back to article Are driverless cars the death knell of the motor biz?

If you're a believer, then the autonomous car is a gateway to a brave new world in which you'll never have to waste an hour looking for a parking spot, ever again. An obvious challenge to this vision is whether it encourages traffic-choked, polluting and wasteful behaviour: instead of parking while you visit the supermarket, …

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  1. Falanx

    So what the author is suggesting is...

    ...A bus?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

      Not so much. Buses travel on predetermined routes. The idea being proposed is like a cross between it and a taxi, which unlike the bus has the capability to go anywhere a car can go. Another possible cross would be a lift, where software has to carefully schedule the routes of the cars so as to gather the most people in the quickest amount of time. Imagine a server that keeps track of the cars in service. As it fields calls with pickups and destinations, it can search for the car that can field that request most efficiently, using already-existing trip-planning systems. It's a dynamic routing system, made possible because the system always knows where each car in the fleet is located at all times yet has the flexibility to change the routes as needed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

        I think many commuter that I know prefer the own car over the public tranportation because then they not together with other people. Its their time for relaxing, which would be even better if they would not need to drive.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

          We could all drive where we wanted 30-40 years ago. These days it would be impossible for everyone to own a car and drive it on the roads at the same time.

          Planning everything around the car is also unfair on those who can't drive due to eyesight problems, epilepsy and so on.

      2. Nuke
        Holmes

        @Charles 9 - Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

        Wrote :- "Buses travel on predetermined routes. The idea being proposed is like a cross between it and a taxi, which unlike the bus has the capability to go anywhere a car can go. Another possible cross would be a lift, where software has to carefully schedule the routes of the cars so as to gather the most people in the quickest amount of time."

        Some cities (Bristol is one) and rural areas have such schemes already. But I understand it can take ages to get anywhere with pick-up requests coming in all the time. OK for pensioners who have all day to go and buy a lottery card.

    2. LarsG

      Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

      Well maybe his vision might work in a city, but elsewhere? I think not.

      I have a car because I don't like sitting on bubblegum strewn seats, breathing in other people's bad breath, smelling their sweat, there is no real bus service where I live and no railway station nearby.

      Oh, and except for the odd three car traffic jam, it's a pleasure to drive here.

      I am not a number.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

        Actually, a variant would word well in the countryside. City dwellers have the option of buses, light rail and taxis- or facilities are close enough to just walk or cycle to. Here in a smaller town, public transport is very poor.

        The proposed system would allow young people (even those with driving licenses currently face crippling insurance premiums) to travel to the cinema in the next town, for example. (Only this morning, the local paper tells of a coroner's finding that two young men died in a car crash due to the driver speeding so as beat an 11 PM curfew imposed by his insurance company and enforced by a TomTom-manufactured GPS logger. )

        In the UK, there have been trial schemes of a service akin to a bus/taxi hybrid... one rings up to with a request to travel from A to B, and you are contacted later with the time at which you can expect a minibus to turn up. The idea is to lump together people to make efficiencies in a time when local bus routes are being cut back. It was aimed at an older demographic, and before adoption of the smartphone (a GPS-equipped device can only aid services like this, if its users have the inclination and ability to use one).

        In France, people who never gained a driving licence in the first place (usually the old) may drive a specific model of low powered car, limited to around 30 Mph. Sometimes they are bought by people who have lost their licence due to drink-driving. Also in France, I see that young people are allowed to take passengers on their mopeds.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

          In France, people who never gained a driving licence in the first place (usually the old) may drive a specific model of low powered car, limited to around 30 Mph.

          Ah yes, known in France as "coffins on wheels" ☺

          Sometimes they are bought by people who have lost their licence due to drink-driving.

          It's not quite so simple. A minor excess of alcohol for a first offense will be punished by a suspension of licence, and the driver can still drive a "voiturette". A driver who is further over the limit, or caught a second time, won't just lose his licence, he will be banned from driving, and that applies to all types of vehicle.

          Of course, even voiturettes need to be insured, and someone with a drink-driving conviction will find that to be expensive for any vehicle.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

            >Ah yes, known in France as "coffins on wheels"

            Or as "cars for the blind" in one town in Brittany, at least!

          2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Unhappy

            Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

            "It's not quite so simple. A minor excess of alcohol for a first offense will be punished by a suspension of licence, and the driver can still drive a "voiturette". A driver who is further over the limit, or caught a second time, won't just lose his licence, he will be banned from driving, and that applies to all types of vehicle."

            IIRC the french "over the limit" is 2x the British "over the limit."

            So "quite hammered" by UK standards.

            1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

              Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

              > IIRC the french "over the limit" is 2x the British "over the limit."

              It's the other way around. British limit is 0.8g, French is 0.5g. Penalties get heavier if you're over 0.8g, but there's no automatic ban unless there are aggravating circumstances. That leads a lot of people to assume that they can get away with it once, and contributes to the French road death rate being 2x that of the UK, for the same number of cars,.

    3. Ru

      Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

      Busses aren't that great, due to their inconvenient timetabling and limited routes. Round these parts busses are okay for commuters because there are plenty of services between the centres of employment and sattelite towns and villages, but they're terrible for getting between those villages, for example.

      “why should it be your car?” Why own a car at all?

      People like owning stuff. It can be the size and colour they want, with the features they want, and they can leave all their crap in it whenever they like.

      Already, there's a trend among “millennials” away from car ownership: they use taxis for short trips.

      What's the cost of car insurance for teenagers these days?

      1. annodomini2

        Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

        "What's the cost of car insurance for teenagers these days?"

        For a 17yo, iro £3k-4k

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

          Given they are the highest risk group it's no wonder. There's not a month that goes by without hearing about a car crash and people dead because a teenager smashed their car into a tree or lampost.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

            >> How much to insure a teenager - 3-4K IRO

            > Given they are the highest risk group it's no wonder.

            Any it's nothing to do with them getting fleeced by the insurance industry, no sir move along, nothing to see here.

            Some (horribly rough) finger in the air approximations stats:

            UK population: 70M

            Average life expectance: 70 (or there abouts, for sake of easy computation - it's really closer to 80 IIRC)

            Assuming even distribution of people to age bins (untrue, but it helps correct for the under shoot above) ...

            Roughly 3M 17-19 year olds.

            Let's say 30% drive - 1 M people.

            1M * 4K => 4 BILLION pounds.

            Do teenagers crashing cars really cost that much every year, or are they just a very high margin group who are easy to get money out of because many have no choice but to have a car for work, and all the companies are price fixing ^H^H charging what they can get away with.

  2. Stu J

    Anyone who suggests this doesn't have young kids, as the mess they make is fucking horrific. I don't want to have to clean up after them sufficiently for a complete stranger to use the car at the end of every single journey...!

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Young kids? Try drunks when the bars close for the night. They HAVE to get rides because of their condition, yet their condition leaves them likely to leave some of the worst messes you can imagine in a vehicle.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Once had a hire car and found a pile of sick in the boot.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Young children you would obviously want to escort yourself. However, this system could be used to get older children to a pre-determined location without adult accompaniment (to a rural school, for example, or a friend's house).

      2. Steve 13

        Anyone who has had more than a couple of pints HAS to get a lift of some sort. Their "condition" doesn't make them likely to make any kind of mess though.

