Google’s self-driving driving automobile technology could lead to more densely populated cities that are twice their current size, according to Brian Wang at Next Big Future.
From the outset of its driverless car project, Google has emphasised that humans are unreliable drivers and that a robotic driving system will be safer. Indeed, Google’s self-driving automobiles have already clocked 700,000 road miles without so much as a speeding ticket. That’s a safer driving record than most humans can claim.
So imagine a world where the driverless car is the norm. It would enable cars to pass each other more safely without any alterations or additions to current road infrastructure. Wang says road carrying capacity could be increased up to four times, which means cities could accommodate more people’s transportation needs without a major redesign.
This might sound unlikely, but consider China. The percentage of Chinese people living in cities quadrupled in the last fifty years, in part because of improved transportation, according to Karen C. Seto of Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.
It’s normally an expensive investment in infrastructure to accommodate a population boom, but “automatic cars” don’t need this. Here’s Wang:
Economist Robin Hanson noted that doubling the population of any city requires only about an 85% increase in infrastructure, whether that be total road surface, length of electrical cables, water pipes or number of petrol stations. This systematic 15% savings happens because, in general, creating and operating the same infrastructure at higher densities is more efficient, more economically viable, and often leads to higher-quality services and solutions that are impossible in smaller places. Interestingly, there are similar savings in carbon footprints — most large, developed cities are ‘greener’ than their national average in terms of per capita carbon emission.
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