By Kelly L. Fleming (September 27, 2019)
We’ve been fantasizing about self-driving cars for decades; the luxury of napping, watching TV, or reading while a robot car takes us to our destination. The first truly autonomous car debuted in the 1980s from Carnegie Mellon University’s Navlab project, and in the last four decades transportation has rapidly evolved into chauffeur-esque services like Uber and Lyft. But what are the real implications of this impending driverless future? New data from Uber and Lyft might give us a window to our unregulated driverless future: increased congestion and emissions.
Automated vehicles are an oft-overlooked issue in climate policy, even though transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., and traffic congestion is at an all-time high in many cities. A future where cars drive themselves will ideally cut down our time spent unproductively sitting in traffic, reduce air pollution, and make transportation more accessible for underserved groups. But without regulation, widespread use of automated vehicles could make all of these things worse.
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