      3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        So, the selif-washing car

        A vehicle designed similar to the automatic self-cleaning restroom will be most appropriate in some circumstances. Or, it drives itself to a special washing station, rolls up the windows, and opens the sun roof to let in the soapy water.

    2. MrXavia

      Not to mention you need to be able to choose a car with child seats...

      I would not trust my family to one of these vehicles, as they will clearly be the cheapest they can buy to make the maximum profit.

      I expect the only people to benefit will be those in the towns & cities, all us in the country will be as we are already, cut off without our own cars...

      And really I like my own car, I trust it, it is comfortable, it is reliable AND it is cost effective for me...

      If I take my family on holiday, I can leave things in the car when I go places, do you really want to lug your luggage around after you check out of the hotel one day and you visit your next tourist attraction before leaving for home??? I don't I leave it in the car...

      Do you want to lug that picnic around when you visit a national park, or do you leave it in the car until lunch then fetch it?

      While I am sure some journeys would be cheaper with this, in reality, having a car is more practical for anyone who lives outside of a city and certainly any family people...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Why do people always mistake a concept for particular scenarios to be a suggestion that it is the one and only solution that will exist for all?

        The idea here seems to be commutes with large idle times in between (several hours in the office/ shops/ town/ cinema etc)

        In the case of going on holiday you could rent a vehicle that suits your needs if you use such a service as the one recommended here in your day to day life.

        You could also still own a car but choose not to use it most of the time and save it for night drives, pleasure drives, and long holidays. While making a saving on insurance and petrol by using other forms of service to get you through the commuter hours.

        there are probably a number of other possible scenarios - but in the world no one solution will suit all use cases all the time.

    3. Alfred

      Small kids making a mess?

      Right now they make a mess because they're unsupervised. Parent up front driving. Kids are in the back.

      Not anymore. The car drives itself, leaving a parent able to fucking take charge of their children and not leave the place a right tip for the next user. I would expect that if a parent demonstrated him/herself unable to do this, they'd just get blacklisted and transport would cost them a bloody fortune. Either way, the problem no longer exists.

      1. Nuke
        Thumb Down

        @Alfred - Re: Small kids making a mess?

        Wrote :- "Right now [kids] make a mess because they're unsupervised. Parent up front driving. Kids are in the back. Not anymore. The car drives itself, leaving a parent able to fucking take charge of their children and not leave the place a right tip for the next user"

        Why would they care? - many parents will simply walk away from the mess. At least with a taxi driver he is able to exert some control over the passenger (like not taking a drunk or screaming kids in the first place), or stopping and telling them to get out. But with this proposal, expect last night's shit and vomit on the seats. This aspect is one reason people prefer own cars to public transport even when there is a direct public transport route.

        Wrote :- "[Problem passengers] just get blacklisted ... the problem no longer exists."

        Er, I thought we were supposed to be against ID cards, tracking, etc and all for anonymity here. So how will that work?

        1. Nigel Whitfield.

          Re: @Alfred - Small kids making a mess?

          Because if you're paying for the car, the people operating it know who you are.

          It's exactly the same way clubs in the UK work at the moment; when I use a Zipcar, if it's in a state when I get in, I call them and the last person to rent that car will be asked about it. Similarly if I spot damage when I get to the car. You check the log, and if it's not there, then you call it in and make a note.

          It works very well - for certain types of people. I definitely don't need to have a car sitting outside my flat, which may only get used a couple of times a month. Having one three minutes' walk away that I can use for £6 an hour whenever I need it is great.

          And for those times when I do want to go on a really long trip, I have my old classic car.

          If the Zipcars could drive themselves, I'd be very likely to use them more often; not necessarily to commute, but for things like social events - likely cheaper than a taxi back after the Proms, for example, and I could have a drink too.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    all I'm hoping for...

    is a chance to shaft the car insurance companies out of existence. Anything else is a bonus.

    Let's make the world a better place.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: all I'm hoping for...

      Unfortunately, shafting insurance companies does nothing except put the premiums up for everyone.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: all I'm hoping for...

        AC wasn't using the word 'shaft' to mean defraud (which of course does put up premiums). He was looking forward to a transport system with far fewer accidents, thus greatly reducing the level of insurance required and perhaps the need for many individuals to have to deal with insurance dealers at all.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: all I'm hoping for...

      They have asked the government to pass laws to stop them from overcharging each other when a claim is made.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: all I'm hoping for...

        Of course they have, it's the only way to stop it happening.

        Consider the game theory:

        If Company X overcharges and the others don't, X gets both more revenue and lower running costs than the others. Thus all of them charge each other the most they can possibly get away with.

        If Company Y decides to stop overcharging the others, it simply reduces its revenue. Its costs stay high.

        If companies A, B and C agree not to overcharge each other, they will gain when collisions occur that involve parties insured by those in the 'peering' agreement, but lose out if either party isn't.

        But they don't get to choose who their insured crash into.

        So the only way it can happen is with agreement between all insurance companies - because it only takes one git to ruin the whole thing.

        Thus, legislation.

        Although to be honest, I'd have thought it was already covered by "fraud", because you have a legal duty to minimise losses and I'm really not seeing how "selling the details on to ambulance chasers" and the various other schemes is doing that.

  4. George's Handle

    higher sales ?

    There are many hard-to-predict market effects. With a lower price per mile, more people may make trips. There is a significant chunk of the population who don't have a drivers license (too young, too old). There are a few billion people who don't currently own cars. Their rising incomes will intersect the dropping commuting cost at some point. Also - replacing the fleet with self-driving cars will take some time. The car makers may well see increased sales for a considerable period.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: higher sales ?

      >There are many hard-to-predict market effects.

      The survival of the rural pub, one hopes. Though excessive beer duty might still destroy the hubs of our communities...

      There was a recent story about a county in Ireland that proposed to give some people living in remote locations permission to drive slightly drunk - it was calculated that the health risks of isolation and loneliness outweighed the risks of driving after a few pints on mostly empty roads.

      1. Sparky_Boy
        WTF?

        Re: higher sales ?

        Currently living in Ireland and that suggestion was made by a county council where 5 of those who voted for it were publicans, it was seen as a joke here and an embarrassment when news agencies in other countries picked up on it (reinforced the drunken Irish stereotype).

        Apart from having been voted only by councillors who had a vested interest, this was so wrong for several other reasons. Firstly, drunk driving incidents occur regardless if you're over the limit (and possibly under) whether you're in the country or the city - country folk don't have magic fairies protecting them, or more importantly other road users, from drunk driving accidents.

        This had the old farmers in mind, those who drive their tractors to the pub and back - can you imagine the mess if a tractor veers even slightly onto the other side of the road in the face of oncoming traffic? The bigger they are the less margin for error. Not only that, there are few pavements in the country (and even not so many as you'd expect in the towns in this country) and so pedestrians would be forced to share the road with drunk drivers (carnage no doubt a result).

        And finally, the point the medical profession made - alcohol is a depressant - if you're already depressed living in the country, do you really think allowing those people to drink alcohol is going to help? If this is about social inclusion then why don't the publicans arrange a minibus or social events that don't have to include alcohol? Because they wouldn't make money from it, that's why and this is why it's all about money-making for the councillors who voted for it (5 of them voted for it, I think 4 against with 12 absent and 7 abstaining, so only 5 out of 28 actually voted for it).

        [$Deity] knows this country needs to move away from needing alcohol to have any kind of social gathering.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: higher sales ?

