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Pete Bigelow. These Two Companies Think They’ve Cracked the Code to Fully Autonomous Cars—And We Rode in the Prototype (2017). writes: “DeVos still sees autonomous vehicles costing between $50,000 and $70,000, which is why he foresees autonomy reaching commercial markets long before most motorists can trade in their daily drivers for a highly automated vehicle. Commercial fleets, free to deploy vehicles at all hours, can pay back that cost much faster, and he sees the market for personally owned autonomy vehicles developing at a more incremental pace.”  Consider that all markets start with a degree of exclusivity. $70,000 is hardly a show stopper for a non-trivial minority of personal car buyers. (Toronto is littered with Telsa Model Ss). But service vehicles that handle 99.9 or 99.99% of situations still need human assistance in some way, hence the payback will not be the economic no-brainer DeVos imagines. The first couple of years (pre-2025) of market-available automated vehicles – even where Government lets them operate with no operator inside – will be exclusive to some personal owners who will remain in the vehicle during travel, and special (bounded) cases for commercial vehicles with no operator. There is no evidence that commercial vehicle fleets will outnumber personal fleet counts until robo-taxis can roam without a human driver through significant contiguous areas of an urban region in non-dedicated lanes.  It will not be effective to count on only slow-moving shuttles in constrained areas.  This latter application is a market starter, not a market saturator. Whether private or commercial fleets take off first depends on much more than a $70,000 price tag.

Evan Ackerman. Toyota’s Gill Pratt on Self-Driving Cars and the Reality of Full Autonomy. Describes fairly the difficult edge cases that keep SAE level 5 safely out of reach.  This is what will keep the dual market competition described here in place until past 2050.

Andrew Hawkins. Why car companies are trying to imitate Uber and Lyft. Describes the double game car companies play as they hold on the business of selling cars while hedging their bet with ride-selling. Important to understand that automotive marketing brands are fundamentally about selling cars. “Sell rides if we must, but sell cars we will.”

Artur KiulianLet’s talk about self driving cars. Excellent list of questions for the newbie, but answers are either uncritical, same old repeats, or multiple-choice for those questions with no reliable answer. This is a good measure of the reason why cities have no idea how to proceed. Note that the article is cribbed from this video.  The question (13) re car ownership is the single most critical question regarding livability and was (sensibly) left unanswered. So why read/watch? Because this is a good outline of the paucity of our understanding of what the next decade or two holds.

Sarah Jo PetersonSearching for the City in the Self-Driving Car: Why people who care about cities should be making friends with automotive engineers. Sarah understands the conundrum of making automated vehicles work in walkable neighborhoods.