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Small fleets of autonomous vehicles reinvent urban transport - and humanize our cities
Dateline: 14 April 2023
I took my son to the Taxi Museum today - you know, that seedy warehouse in downtown New York with a collection of those old vehicles we used to use to travel around the city, with drivers - usually rude - slouched in front and clutching the steering wheel.
It seems such a quaint idea today, as ride-sharing in silent, driverless electric vehicles (EVs) has dramatically reinvented urban transport, bringing to an end the horrific traffic jams of yesteryear - not to mention effectively eliminating road accidents, injuries and deaths.
At one stage, back in 2020 before autonomous vehicles became accepted everywhere, New York's streets were jammed with more than 20,000 of these so-called yellow cabs. There were countless thousands more in other cities, from London to Beijing - all inefficiently driven by humans.
In New York alone, 20,000 pollution-spouting, gas-guzzling cabs have been replaced by a fleet of only 3,500 EVs, continuously circling the city, ready to collect passengers within seconds of the tap of a mobile screen.
Private ownership of cars too has slumped by 70%, as people realized that investing a small fortune in a private vehicle, for it to stand idle more than 90% of its life, is simply stupid economics.
Instead CaaS - Cars as a Service - has become the model. The few people who still own a vehicle usually put it into one of many automatic rental pools when they're not using it. Every motor manufacturer now offers car sharing schemes, as they painfully switch from being old-world industrialists to becoming new-age mobility providers.
And there's a powerful second-order implication; parking has become obsolete! Huge areas of downtown real estate - as much as 60% in some cities - that were previously 'dead' parking lots, have been released for urban renewal. New parks, apartments, schools and offices are springing up everywhere. In past decades we built cities for cars - now we're humanizing them!
Published 19 January 2017
Hazardous Thinking At Work
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