          Thank you for the clarification, Sparky_Boy. A minibus would be the easier solution, though a local pub here in England had to abandon their scheme, due to a change in regulations leading to prohibitive insurance premiums.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Own the box rent the motor (again)

    The autonomous car car does not need the passenger compartment until it gets to the passengers so don't have that with the car.

    People can own a standardised passenger compartment* and call up the autonomous motive unit as required and to suited to the trip.

    Going to the supermarket 2miles away – small electric motor ~40mph with additional storage compartment, bit boxy but designed to work well in the parking area.

    There could even be a constant round trip of motive units between the supermarket and living areas. All you have at home is the passenger compartment and that due to its standard size can be parked in a standard stacking garage.

    Want to go on a longer trip call up a bigger motive unit suited to road trains and extra accommodation pods (a form of caravan).

    I know most people will recoil at the thought of having to plan journeys or it being harder to just decide on a whim to drive a couple of hundred miles but for the sake of our society and the cities we may want to discourage the large vehicles, often used in the most fuel inefficient ways, taking up two parking bays we have now.

    * passenger compartments can be a range of sizes as long as they comply with recognised size and fixing standards – buy to suit the capacity, safety and comfort required.

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Own the box rent the motor (again)

      This *could* work- but only when we live in cities like the Jetsons. Existing infrastructure wouldn't support it, it would be like bin-collection day every half-hour, every day.

      Sadly.

    2. CaptainHook
      Facepalm

      Re: Own the box rent the motor (again)

      People can own a standardised passenger compartment* and call up the autonomous motive unit as required and to suited to the trip.

      *****

      Wouldn't that be the worse aspects of both systems.

      + No Parking Space Is Saved

      1) Because you still have to store the passenger compartment at home, office and shopping center.

      2) Still need multiple passenger compartments for multiple simutaneous trips (office and school run)

      + Up Front Costs

      1) You still have to pay a large upfront capital payment to buy each passenger compartment your family would need. They would be cheaper than a whole car but not as much as you might think. They would need to be crash impact resistant compartments in the same way as cars are now so they will still be significant lumps of metal.

      + Still Dependant On Someone Elses Schedule

      1) So you've got the cost of buying, storing and maintaining your own passenger compartment, but you are still dependant on someone elses schedule before you can make a trip, if there are enough motor units to nearby that wont be a huge problem, but image you live in the sticks and need to get into town, the nearest motor unit might be the town you want to visit, so you order a unit, it travels from town to your house, back to town, goes off to do other trips, then picks up your passenger compartment again to travel from town, to your house, and back to town again (a single 2-way trip needing a minimum of 6 journeys)

      A final proof that this idea wouldn't work is this. Nothing in your suggestion couldn't be done now using small tractors units with drivers instead of autonomous cars and yet no one does it... anywhere in the world as far as I can see. The closest analogy is 40ft goods containers but they work because they are built in places with lots of space to store containers, lots of expensive machinery can be concentrated into one place to store and stack the containers and transport time isn't as critical as it for passenger journeys.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Own the box rent the motor (again)

        By passenger compartment I was thinking for many people something like the SmartCar cab but without the engine, lightweight materials. Just because we are programmed to think safety is "lots of metal" that doesn't mean it really is. If you are only going on a max 30mph trip having crash survival for 50mph is unnecessary. Automomous - face the other way etc.

        Many people already chose to have cars that are quite small so if there was a cost saving to limit yourself to something that only takes up a small space and even forgo some safety to reduce the weight and efficiency (think moped or mbike) people might still make that choice.

        Once you take away the complicated bespoke crumple zones and extra bits parking something like that is maybe three times more efficient than most cars. Houses in the UK are not planned for the average local car ownership so its only going to get more pressing and where people “absolutely must avoid nasty shared transport” this is another route.

        I'm not sure Parking comment 2 is valid once you pick a decent compromise size to start with, you might have to upgrade as the kids grow but you don't have to change the stuff missing like motor, gearbox, brakes running gear, you could even take the seats, aircon, radio once a standard design fitting is in place.

        Carbon use is cost so someone that wants to have a heavy "protect myself and the four kids" shell should pay more than the single person to run the roads.

        I'm not saying this is the solution but we need to break away from the current model where space and resources are at a premium and yes it probably won't work for many rural areas but that is no reason to cling on so dearly to the status quo. its a talking point, a big metal box with loads of duplicate parts being used in an energy inefficient way will seem very silly, (in some urban areas) quite soon.

        Your “Final Proof” thing made me laugh, because you are, I protest, talking at cross purposes, there are no direct implementations of this so it doesn't exists that's why is currently isn't done much.

        Personally I'd like really good public transport, for people not to get drunk and throw up on buses, proper cycle lanes where dog crap is a capital offence, some kind of fleet car for shared use and few other things, what I understand is that in the UK especially we are fixed on our individuality and well defined personal space and how super valuable our lives are over the well being and happiness of others on the planet, it's not sustainable in the longer term. The trick is to find solutions for a range of people who aren't ready to divest themselves of one second of their life or risk one hair on their head for the society and others. The no car days in places like Bristol get some pretty ranting responses about “personal inconvenience” society is not personal, there are others outside your gate and maybe its time we worked together for this land.

        Here endeth etc.

  6. frank ly Silver badge

    At night ......

    ....when few people are using them, will the cars prowl around and exhibit feral pack behaviour?

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: At night ......

      HONK! HONK!

  7. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Efficiency

    Warm engines are more fuel efficient than cold ones... keeping a car in use through out the day makes it more efficient per mile, as well as increasing the life time (measured by distance) of the engine.

  8. Hasham

    One day my newborn baby daughter will look at me in disbelief...

    "You actually drove cars YOURSELF, Dad? Why would you ever do that?"

    Then I shall take off my slipper...

  9. Da Weezil

    Another idealized vision that lacks a grasp on the realities of living outside of a major metropolis or the uses that many real households put their cars to.

    My usage includes weekends at race circuits in remote areas, travel at odd hours and "on demand" for a disabled family member, trips to the amenities site with garden rubbish, collecting a neighbours kids and their huge numbers of friends from club nights (when dad has had a few drinks and they missed the one evening bus), oh and I work odd hours too.

    I don't need the delay and inconvenience of having to wait (in my semi rural area) for a vehicle to become free, alternatively nor do I want to be faffing about getting my "box" mounted on whatever chassis they system deems I may need. I have a car that covers all of my uses, including the twice monthly weekend shopping trips that these days involve at least a 70 mile round trip (nothing left in our local towns) - and often closer to 100 miles, This of course an the weekend where the demand for "long distance" travel chassis could be higher, and of course has to incur costs far higher over a period of time than actual ownership of a reasonable sized (if older) car.

    Its OK for occasional drivers - but then we already have hire cars for that, for most this would be expensive, restrictive and less comfortable (in terms of the state that some people are likely to leave the vehicle in) For most decent public transport would be more practical than this, not to mention more affordable

    Stupid idea dreamed up with those with too much time on their hands - maybe they should try getting a proper job - one that is busy enough to prevent stupid day dreams like this.

    1. dogged

      My usage includes weekends at race circuits in remote areas, travel at odd hours and "on demand" for a disabled family member, trips to the amenities site with garden rubbish, collecting a neighbours kids and their huge numbers of friends from club nights (when dad has had a few drinks and they missed the one evening bus), oh and I work odd hours too.

