Post by Steven Dale
This site is mostly about urban gondolas and cable cars. But we often like to explore some of the more esoteric, interesting and alternative forms of transportation that exist or might exist in the future.
We also like to predict whether these technologies have any chance of realization or not. More often than not, we feel they don’t. Don’t get us wrong, we love the idea of the Chinese Tunnel Bus™. We just have a hard time imagining it as anything other than an (admittedly) novel death trap.
Yesterday, Google announced that their self-driving vehicle just crossed the 300,000 mile threshold of accident-free service while under computer control.
Let’s put that number in perspective. 300,000 miles is equivalent to:
- 108 one-way trips between New York City and Los Angeles;
- the circumference of the earth . . . . 12 times over;
- a distance greater than the maximum distance between the earth and the moon;
- 37.5 years worth of commuting for an American who travels the national average of 16 miles each way to work, 250 days per year.
As The Atlantic Cities points out, that number – while large – is still a relatively small sample compared to what is needed before people can definitively prove the technology is safe and viable. Legal scholars, meanwhile, are debating what this technology means in terms of liability and insurance.
The point, however, is not a black-and-white matter. It’s not a question of whether the technology is or is not ready for the roads. The question is how much closer is it ready for the road than it was just last year?
We in the city building industries tend to look at things from a ready or not perspective. The idea of installing a technology with the explicit understanding that it will improve over time is not something we’re naturally comfortable with. Yet that is entirely what a company like Google is used to – incremental improvements to the point of adoption which leads to further incremental improvements which lead to mass adoption.
If I had a farm to bet, I’d bet it on this.
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