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Self-Driving Cars

Self-Driving Cars


ED GLAESER: One of the issues that people have with
autonomous vehicles is that if, in fact, we have autonomous vehicles that
radically reduce the price of driving, the normal economist response is, we’re
gonna get more driving because of that. How do you view this,
how do you think this will evolve? How do you think autonomous
vehicles will end up being a blessing rather than a curse? ROBIN CHASE: I think about this as we can get
the heaven scenario or the hell scenario. And if we just introduce autonomous
vehicles into the status quo, and it’s very interesting when
I talk to people on the street. Or when you read the press, if people are imagining these autonomous
vehicles are just being swapped out for my personal internal combustion engine
car now, whoa, are we up for this hell? Because the economics,
if we keep the same economics and do the swap out, it is miserable. And so to express that in a clear way, what I learned from doing ZipCar is
when people think about going on a trip, when you own your own car, you think,
it’s just the price of gas. And in fact we know that
it’s not the price of gas. What’s the insurance on your car,
and what’s the parking, and what is the depreciation,
and all of that stuff? And that’s something that Zipcar did
that transformed how people think about transportation. GLAESER: They felt the marginal
cost of driving. CHASE: They felt the marginal cost of
driving, so when I own my own car and I say I want ice cream,
[SNAP SOUND] get in that car, it’s gonna be 50 cents
to go get ice cream. If I have to use a shared car,
I want some ice cream, I’m gonna be paying $8-10 to buy
that ice cream, I’m not gonna do it. So now, some of us have
understood that transition. So imagine if we go to autonomous
vehicles, where it’s not even my body in the car to go get the ice cream,
and so it really is 50 cents. It’s not even my time, and so if we
imagine that universe, it suddenly dawned on me when I was coming to Harvard Square
to meet someone on autonomous vehicles. And I thought, okay,
imagine if today, I left my home and I had autonomous vehicles. And if you just honestly put yourself
into a world where you have one today, what would it change? You see really quickly how you’ll
have that thing moving all the time. Would I pay for parking in Harvard Square? No way, because parking in Harvard Square,
even if I got a meter, is $3, cheaper to send it home. GLAESER: Instead of just driving around. CHASE: Or send it driving around the block. The hell involves this dramatically
increased congestion because our economics in cities are, I really don’t care about–
they drive around. We’ll still have massive unemployment
as we get rid of all of the taxi, shuttle bus, bus drivers. And the last thing which I think is
quite unspied is the enormous hit to our infrastructure finances that
are revenue streamed to pay for our transportation infrastructure. Is the fuel tax in cities, parking, garages, all the fees and
fines, registrations. If we go to autonomous vehicles, and if we go to, even further,
shared autonomous vehicles, the entire way we finance our transportation
infrastructure will collapse. Because by 60 to 80%, I think are the numbers that I’m
coming up with, so that’s hell. Hell, and how do we get to hell? We just say, yeah, let’s just put them in
without thinking through the second order effects, so let’s go to heaven
because that’s way better. [LAUGH]
GLAESER: You heard it here first. Okay, yeah. CHASE: So heaven. GLAESER: Heaven better than hell. CHASE: Heaven better than hell. So heaven scenarios, we get a handle on. If we think about
transportation financing. It’s been broken now, as you know,
for a long, long time. And so suddenly we have this
opportunity to fix it and to fix it without any
existing stakeholders. [LAUGH] So let’s make these rules now that
address all these things that we know profoundly had been wrong with how we’ve
financed transportation in the past. So let’s change those fuel taxes to
accommodate zero emission vehicles that don’t use fuel. Let’s address congestion,
because we realize that congestion is a huge reality that didn’t exist in 1902
when we started thinking of how to pay for things in, I think it was 1921
when we started doing fuel taxes. Let’s think about the size and
shape of the vehicle. It’s true that a giant big footprint
in the street should pay for more than a small footprint on the street. And fuel type. So we can start taxing for things that we
know are issues and should be addressed, and externalities and
realities that we could now tax. So we can make a much better tax incentive
and disincentives than we do today. So that would be one. GLAESER: So the natural, just to follow
this through, right, is a GPS-based congestion/pollution tax that scales up
with the size of the automobile in some appropriate fashion, that charges you
on a minute-by-minute basis for this. And this, we know,
is perfectly technologically feasible, because Singapore is in
the process of doing it. CHASE: Imagine in the autonomous
vehicle future we only need 10% of
the cars we have today, and this has been proved now by three
different studies that I just was finding. Singapore, one done in Lisbon, and one that I read about this morning that
I’m not remembering, Canberra, Australia. So we only need 10% of the cars. So imagine our cities when
our public rights of way have been stripped clean of all that parking
and we collapse the number of cars. GLAESER: I wanna stress that that 10% is
never gonna happen unless we tax congestion properly, right? So, if all autonomous vehicles do
this they lower the cost of driving, there will be a behavioral response,
which will mean we’re likely to get more calls rather than less
by moving [CROSSTALK]. CHASE: Precisely.
Heaven can only happen with extreme proactive movements now. And that’s why I’m working
on it all the time.

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