      So you're an edge case and the scenario does not apply to you.

      Okay. So what?

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        >Another idealized vision that lacks a grasp on the realities of living outside of a major metropolis

        The article clearly stated that there will be people who will need to own their cars.

        1. Steve 13

          What it didn't clearly state though is that that group is the majority of adults (in the UK and outside London at least).

      2. MrXavia
        FAIL

        Edge case?

        I would say city dwellers are the edge cases, but they already have usable public transport, the people who already use cars are not the city dwellers, I know many and they hire cars as needed, BUT people like me who live outside the cities, need convenient transport, and having to wait an extra 5 minutes because one of their cars breaks down means I miss my pre-booked train and I am stuck or end up spending another £100 on a ticket for the next train..... and end up being late....

        Now I would LOVE a commuters bus service through my village, but that'll never happen...

        1. Danny Roberts 1

          Re: Edge case?

          If an extra 5 minutes means you miss your train, you sure as hell don't want to be relying on a bus service!?

        2. strum Silver badge

          Re: Edge case?

          You do realise that something like 90% of Britons live in towns & cities?

        3. Alfred

          You make no sense

          Wait, so you'd love a bus service but a taxi (which is effectively what this is) isn't good enough?

      3. Nuke
        Meh

        @ dogged - "Edge Cases"

        Da Weezil wrote :- "My usage includes weekends at race circuits , travel at odd hours and "on demand" for a disabled family member, trips to the amenities site with garden rubbish, collecting a neighbours kids oh and I work odd hours too."

        dogged replied :- "So you're an edge case and the scenario does not apply to you."

        Hardly an "edge case", me too if you change some details, and I suspect many, indeed most, others. I treat my car as a mobile cabin, with all sorts of stuff in it that I might need on the move, including some photographic gear, outdoor clothing, tools and iron rations. I also need it large (4x4 in fact) as I find I am always having to carry bulky stuff. Tomorrow it will be a 1/4 ton of paving slabs for example. My lifestyle is clearly different from yours.

        This proposal is for a commuter/shopper transport capsule.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: @ dogged - "Edge Cases"

          Hardly an "edge case", me too if you change some details,

          So you believe that while a single anecdote isn't statistically significant, two are?

          and I suspect many, indeed most, others

          Or perhaps you just believe that your suspicions are statistically significant. Skipped the "critical thinking" lessons in school, did we?

    2. Colin Miller

      Sure, it's not for you, but there was nowt in TFA, saying that they are enforcing it on you, so why are you trying to enforce standard cars on the rest of us?

      Personally, I'd like a car that I could drive to the pub, and it'll take me home safely at the end of the night....

    3. The Mole

      This was my initial reaction and then I thought about it a bit further. For many two car families this scheme would make a lot of sense. They'd keep ownership of one car, the one they tend to use together at the weekends, for shipping road trips etc. For the majority of the time you do need two cars (commuting or other planned times) you would be able to book far in advance what time you want to arrive and will be given a scheduled regular time you will be picked up.

      Public transport (whilst better than private car ownership) is on the whole very inefficient outside population centres. You have to run a constant service on the off chance that someone will want to get on board, which is probably fine at peak hours but can result in regularly empty vehicles off hours that you still have to run, as if you cut it too much people won't use it at all. A dynamic system of cars like this could much more efficiently replace public transport - on regularly busy routes during peak hours it may well end up being a scheduled fixed standard route with larger vehicles which is run.,Off peak smaller more efficient on demand cars are provided giving the best of both worlds.

  10. LeftAlready

    Premise may be flawed but driverless cars, fantastic

    The previous comments deal adequately with the reasons against shared (or rental) ownership.

    But the potential for change to social demographics by driverless cars is fascinating. Imagine, your (largely) electric car takes you to the office, it goes away and recharges itself until your partner/children need it. He/she/they use it through the day for school runs, shopping,... when it returns to take you home. For longer drives, it uses the superior energy density of petrol whilst for day-to-day use, it uses electricity.

    50% reduction in car ownership and a zillion% increase in road safety. Together with intelligent routing, higher speeds (safely) on arterial routes and reduced pollution, how can this be anything other than a win for society.

    Let's hope drive-yourself cars are progressively removed by legislation ASAP.

    1. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

      Re: Premise may be flawed but driverless cars, fantastic

      Sounds ghastly.

  11. SBU

    I love the idea and desperately want one but what about professional drivers

    Truck drivers, taxi drivers, delivery van drivers, there are a huge number of people who will be put out of work by this technology. For example, a large trucking company would want to automate their trucks as soon as possible. The trucks will suffer less wear and tear, use less fuel and tyres, and be able to run 24hours a day without a break except for maintenance. Lets face it, the maintenance will becopme automated too, so goodby mechanics. This will result in a significant saving for the trucking company but what government is looking ahead and putting plans in place to find work for the displaced drivers, mechanics, etc. Do they just get chucked on the rubbish?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I love the idea and desperately want one but what about professional drivers

      We can but dream. Racism and rape figures would plummet!

      1. Tel Starr
        Stop

        Re: I love the idea and desperately want one but what about professional drivers

        But will these trucks be smart enough to align themselves three abreast on any uphill sections of motorway?

    2. Fink-Nottle

      Re: I love the idea and desperately want one but what about professional drivers

      If this change followed the pattern of previous waves of automation, in theory there would be no net loss of jobs. Automation reduces costs and the savings are passed on to consumers. These consumers then have more disposable income to spend in other sectors of the economy which stimulates their growth and results in more jobs.

      Any adverse consequences of a sectoral shift in employment would have to balanced against the overwhelming benefit of removing Jeremy Clarkson from the GoggleBox.

    3. mike2R

      Re: I love the idea and desperately want one but what about professional drivers

      This argument would have kept the majority of the population working the land.

      Any sort of automation is disruptive, and there are always losers. But in the long view being able to do the same work with less people makes us all richer - the people who are no longer employed find other work to do. The end result is that the same number of people accomplish more. This has transformed the world from one where people work all day simply to feed, cloth and shelter their families, into one where we all own vast quantities of goods which would have been unimaginable to our ancestors.

      1. mike2R

        Re: I love the idea and desperately want one but what about professional drivers

        Or if I may be allowed to post a lengthy quote, which makes the point far more eloquently (from That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen - Frederic Bastiat, 1850)

        James B. had two francs which he had gained by two workmen; but it occurs to him, that an arrangement of ropes and weights might be made which would diminish the labour by half. Thus he obtains the same advantage, saves a franc, and discharges a workman.

        He discharges a workman: this is that which is seen.

        And seeing this only, it is said, "See how misery attends civilization; this is the way that liberty is fatal to equality. The human mind has made a conquest, and immediately a workman is cast into the gulf of pauperism. James B. may possibly employ the two workmen, but then he will give them only half their wages for they will compete with each other, and offer themselves at the lowest price. Thus the rich are always growing richer, and the poor, poorer. Society wants remodelling." A very fine conclusion, and worthy of the preamble.

        Happily, preamble and conclusion are both false, because, behind the half of the phenomenon which is seen, lies the other half which is not seen.

        The franc saved by James B. is not seen, no more are the necessary effects of this saving.

        Since, in consequence of his invention, James B. spends only one franc on hand labour in the pursuit of a determined advantage, another franc remains to him.

