Autonomous vehicles may bring a myriad of benefits, but I anticipate that one of the largest may be the actual reduction in the total size of the vehicle fleet. Eventually autonomous vehicles will allow “whistlecar” service, and whether fully autonomous or not would, this service is likely to fundamentally change the ownership model of automobiles. Like present-day car-sharing services or taxis, a whistlecar subscription would mean one car could serve the needs of many people, instead of remaining parked most of the day waiting for its one owner to return. Once you’re done with a car, it can drive off and serve someone else in the vicinity, drive to a charging station (if it’s electric), drive to a garage for service, or perhaps even deliver packages. When you can subscribe to an on-demand travel service available 24-7 (and eventually cheaper than owning a car), many people will choose not to own.
Setting aside all the other benefits of autonomous vehicles for the moment, I’ll explore just this one: the benefits of a reduction in the car fleet. And in a limited way: the greenhouse gas implications of this reduction in vehicles. Continue reading