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How will self-driving vehicles change our cities and our habits?

Last night
I had a dream that I was driving around in a snowstorm and, for whatever
reason, my tires had almost no tread on them. So I was all over the road.
Strange. I have no idea what this means, if anything at all.

But it did
remind me that I can absolutely imagine a time when the thought of driving your
own car (outside of it being maybe a hobby) will seem positively archaic. I
mean, think about how messy our current system is. Roads are a chaotic and
oftentimes dangerous place.

The more
interesting question for me though is: how will self-driving vehicles change
our cities, our habits, and so on? In Elon Musk’s recently published Master
Plan (Part Deux)
he outlines 4 main goals for Tesla:

  1. Create stunning solar roofs with
    seamlessly integrated battery storage
  2. Expand the electric vehicle product
    line to address all major segments
  3. Develop a self-driving capability
    that is 10X safer than manual via massive fleet learning
  4. Enable your car to make money for
    you when you aren’t using it

Let’s think
about what these could mean.

One
translates into decentralized energy generation and storage. Now all of a
sudden the cars on our roads will be roaming around our cities collecting and
storing energy, eventually returning home at the end of the day to power our homes.
I can already imagine fleets of sun worshipping cars chasing the light as it
moves across our cities.

Two is recognition
that self-driving vehicles are going to have a meaningful impact on traditional
public transit. (Elon reveals that Tesla is working on high passenger-density
urban transport.)

Three
addresses the chaotic current state and the massive potential of networked
cars.

Four is particularly
interesting to me. I wonder to what extent this income will simply subsidize
car ownership or if it could actually transform cars into an investment (rather
than purely an expense). Will people end up buying self-driving vehicles in the
same way that people buy real estate for yield?

Furthermore,
how does this notion of a shared vehicle pool now completely change the way we
think about parking requirements. For instance, today we think about parking in
terms of individual usage. This tenant requires/wants X amount of parking. All
2-bedroom apartments require Y amount of parking.

But if we’re
now all sharing our vehicles, parking requirements would then be based on some
broader and collective demand curve. Parking would become less individualistic
and instead become more of a yard where self-driving vehicles come to store
themselves when not in use.

Once again,
we reach a point where utilization rates go up for each vehicle and overall
parking demand goes down. Good thing we’re getting rid of parking minimums.

What else could
you see happening?

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