        If, then, there is in the world a workman with unemployed arms, there is also in the world a capitalist with an unemployed franc. These two elements meet and combine, and it is as clear as daylight, that between the supply and demand of labour, and between the supply and demand of wages, the relation is in no way changed.

        The invention and the workman paid with the first franc, now perform the work which was formerly accomplished by two workmen. The second workman, paid with the second franc, realizes a new kind of work.

        What is the change, then, which has taken place? An additional national advantage has been gained; in other words, the invention is a gratuitous triumph - a gratuitous profit for mankind.

        From the form which I have given to my demonstration, the following inference might be drawn: - "It is the capitalist who reaps all the advantage from machinery. The working class, if it suffers only temporarily, never profits by it, since, by your own showing, they displace a portion of the national labour, without diminishing it, it is true, but also without increasing it."

        I do not pretend, in this slight treatise, to answer every objection; the only end I have in view, is to combat a vulgar, widely spread, and dangerous prejudice. I want to prove, that a new machine only causes the discharge of a certain number of hands, when the remuneration which pays them as abstracted by force. These hands, and this remuneration, would combine to produce what it was impossible to produce before the invention; whence it follows that the final result is an increase of advantages for equal labour.

        Who is the gainer by these additional advantages?

        First, it is true, the capitalist, the inventor; the first who succeeds in using the machine; and this is the reward of his genius and his courage. In this case, as we have just seen, he effects a saving upon the expense of production, which, in whatever way it may be spent (and it always is spent), employs exactly as many hands as the machine caused to be dismissed.

        But soon competition obliges him to lower his prices in proportion to the saving itself; and then it is no longer the inventor who reaps the benefit of the invention - it is the purchaser of what is produced, the consumer, the public, including the workmen; in a word, mankind.

        And that which is not seen is, that the saving thus procured for all consumers creates a fund whence wages may be supplied, and which replaces that which the machine has exhausted.

        Thus, to recur to the forementioned example, James B. obtains a profit by spending two francs in wages. Thanks to his invention, the hand labour costs him only one franc. So long as he sells the thing produced at the same price, he employs one workman less in producing this particular thing, and that is what is seen; but there is an additional workman employed by the franc which James B. has saved. This is that which is not seen.

        When, by the natural progress of things, James B. is obliged to lower the price of the thing produced by one franc, then he no longer realizes a saving; then he has no longer a franc to dispose of, to procure for the national labour a new production; but then another gainer takes his place, and this gainer is mankind. Whoever buys the thing he has produced, pays a franc less, and necessarily adds this saving to the fund of wages; and this, again, is what is not seen.

        Another solution, founded upon facts, has been given of this problem of machinery.

        It was said, machinery reduces the expense of production, and lowers the price of the thing produced. The reduction of the profit causes an increase of consumption, which necessitates an increase of production, and, finally, the introduction of as many workmen, or more, after the invention as were necessary before it. As a proof of this, printing, weaving, &c., are instanced.

        This demonstration is not a scientific one. It would lead us to conclude, that if the consumption of the particular production of which we are speaking remains stationary, or nearly so, machinery must injure labour. This is not the case.

        Suppose that in a certain country all the people wore hats; if, by machinery, the price could be reduced half, it would not necessarily follow that the consumption would be doubled.

        Would you say, that in this case a portion of the national labour had been paralyzed? Yes, according to the vulgar demonstration; but, according to mine, No; for even if not a single hat more should be bought in the country, the entire fund of wages would not be the less secure. That which failed to go to the hat-making trade would be found to have gone to the economy realized by all the consumers, and would thence serve to pay for all the labour which the machine had rendered useless, and to excite a new development of all the trades. And thus it is that things go on. I have known newspapers to cost eighty francs, now we pay forty-eight: here is a saving of thirty-two francs to the subscribers. It is not certain, or, at least, necessary, that the thirty-two francs should take the direction of the journalist trade; but it is certain, and necessary too, that if they do not take this direction they will take another. One makes use of them for taking in more newspapers; another, to get better living; another, better clothes; another, better furniture. It is thus that the trades are bound together. They form a vast whole, whose different parts communicate by secret canals; what is saved by one, profits all. It is very important for us to understand, that savings never take place at the expense of labour and wares.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I love the idea and desperately want one but what about professional drivers

          This logic is fine for the 19th and 18th century, where there was still a need for the person to operate the machine.

          This is removing the person completely, and thereby eliminating not one, but both resulting in 2 paupers as neither are needed.

          The benefits are purely for the capitalist and those industries not impacted by this change.

          1. Brenda McViking

            Re: I love the idea and desperately want one but what about professional drivers

            You missed the point made, as punishment you can read it again. ALL the way through.

            It's simple - by removing the humans and their cost, the money which would otherwise have been spent on them doing something that they no longer need to do is available for them to do something else. Yes, they're instantaneously unemployed, but their wages are availabe to them on kickstarter (put there by evil capitalist looking for a quick buck from the profit he made by laying them off), if you want a 21st Century example. They do something else and society benefits from the auto-captioning of cats software they create, or somethng.

            Capitalism is the same game it was in the 18th Century. The rules haven't changed, just the quality of life.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: I love the idea and desperately want one but what about professional drivers

              You assume the capitalist who saved the money will actually DO something with the money that will employ people. The thing is, there are fewer and fewer chances for the capitalist to invest where people are involved. If he buys a new machine, that machines was built by OTHER machines, with few if any people needed to oversee them. If he invests in markets or commodities, are they not managed by computers?

              Look at this way. What happened to leather makers when leather demand tanked? They couldn't switch jobs because (1) their trade was too specialized and (2) the other industries that could take them in were already fully employed. They were blocked from adapting, so they just dropped off the map.

              Meanwhile, even as fewer people are needed to do the same amount of work, the number of people has continued to climb. What we're seeing is something of a "tipping point" where it's starting to dawn on the labor force that they're on the cusp of being made redundant. Even the service sector (a bastion of human labor due to the desire for face-to-face interaction) is slowly being assaulted by such concepts as automated loaders and self-service stations.

              1. mike2R

                Re: I love the idea and desperately want one but what about professional drivers

                My argument against that is simply the progress of humanity up until this point. Absent a compelling reason to believe that anything has fundamentally changed, I don't.

                "If he buys a new machine, that machines was built by OTHER machines, with few if any people needed to oversee them."

                That people are now so efficient is a good thing, not a bad one. I cannot see any reason to think that this becomes a bad thing past a certain point. Why should it? People are still needed, just ever less of them to perform the same tasks, and consequently the same number of people perform ever more tasks.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maintenance cost increase

    A multiplexed car will have significantly higher maintenance costs than a typical private car.

    The (variable) maintenance cost-per-mile (oil, tires, brakes, etc) is roughly equal whether the car is used more ore less.

    The savings mainly come from two areas:

    a) the cost of the capital tied up in the vehicle,

    b) the fixed costs i.e. annual taxes and insurances, which are shared among more miles (or usage hours). But the regulators might well decide to hike the taxes for multiplexed cars - after all they burden the environment more than a car sitting idle from 9 to 5.

    Against these savings we also would get increased maintenance costs due to users not taking care of "someone else's" cars as well as of privately owned and cared-for cars.

