more time will be spent cleaning up after a meal. Today, the ideal food needs to be instant, and require no cleanup (search for “why millennials don’t eat cereal”).

    There was a time when people thoughtfully listened — often for extended periods of time — to what another participant in a conversation was saying, and then thoughtfully replied to what the person had said. Today, conversation has been largely displaced by tweets and snaps, and what passes for conversation consists of short bursts of characters and “emojis”.

    There was a time when people thought nothing of walking several miles to go to school or work. There’s no such need today, when you can summon an alleged Uber or Lyft “contractor” to haul your lazy behind a block or two. This latter practice will become even more common as the “contractors” lose their “contracts” to automation.

    It seems the ultimate goal of technology is to make humans so weak (in particular humans who have some financial resources) that they cannot think or physically function, thereby finding themselves both in a mental state in which they cannot resist advertising, and in a physical state in which they actually need all the advertised items to function. (Heaven help us if self-driving cars “entertain” us with advertising while they transport us.)

    I, for one, look forward to creating a business to cater to such a market. It will be a golden era.

    • John Henderson says:

      Thank you.i hope you succeed.we in the western world used to work ,68 hours a week to afford to live in a slum

    • Smingles says:

      Tell me more about how you walked up hill both ways to school. *swoon*

      • Earl Smith says:

        Wasn’t to school, but rather to work.

        As a submarine officer, the boat tended to always have a down angle when I went aft to work in the engineering spaces, then change to a up angle when it was time to head forward again.

        No snow, but the weather was rather constant inside the pressure hull.

  41. ed says:

    These vehicles couldn’t possibly ever be hacked, right? Just ask equifax engineers to double check the software to make sure.

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