Friday, July 3, 2015

Autonomous cars in the advanced city

Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar, said this to Yonah Freemark last month:

Would you prefer what we have today, [where] only poor people use [most transit service] and it sucks, or would you rather that poor people use the exact same thing that everyone else is using?

This brought to mind a quote that Chase has no doubt heard from Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá:

An advanced city is not one where even the poor use cars, but rather one where even the rich use public transport.
Peñalosa's quote highlights the false dichotomy that Chase has set up: there are other ways to provide access for poor people besides (a) sucky transit and (b) the exact same thing that everyone else is using. (And really, Chase ought to know that everyone else won't use "the exact same thing." How long did Zipcar offer a single model of vehicle?) As Yonah points out, there are also other options for the non-poor besides autonomous cars that only hold a few people at a time.

Both Chase and Peñalosa make other good points, and both are wrong on other points, but on this point the Strong Towns movement has gathered abundant evidence to back Peñalosa's position. We simply cannot afford to have an advanced city, let alone an advanced society, if we are spending our resources moving so many single individuals long distances at high speeds.

No comments: