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Cityscape: Volume 18 Number 3 | Transitioning to Driverless Cars



Volume 18, Number 3

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

Transitioning to Driverless Cars

Gilles Duranton
University of Pennsylvania

I have little doubt that driverless cars will eventually become the dominant transportation technology in our cities. They will save us time—a lot of it. Residents of American cities spend, on average, nearly 90 minutes traveling daily. Most of that time is spent driving a car or a small truck. The single largest cost of traveling for most of us is the time we waste behind the wheel. Research typically evaluates that cost at one-half an individual’s wage, or more in heavy traffic. Driverless cars will reduce traveling costs by enabling us to work, play, or just enjoy the scenery, as our cars will drive themselves. The young, physically or mentally impaired, and elderly people who cannot drive a car will gain a lot more freedom. Some errands will just run themselves with no one inside the car. Most importantly, about 30,000 Americans die on the road every year. Driverless cars will dramatically reduce that number of casualties. They will also create a number of further savings. Most of us currently own cars that sit idle most of the day. Many of us will stop owning a car and instead subscribe to a car-on-demand service. That will make our use of cars much more efficient. We will no longer need an expensive system of traffic lights and signals, as we currently do. We may even be able to reduce the large proportion of prime urban real estate that we devote to the roadway and parking. Yes, we will lose the occasional fun of driving, but that seems a small price to pay given the benefits of driverless cars.

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