I believe Autonomous Vehicles will change the way we go around the cities. You might say that we need more transit, not more cars. Yes, you are right, but AVs are a cheaper and easier alternative for increasing mobility in the big cities. Assuming that we are talking about level 5 of automation, there are a few reasons that support this idea.
First, in the long term, it will be efficient to move people around; it won't be a cause of more traffic jams. We will see small cars, for one or two people driving around, and not big cars as we see today. According to Brad Templeton, AVs expert, single-rider urban robocars (how he name AVs) will get over 350 miles/gallon. Plus, I see the future with more Self-Driving Taxis/Ubers than private cars. It will be cheaper not having a car, so that is why Uber is investing hardly on getting an AVs riding on the streets. The market for them will be bigger, and they will save 25% of the revenue they pay for drivers.
A big problem of having too many cars is parking. With AVs, this will be easier to solve. For sure cities will need more parking spots. On the other hand, the cars won’t bother to park in far and inconvenient place. An autonomous vehicle does not need to be electoral as well, but most will be. Recharging Electrical Vehicles (EVs) will be easier. Today you must find the right spot to park where you can find a supercharger. AVs will go far for it, they will not care. Consequently, deploying EVs will be cheaper.
The last and the most important, reason for the success of AVs in urban areas is that no public money is required to let it drive around. The new cars are being developed to be smart enough to drive by itself. It is kind of:
Smart Cars, Dumb Cities.
You might ask yourself why. Having smart cities and a central control would make everything easier. True. The problem is that it is almost impossible to get there. Plus, AVs will need to be smart anyway. For an extended period, they will share the roads with humans. Consequently, they can’t rely on central control, we humans will not. Private citizens will make all the investment. They will pay for the cars, for the fuel and for parking, in exchange for the benefit it will bring to their lives.
I’m sharing a hypothetic situation, which I believe it will happen sooner or later. We might need to wait a bit to get to this scenario. I don’t like to guess when it will happen because it is more than having the right technology. It is a complex problem; regulations will be one of the most significant discussions. From the technology point a view it is a tractable problem.