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Thoughts on Autonomy Day

This past Monday, Tesla held an event for its investors called “Autonomy Day.” It was livestreamed, but if you missed it, here’s the video. It’s almost 4 hours long, though the first hour is just footage of Tesla vehicles driving around. I’m assuming it was background content.

I’ll be honest in that I haven’t watched it all. But there’s a lot here if you want to get into the inner workings of how their self-driving cars work. Musk also promises, at the event, that Tesla will have level 5 autonomy ready by the middle of next year (2020). At that level, you will no longer need to pay attention to the road as a driver.

Along with this autonomy, the company plans to start rolling out “robotaxis” and a ride-hailing app that will allow owners to rent out their cars. Musk is predicting that this could generate upwards of $30,000 in profit per year for owners. Of course, at this point, nobody really believes any of these promises. Musk is notorious for overselling.

But let’s imagine that robotaxis are the future. Maybe it won’t happen by the middle of 2020. But it will happen at some point.

If taxis are automated machines that drive people around all day and then go and park somewhere during off-peak times, where do they want to go and park? Does autonomy all of a sudden disconnect the locations of owners and parking, because your car will simply come to you when you need it?

And what do these feature mean for parking supply? Presumably (and we have talked about this before on this blog), you need less parking and it wants to be in locations where the real estate values are less. But because of this, I bet that we’re going to need to start — and get really good at — pricing road usage.

What are your thoughts?


  1. Douglas Pollard

    Well of course parking on land with lower values (the community periphery) suggests the cars will be forced to drive longer to reach customers. Here is another parking solution which suggests garages could go on marginalized (unbuildable) land in the core… floodplains. In the case of TO it could go under the big park in Donlands West since the roof of the pop up garage is also a park. The garage itself would of course be automated and could park far more cars than we usually do. There are now many cities using parkland for stormwater storage (and automated garages) so this solution could apply in many places. have a look, the solution addresses multiple issues at one time


  2. Paul Ching Lee

    No doubt this will change how transportation planning will be done in the future. Traditionally, the peak or rush hour demand of the system drives the supply side of the equation. With robo-taxis and the likes, the peaks and valleys will disappear and urban streets would be jammed 24-7. VKmT will go thru the roof and urban curb space management for parking/loading/transit/active transport will become huge challenges. Road pricing must come and political courage must be garnered. It’s a win-win in terms of demand management and revenue generation. It’s a no brainer.


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