Are the Cities of America Ready for Autonomous Vehicles (and Vice Versa)?

Autonomous VehiclesIt looks like everyone is trying to get into the autonomous vehicle game. Now, the Chinese-owned Volvo cars has teamed up with the Swedish automotive safety group Autoliv to develop their own proprietary software for Volvo cars. This will be a new company—which Volvo said, on Tuesday, does not yet have a name—that will work solely to develop advanced driver assistance systems along with the self-driving vehicle software.

Now, in August, Volvo had at once indicated they were teaming up with the popular ride-sharing firm Uber to develop driverless cars for the next generation in a project valued at around $300 million.

As such, Volvo (et al) will join the likes of 33 other companies racing to the top of this emerging industry. Obviously, this includes major tech firms like Apple, Microsoft, and Google as well as big car makers like BMW, GM, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Daimler. And the race, it seems is to get more driverless cars into cities as soon as possible.

Why would the new industry want to rush this along?

Obviously, so they can start reaping the benefits of the massive time and financial investment in development. Putting driverless cars into major cities—where people don’t really need or want to own a car; relying on cabs, subways, trains, and other public transportation instead.

But is this rush really worth it?

The glaring problem with this effort is that city dwellers may not have any desire for these services. City dwellers are used to not having cars. This lifestyle may date all the way back to pre-automobile days, when city-dwellers already relied on horse-drawn carriages, and then trains and then cabs.

Basically, not having a car, in the city, is nothing new. As such, releasing self-driving cars in cities is not all that appealing to those who live there, because it doesn’t affect them as much as it does those who actually drive every day. Those who drive every day—and at distances further away than within the city—would certainly find more benefit in self-driving cars.

And then there is the issue of traffic within the city. Trying to put these early autonomous vehicle models on the streets in any major city could be a little too tricky for the flagship vehicles.