Monday, February 5, 2018

This is almost beyond parody

This is Joseph

From Duncan Black, we have this article:

And today, a coalition of companies—including Lyft, Uber, and Zipcar—officially announced that they were signing on to a 10-point set of “shared mobility principles for livable cities”—in other words, industry goals for making city transit infrastructure as pleasant, equitable, and clean as possible. Some of the 10 statements, like “we support people over vehicles,” are vague but positive. But the final one speaks loudly about what city roads of the future could look like: “that autonomous vehicles (AVs) in dense urban areas should be operated only in shared fleets.”
It’s a “very convenient” idea for the companies who are promoting it, says Don MacKenzie, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington. “It is basically [tying] the success of these companies to the adoption of autonomous vehicles,” he says. In other words, putting this principle in action means that “if people want the benefits of AVs, they can only get that by using shared fleets.” (Worth noting that the concept only applies to dense urban areas.)
Ok, the first thing here is that any possible argument for this approach for AVs is going to apply to public transit as well.  Bus service would be greatly improved if many or most cars were banned or restricted from operation on city streets.

Second, there is a huge implicit road subsidy here for these companies, presuming non-AVs would need to be banned as well.  Roads that can only be used by corporations (not individuals) that appear to be supported by public taxation.

Three, doesn't this create perverse incentives to make public transportation less effective, via lobbying for weaker bus service, especially if AVs become more standard?

Four, isn't regulation intended to give private benefit to a public good a problem?  Allowing an AV to only be operated by a collective seems to be an odd regulation.  In what other area do we restrict items to use by corporations but ban private use?  There must be some but . . . 

Five, doesn't this likely end up with more non-AVs on the road, making the AVs less safe because they can't communicate with non-AVs?

It seems like a very self-serving idea as a ride sharing fleet.  I am curious what benefits we have here that wouldn't apply to public transit?


  1. Joseph:

    This is related to our discussion on a different thread on the idea of regulatory capture as the endgame of Uber etc. Step 1 is to get a large constituency of influential people to see Uber etc. as a necessity; Step 2 is to get the taxpayer subsidy.

    1. I think it may be simpler than that. Taxpayer subsidies are always nice but it's hard to beat monopolies (or even duopolies) as a path to wealth. Limit access to urban AVs to a few big players then (to make the pot even sweeter) lobby for restrictions on non-AVs in the name of safety. Then you'll see some serious surge pricing.

  2. Maybe five or ten years ago the trucking companies were arguing for an alternate, trucks only, semi-privatized (the profits, that is) version of the interstate highways. Hey why not?