    1. Denarius Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Maintenance cost increase

      wear and tear up ? maybe not. The average driver is crap at anticipation. Consequently, an automated system that is aware of the red light ahead and adjusting its speed so it reduces stop start may have lower wear and tear. My advanced driving instructor 40 years ago got 4 times the life out of his vehicles than standard suers. Following his example, my vehicles also last much longer than usual. And no, I dont hold up traffic and arrive at same time as every one else. Also, taxi engines last longer as they dont temperature cycle much. Engine is going for more than 3 hours a day.

      However, this scheme reminds me of an aerial taxi idea Robert X Cringely wrote about 2 years ago. Same idea, but for shorter flights to feed from small airfields to bigger airports. pun inteded, it did not seem to take off. used Hondas little jet ITIRC.

      In short, another possibility for transport mix. Given my country back road location, I doubt it would work for me, but in rural hobby farm town 12NM away, it might do well.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Maintenance cost increase

        The maintenance cost per mile will probably be lower; with the vehicle in use much of the day, the engine will spend more time at its optimum temperature.

      2. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Maintenance cost increase

        The average driver may be crap at anticipation but machines are crap at the unexpected. We can break from script if the need arises, such as someone or something suddenly appearing in front of us. How well could an automated system interact to such an event without false alarming?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Everyone seems to be conflating two separate ideas here

    Driverless cars: Fantastic, can drink and drive safely, less chance of crashing (given competant software), can do stuff like sending the kids to school in it after I've already left for work.

    Shared use: Bunch of crap, totally impractical, loss of personal space, needs arranging in advance (and half an hour in advance is too much), hygeine, car pooling with random stangers won't fit with many use cases (unaccompanied children/women, for example - how long will one of these firms be running before it gets known as the Rape Car service?), virtually no one will be interested.

    That earlier commenter getting lambasted for objecting and told he's an edge case? Not an edge case. That's what the usual response is going to be. His specific requirements may be unique, but everyone has specific requirements, and most of them will be incompatible with this plan.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Everyone seems to be conflating two separate ideas here

      I live in a market town. Even in the worst traffic, "half an hour" would be enough time to get from one side of town to the other. So I imagine they'll be able to get you a car within half an hour; outside peak times it would be ten minutes.

    2. strum Silver badge

      Re: Everyone seems to be conflating two separate ideas here

      It wouldn't be difficult to set minimum requirements for special cases - women alone, for instance. And the user could pay a premium for solitude/luxurious comfort.

      None of these objections are insurmountabel.

    3. Richard Gadsden

      Re: Everyone seems to be conflating two separate ideas here

      I don't know if you've noticed, but shared cars already exist - ZipCar and CityCarClub are the main UK providers - feel free to look for yourself in your own country.

      You seem to be trying to prove impossible something that is already happening.

  14. Charlie Stross

    Only catastrophic for the low end of the auto industry ...

    The sector of the market that will take a hit is a mix of the low end -- small econoboxes and compact cars -- and sports cars. (There is no point whatsoever in making a self-driving two-seater convertible sports car for a fractional-reserve auto rental market; there may be a market for sports cars aimed at owners who want to have fun at a track day and then tell their car to drive them home, but that's going to be relatively small.)

    My guess is that self-driving cars operated by rental/pool companies will tend to be large and/or have more luxurious interiors -- comfortable for the passengers. (Comfort is, after all, a selling point.) Think limo or (cheaper end of the market) taxi or (shopping at IKEA end of the market) crew-cab pick-up truck.

  15. JeffinLondon
    Thumb Up

    Taxi

    Tis simple really. Driverless cars morph into driverless taxis and one pays by the trip.

    Should be far more flexible and cheaper than owning one's own car.

  16. Steve 13

    Obviously driveless cars would cause changes in behaviour, but I don't think it would be in the way the author suggests.

    The idea that a large portion of people might give up car ownership because a car can drive itself doesn't hang together for me. As a consumer cars that can 'drive themselves' already exist, we call them taxi's. There are very few people though that prefer to rely on taxi's for regular use rather than own a car.

    Which isn't to say that there aren't people who don't own cars, there are, and these people use public transport, taxis, feet, push bikes, etc, as they choose. But the kind of people that currently own cars will in the vast majority (IMO) continue to own cars, even if the car can drive itself.

    Perhaps the author isn't a car owner, or maybe isn't a typical one. I'd suggest that a typical car has a lot of personal property left in it, all of which would need removing if other people had access to the car during the day.

    There are a few points about groups of people who are unable to drive currently (children mainly), this isn't a group with a large disposable income, nor a high requirement for motorised transport that their parents aren't capable of providing. So driverless cars won't suddenly see 10 year olds taking self driven cars to the next town.

    Anecdotal, but if I consider my own usage, today the car could have gone back home instead of me paying to park for the day, but generally I cycle and the car stays at home anyway.

    There's nothing inherently impossible about my usage that would stop me using an on demand service that lacked ownership, but I don't use city club cars and I don't use taxi's for regular journeys, I expect that the same economic arguments would apply, owning the car would simply be cheaper and/or more convenient.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >The idea that a large portion of people might give up car ownership because a car can drive itself doesn't hang together for me.

      It might not cause existing drivers to give up their cars, but it might delay the age at which a young person chooses to buy their own car... perhaps indefinitely.

      It's not just the cost of ownership of a car, but in the second-hand market mechanical faults can unexpectedly occur, landing them with a repair bill of a few hundred pounds that they haven't budgeted for (plus the inconvenience of being without a vehicle, and missing whatever engagement they had that day).

  17. Russ Tarbox

    I was intrigued up until the point

    where there may be other people in the car when it pulls up.

    Ummm... surely half the point of a car is you don't have to put up with other fuckwits exhibiting anti-social behaviour such as overly loud iPod earphones, snorting and sneezing, invading your personal space etc.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: I was intrigued up until the point

      >I was intrigued up until the point where there may be other people in the car when it pulls up.

      Then simply pay a premium to use the vehicle by yourself. Your preference in this matter will probably be part of the profile you create when you sign up for the service- or chosen on a trip-by-trip basis, if some days you are feeling more tolerant.

      The whole gist of the article was based on economic factors. If you want to save money by sharing the lift with others, you can. If you want to spend a little more for the privilege of travelling by yourself, you can.

  18. Bob AMG

    How do you determine fault in a crash

    How do you determine fault in a crash with a driven vec and a driverless vec. Will human judgment be respected?

    1. Steve 13

      Re: How do you determine fault in a crash

      Using the many onboard cameras I expect.

  19. a_mu

    flying

    interesting that most / all flights are now days done 99 % by the auto pilot, yet we still have two people in the front to fly.

    would we ever allow a fully automatic flight system ?

    are we ever going to allow an automatic car to take over ?

    I doubt it,

    if nothing else, the insurance will still say its the drivers fault, even if they were asleep and car / jet was on auto pilot.

    you cant sue a machine,

    1. Steve 13

      Re: flying

      We have driverless light rail, despite the objections of the drivers union when it was introduced.

    2. MrXavia
      Facepalm

      Re: flying

      They don't usually land by themselves (I know a few planes CAN but they don't), and they don't take off by themselves, and they can't react in emergencies, and most importantly, if a cars computer breaks down, it can be set to slow down & stop... if a planes autopilot breaks down, it crashes...

      The pilots do a lot more than 'keep the plane on course' which is all the autopilot really does...

