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Science, Inventions & Space Discuss Self-driving cars offer huge benefitsóbut have a dark side at the General Discussion; the economist magazine ('council on foreign relations' magazine) Self-driving cars offer huge benefits—but have a dark side "Huge benefits" for ...

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Old 03-03-2018, 11:16 AM
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Default Self-driving cars offer huge benefitsóbut have a dark side

the economist magazine ('council on foreign relations' magazine)

Self-driving cars offer huge benefits—but have a dark side

"Huge benefits" for "city planners", city dwellers, carmakers and taxing schemes is what the article mainly talks about 1st.
then it talks about some of the social control aspects .
https://www.economist.com/news/leade...r-self-driving
Clean, dream machines

Assuming the technology can be made to work as AV firms expect, it is not hard to imagine the beginnings of the driverless era. Cost means that self-driving vehicles will at first serve as robotaxis, summoned using a ride-hailing app. That way they get used more, offsetting their costs, and provide transport that is cheaper per mile than owning a car, undermining the case for car ownership, at least for townies. UBS, a bank, reckons that urban car ownership will fall by 70% by 2050. Today’s cars sit unused 95% of the time, so a widespread switch to robotaxis would let urban land wasted on parking be reallocated.

AVs would dramatically reduce the number of road deaths and, being electric, cut harmful emissions in places with clean grids. Clever routing, closer spacing between vehicles and dynamic congestion-charging could cut traffic. Like cars before them, AVs will reshape cities (a long commute is easier if you work or sleep en route) and redefine retailing (shops can come to you).

Carmakers will face enormous change (see article); instead of selling to individuals, they will supply fleet operators, or reinvent themselves as “mobility service” providers. Economists and urban planners should rejoice because AVs mean that, for the first time, the unwelcome externalities associated with cars can be fully priced in. In particular, dynamic road-tolling and congestion charging, adjusting the cost per kilometre according to the time of day, level of traffic, length of trip and so on, will allow fine-tuning of entire urban-transport systems. By setting taxes and tolls accordingly, planners can subsidise rides in poor districts, for example, or encourage people to use public transport for longer trips. They can also ensure that the roads do not end up full of empty vehicles looking for riders. Such granular road-pricing is the logical conclusion of existing schemes. Some cities already have congestion-charging regimes, subsidise ride-hailing in poor areas ill-served by public transport, or impose per-ride taxes on Uber, Lyft and their kind.

Panopticons on wheels

For a start, AVs will record everything that happens in and around them. When a crime is committed, the police will ask nearby cars if they saw anything. Fleet operators will know a great deal about their riders. In one infamous analysis of passenger data, Uber identified one-night stands. If, as seems likely, human-driven cars are gradually banned on safety grounds, passengers could lose the freedom to go anywhere they choose. The risk that not all robotaxis will serve all destinations could open the door to segregation and discrimination. In authoritarian countries, robotaxis could restrict people’s movements. If all this sounds implausible, recall that Robert Moses notoriously designed the Southern State Parkway, linking New York City to Long Island’s beaches, with low bridges to favour access by rich whites in cars, while discriminating against poor blacks in buses. And China’s “social credit” system, which awards points based on people’s behaviour, already restricts train travel for those who step out of line.

...So as robotaxi services roll out this year, and expand to cover wider areas in more cities in the years to come, there is more to think about than technology and transport policy. Experiments with different pricing schemes, decisions about whether to ban private vehicles from city centres, and license auctions for competing private robotaxi operators sound harmless enough. But collectively they represent a seismic shift for society. Autonomous vehicles offer passengers freedom from accidents, pollution, congestion and the bother of trying to find a parking space. But they will require other freedoms to be given up in return—especially the ability to drive your own vehicle anywhere. Choices about who can go where, when and how are inescapably political in nature....
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