Sunday, January 17, 2016

Can You Afford To Be A Future Driver?

I am sure that you have all seen the recent headlines. This year of 2016 is taking off with a rush with news about driverless autos. I have been fairly skeptical in the past in my writing about them but there has been much progress lately.

One of the first headlines that I saw was this “Uber Makes Deal to Expand Its Reach Into Public Transit.” Uber wants to let the traditional transit systems remain the “middle miles” of transportation while they take over the “first and last miles”. In this way buses can concentrate on the spines of the system and Uber make the door to door runs for transit riders. This could work in the total absense of fully autonomous vehicles. Just how it plays with the expense of daily trips for the lower income riders will remain to be seen.

Then came the announcement that “GM Invests $500 Million in Lyft, Plans System for Self-Driving Cars.” Ford Motor Co. has also made rumblings of additional research toward driverless vehicles but without a dollar figure.

Then, on the heels of Obama's final State of the Union address, in which he made little mention of the recent FAST Act transportation bill signed on Dec. 4, 2015 yet spoke of actions on the horizon, came this announcement. “U.S. Proposes Spending $4 Billion (over 10 years) on Self-Driving Cars.”

It would look as though the Obama Administration is getting into the promotion of autonomous vehicles.  Anthony Foxx, the Secretary of Transportation, made the first move during the Detroit Auto Show with a statement about an “ongoing effort to see connected and automated vehicles developed, deployed, on the market, and available to US drivers.” Under the President's proposal the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will be in charge in drafting the framework for autonomous driving technology that would encourage consistent rules across all 50 states. 

Mr. Foxx declined to say whether he expected bipartisan support for the proposed $4 billion driverless-car investment in the president’s budget, but given the Republican's penchant for rejecting anything with Obama's name on it, I believe that there is doubt. Is this where the GOP rises up and begins a campaign against the devastating and job-killing “war on cars”?

Some people are already on that track if you consider this, Self-driving cars will kill the auto industry
The trouble is, the traditional auto makers, no matter how hard they try, are not likely to survive in an era of self-driving automobiles. If there is one thing the history of technological disruption teaches us, and we have seen a heck of a lot of it in the last couple of decades, it is that when there is a decisive shift from one technology to another, it is new companies that learn how to use it, not the old ones.”
How quickly will the self-driving car take off?

There has been a lot of investment, and a lot of interest, but so far there are not many cars that you can actually buy. Millennials seem to be shunning the industry as it is since the expense of owning an auto on top of their anticipated student loan payment could break their budget. Those in the lower income levels are rapidly being priced out of car ownership.

People of my generation bought cars for the thrill of driving on the open road. They have also lived with the drudgery of congested roadways and traffic jams. They have struggled with the endless search for limited downtown parking, yet kept the dream of technology that was still in the sci-fi books only a few years ago alive. 

How will they deal with it when it becomes a reality?

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