    3. NullReference Exception
      Childcatcher

      Re: flying

      You can't sue a machine, but you certainly can sue the manufacturer... could get very interesting.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm a little torn on this one. Whilst I love the idea of being able to call up a vehicle, climb in and read a book whilst my now shorter (due to less traffic jams) work journey disappears in front of me, I also consider myself a driver.

    Public transport is not an option for me currently, not because I am lazy, but to get to work tomorrow, I'd have to set off tonight and sleep in the station overnight. Even without waiting time, my journey would be closer to 4 hours each way, instead of 45-60 minute drive. On top of that the bus & train fair would cost more than double the fuel required, granted this doesn't make allowances for maintenance.

    The other side of the coin is I want to drive, I enjoy it and I compete in motorsports. Currently I can jump in my car, go for a blast in the countryside, my music on as loud as like, cigarette in my hand and it isn't a problem. I don't have to share my space with anyone, unless I choose. Whilst the world maybe anti-smoking, I am anti-children, so I don't want to spend my time listen to some whiny little brat or crying baby.

  21. CSturt

    Who gets to chose the radio station or music in the car if there are multiple people in there? Do I get to leave my smelly gym kit in the shared car during the day so I don't have to keep it under my desk?

    I bet if you asked the average person to empty out their car, you would find a huge amount of personal belongings that are stored in a car, just ask anyone who has had their car stolen. We keep them there for convenience. Can I book a child car seat, or do I have to carry those around?

    This Idea could catch on in some scenarios, but I still feel most families would need at least one car dedicated to them?

  22. 0laf Silver badge
    Meh

    Nae chance

    Self drive will just become another 'option' like sat nav. Most people like to own their cars as a little bit of mobile private space. And some people still enjoy driving.

    But it would be a great option.

    I can see this replacing taxis (Johnny Cab anyone) but not the private car.

  23. Matthew 3

    Smokers...

    ...will still want their own car, where the Health & Safety people haven't (yet) prevented them from practising their vice.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Smokers...

      Smoking while driving is *****y dangerous. I've seen a lot of near-misses at least partially (if not entirely) caused by somebody fiddling with a ciggy.

      Unfortunately the police seem incapable of even trying to enforce the whole "due care and attention" thing until after somebody dies.

  24. Steve 13

    And another thing

    "In that scenario, and excluding other trips (which will, after all, be spread across the second car that most car-owning households maintain), the daily commute comes at a price of $20 per hour."

    " it's at least feasible that once the (considerable) startup costs are covered, a business model exists under which people will use autonomous cars, but never own one."

    The conclusion that is drawn, doesn't even follow from the over simplified reduction in the earlier statement.

    What does follow is a statement more like this;

    "It's at least feasible ...blah blah... business model exists under which households will use autonomous cars *instead of owning a 2nd vehicle*"

    And this makes much more sense, if 1 car is a secondary vehicle that is primarily used for commuting, and the actual cost of using an autonomous car is lower than owning it, then people might do that.

    But, the assumption that an autonomous car will be significantly cheaper than a taxi is probably erroneous IMO. Driving a taxi is a low income job, in terms of hourly pay the vast majority of what you pay for a taxi does not end up in the drivers pocket, which leads to the conclusion that removing the driver would not result in a large cost saving.

  25. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Roadside recovery

    Should the vehicle you are in break down, you won't have to wait on the roadside for an hour... the vehicle will have already informed the Controlling System that it cannot proceed, and a lift will soon arrive for you - followed by a repair / tow vehicle sometime later.

  26. Zmodem

    use the park and ride,

    pimping cars and hacking the computer gear ratios and speed limits is part of being a man and will never die

  27. Alan Bourke

    Ah yes another one of those concepts

    ... that is always a few years away, and never happens. Why? Because we don't really want or need driverless cars. What we need is less cars and more working at home.

    1. Zmodem

      Re: Ah yes another one of those concepts

      bigger park and rides on all main roads, bus ticket pass included in the parking fee, and automated buses

      1. Zmodem

        Re: Ah yes another one of those concepts

        your never going to be standing or fill up 4 seat with iceland and argos shopping bags, you buy everything online

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never mind that...

    I want to know when I can just call for a Johnny Cab!

  29. PyLETS

    Faster journeys ?

    Hypothetically possible if less road space is needed for parking and more vehicle sharing reduces congestion.

  30. Peter Johnston 1

    There is another factor.

    People have an emotional attachment to their car - it is a status symbol, an extension to their personality, a proof of their ability.

    Sitting in the back won't have nearly the same emotional attachment. Cars will become like white goods - just a functional "thing".

    Car manufacturers rely on that emotional attachment to trade you up, to keep your loyalty and to sell you options. This will end all of those and commoditise the car industry - leading to closure of probably half the plants and 2/3 of the companies.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      But the thing is that personal attachment frays when the driver has to sit in traffic jams twice a day. As noted, at least when one is a passenger, they can engage in other things besides keeping their eyes on the road.

    2. Steve 13
      Thumb Down

      The vast majority of vehicles are simply to get someone from A to B and to have sufficient space to transport what they need. Do you think that the owners of Zafira's or Cee'ds are particularly proud of and emotionally attached to their 2nd hand vehicles?

  31. Markus Imhof

    Sounds a lot like Car2Go to me...

    ..apart from the self driving.

    Read through the article, skimmed the comments. Has any of you participated in a scheme like Car2Go? Works a treat in urban areas, less so in the outlying districts (density of cars is too low).

    Basic concept:

    - throw a lot of vehicles into a carsharing system so that basically you'll always find a car within a few minutes walking range

    - set up a competitive time-based all-inclusive pricing scheme that (strongly) encourages short-distances rides while making long-distance use quite expensive

    - fleet monitoring through GPS, driver identification through an RFID tag

    - Apps to find and guide you to the nearest car on your smartphon

    - dedicated parking at central locations (where it's more or less impossible to find a parking spot otherwise)

    The only people annoyed by this are the taxi drivers and, to a minor point, bus operators. Car2Go prices are competitive with individual tickets for local busses.

    Link: https://www.car2go.com/en/berlin/what-is-car2go/

    1. Zmodem

      Re: Sounds a lot like Car2Go to me...

      none of it will ever work except massive park and rides, and big motorway signs telling you they have spaces from 5 miles away like inner city car parks

      the park and ride fee need to be a single fee and people claim it back from work through some government scheme

  32. Jim 59

    People

    Unfortunately for this vision, people like to own the things they come into personal contact with. That preference could be difficult to change. People want their own car even if it is more expensive than public transport.

  33. Matt_payne666

    I think it would be a good thing... an addition to all the other modes of transport available... I need my car - Im on call and visit several sites per day and carry a few bags of kit so need my flexability... I also love to drive, I live in the country and have the luxury that 90% of my travels are on lovely windy, NSL b-roads...

    If I was heading into London - I can take the autonomous car instead of the train, let it find its way to a centralish location and drop me off, I can do what I want without worries about parking, vandalism, forgetting where the thing is! when I want to go home I press a button on the app and a car arrives to take me back, irrespective of where in the town I am...

    This works well for a few town based friends of mine, when visiting us in the sticks timing is of the essence as rail links back to the smoke on a sunday are pretty horrific so just take a returning autonomous car home - the ideal being enough cars and infrastructure to make the scheme work... much like the Boris Bikes in London...

  34. Matthew 17

    Death knell

    The motor industry employs more people either directly or indirectly (filling stations, Halfords, car cleaning, repairs etc). Cars are quite personal things, they provide the freedom to go anywhere at any time without having to pre-book or buy a ticket. If I want to go to London, right now, I could it's 200 miles away but my car is sat outside. When I'm in my car no-one really knows where I am. Cars are great, it's why we're so picky on which one(s) we have.

    Now an automatic car, that you just sit in whilst it obediently takes you from A - B would be more of a personal taxi, the performance, handing etc would be redundant, buying a more powerful car would be completely pointless as the car would only ever drive safely and at the limit. The model for a luxury car would be very different, now they'd be a small mobile office, somewhere to write emails, watch a film, update your status, do some eShopping, be sold something, chat to other 'drivers', have a drink or a snooze. But as most car journeys are fairly mundane and you're just along for the ride then the car is then just a personal taxi, when was the last time you cared what sort of car the taxi driver turned up in?

    therefore renting a driverless car as and when would start to make sense, you'd pay a subscription and have some kind of 'app' that you could push when you wanted picking up and the taxi would take you, your passengers and shopping to where you needed to go.

    It would eliminate traffic jams, streets jammed up with parked cars also. There would be no need for all the street furniture such as traffic lights and matrix signs as the automated vehicles won't need them.

    It all sounds bliss, however the automotive industry would be on its arse as people wouldn't be buying cars, nor would they be attached to them as before, they'd simply be an appliance. All the secondary employment it creates would also be in trouble, you'd not need to go to a service station, you'd not need to sit in that cafe eating a £10 bacon sandwich, you wouldn't ask the taxi to go through a car wash or spend the night in a travel lodge to break up the trip, you could sleep in the car.

    The list of jobs and industry that would be at risk is difficult to calculate but it would be huge.

    You'd also lose that freedom and individuality, the taxis would obviously know exactly where you are, where you went, would log and profile your trips to determine what it could sell you.

    I still think it's unlikely to happen soon, if all cars are driven by Google and there's a glitch that causes an accident and someone dies then the driver at fault in the crash would be Google, everyone that bought or signed up to their scheme would now have a car that could kill them and would be reliant on a software update to make them safe. The lawsuits would be incredible and wipe Google off the planet.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Death knell

      The thing is, the price of that freedom has gone way up, to the point that it's practically unaffordable for most. Unless people are SO desperate for their own car that they'll pay in blood, personal car ownership may be a fading trend. Besides, do we really, REALLY need to be able to go anywhere on a moment's notice?

      As for the automotive industry, consider that cars will sill be bought and maintained: just not by people, and cars will still need petrol on a regular basis. Given that their paths can be unpredictable, there will still be a need for petrol stations scattered throughout. Also, as for privacy in a car, even that's going away due to the insurance companies (trust me, pretty soon it's put a GPS tracker in your car or you can't get insurance, period).

  35. phil4

    Surely what this shows is that once the car can drive itself there are a myriad of options (some more viable than others), that will suit varying groups of people more or less.

    As an example, look at the cars that people currently drive. For many reasons they're not all the same. Not just superficially, but apart from the A-B provision, completely different. It's like that because everyone has different needs/desires that they spend their cash on.

    As such a suggestion like this will I'm sure appeal to some, and not others.

    I'm in the "probably not" camp.... I like to chose the temp I set the heating aircon too, I like a clean car, I like getting somewhere directly and quickly. All lost if sharing.

    If I could not share, and still guarantee a nice car turn up where and when I want, without too much planning.... then provided it were cheap enough, I'd probably do it.

    But then look at my cars. none of them are econo-boxes.

  36. strum Silver badge

    Actuarily so

    Before driverless cars could be accepted on to our roads, it seems to me the bare minimum requirement would be that they are significantly safer than human drivers - actuarily, at least.

    If that becomes so, chances are that insuring human driving becomes prohibitive (where it isn't already). Indeed, it's possible that the fleet-owners of driverless cars could self-insure, since their chances of accident would be predictable. The remaining business wouldn't be worth the insurance companies' time - especially since they don't make any money out of if now, with 30M drivers who /must/ get insurance.

    1. Zmodem

      Re: Actuarily so

      you just have to remove the 1000 + commuter cars from the morning rush hour and it will put a end to most congestion of people searching for parking and changing places at lunch, then most bumper taps will be removed too

  37. Ozzard

    A hacker's paradise

    I thought the same thing when I first saw the functioning driverless cars. Then I wondered how I'd feel getting into a car I didn't control and where I had no idea whether the control software had been hacked - for example, to drive just fine for thousands of hours and then randomly accelerate at a T-junction with a concrete wall on the far side of the junction.

    I have no idea how I'd resolve that issue. Thoughts?

    1. Bob 18

      Re: A hacker's paradise

      Maybe YOU would drive the car when you're inside. For this scheme to work, the car only has to be driveless when vacant.

  38. dave 76
    Thumb Up

    reducing congestion

    This is a good solution for some and a non-starter for others. that's ok, doesn't have to be for everyone, just for sufficient people to make the service viable.

    I've got drivers licenses for 4 countries and am a member of car sharing schemes in 2 of them. I have no need for personally owning a car - public transport, taxis, car share and car hire fill my needs very nicely and I don't need to worry about maintenance, wear and tear, parking, vandalism etc. But you if you want to keep a car, no problem to me.

    Car share schemes are estimated to remove the need for 7-10 cars from the road. Even if it at the lower end, surely all you people who must own their car should be keen on the idea as it removes some of the congestion and allows you to have a better drive?

  39. Dagg
    Facepalm

    VW

    Concept sounds nice but in Oz it won't work as all the VWs will stuff it up with all the random slow downs and stops.

  40. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Have a go on driverless cars at Heathrow's T5.

    Yeah, it isn't going to work everywhere, but it can work in densely populated areas that need congestion relief the most.

    www.ultraglobalprt.com

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Those Business T5 pods are fundamentally broken-by-design.

      One, very simple change would have made them brilliant: External power supply.

      - eg Third rail, 'scalextrix' slot, overhead line or lines etc. After all, it's a point-to-point railway!

      But no, they decided that something that's going to spend its entire existence continually trundling back-and-forth for about 17 hours a day should be battery-powered, and thus have a flat battery by around 10am and be near-useless for the rest of the day, and wear out the battery within a year or two.

      So higher operating costs, lower availability and greater emissions due to waste during the charging cycle! Fools.

      They never have enough time to properly recharge during the day, so unless you go at a time when nobody flies, you end up waiting for ages for a podule with enough charge - and having to share it anyway because otherwise you'll miss your flight.

      Compare to the free Miami downtown "Metromover", which uses a "slot-car" power supply.

      I don't use the T5 Business parking anymore - the 'normal' one is cheaper and it takes just as long to get into T5 from the M25, even though I have to wait for the shuttle bus.

  41. Faster Better Greener

    Smart algorithms to manage a dynamic fleet

    So we need to minimise the number of expensive assets (cars in this case), but still have a big enough fleet, so that customers can have one available within a reasonable amount of time. This kind of fleet sizing verus availability optimisation is already pretty well advanced in another sector – executive jet hire. Customer base much smaller; assets much more expensive. Result: huge amount of attention to the algorithms. I believe NetJets is best-on-planet at this kind of thing. Perhaps clone-able to this application?

  42. Bob 18

    Even if this reduces demand in the developed world, increases in the developing world are likely to keep global automobile demand on the upswing for at least a few more decades.

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