back to article Driverless cars will make more traffic, say transport boffins

Australian researchers predict that the rise of the autonomous vehicle will make congestion worse. That's the somewhat counter-intuitive conclusion offered by researchers from the University of Sydney's Institute of Transport and Logistical Studies, whose Transport Opinion Survey (TOP) has run since 2010. The most recent …

  1. Zog_but_not_the_first


    They should fit them with a beer tap.

    (I know. Lazy cultural stereotype etc.)

    1. MrDamage Silver badge

      Re: Maybe...

      Us aussies have all had a wee chunder in the back of a taxi, so that's why we're loathe to share out our AV, we know someone will end up splashing the insides with a technicolour yawn.

      We're a crass lot, so there would also be the boogers wiped in the carpet or under the door handle, splooge in places you wouldn't think possible, and somehow, someone would leave a perfectly formed steamer in the ashtray.

      1. Dazed and Confused

        Re: Maybe...

        It's not the idea of someone chundering in the back of our car that worries me so much, I mean almost everyone accepts that you shouldn't do technicolour yawns in the car. It's the way that a lot of people treat their own cars. I'm sure we all know people who you'd rather walk than go into their cars, or if you really must enter them, you want a hazmat suit or in milder cases you just want to have everything you're wearing washed (if not incinerated) the moment you get out. It's not just the parents of young kids who think it OK for their little Jenny to grind half chewed rusks into the seats or the road warriors who live in their cars and have 6 months worth of takeaway boxes, crisp packets and chocolate wrappers piled up all over the place.

        Taxis are for sharing. If I buy a car it is because I want it to be my own personal space.

      2. Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

        Re: Maybe...

        someone would leave a perfectly formed steamer in the ashtray.

        Better that than an imperfectly formed one.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Asking people if they're willing to share

    Is pointless today, you don't how it'll really affect your life until it comes. The basic issue is that almost everyone is used to owning a car, so it is difficult for them to imagine not owning a car.

    I don't see wanting to share cars, but that's down to one primary reason - a lot of people are gross, and I don't want to sit in other people's sweat, piss, vomit and worse. Or they'll leave their half eaten McDonalds breakfast under the seat and it'll be pretty ripe after a few days. These problems are not insoluble though, and if they were solved and I knew that 99% of the time when I wanted a car I could have one pull up in less than ten minutes I'd have a hard time thinking of a reason why I'd want to own a car versus some sort of NetJets like subscription plan.

    The problem is if I'm riding around in my car alone and everyone else is too, that's no different than if I owned a car, other than not needing as much parking. What's worse, if convenient cars meant fewer people taking buses or trains, congestion really will increase. There would need be some sort of financial incentive to get people willing to have others get picked up / dropped off. Maybe if you're willing to leave for work 10 minutes earlier to allow a few others who work at/near the same location to potentially be picked up on the way you pay a lower rate. I could see governments levying a congestion tax on those cars during certain hours/locations where it was a problem, which would be passed along to the passengers, encouraging people to share but you can be alone if you're willing to pay the price.

    1. Charles 9

      Re: Asking people if they're willing to share

      Soluble you say? How long have we dealt with butts on the sidewalk and gum hidden on the handrails?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Asking people if they're willing to share

      There are several reason I won't share a car but with relatives. Hygiene is one reason, probably the main one, but not the only one. I have a few personal items in my car, containers to keep perishable food cold, a few tools for an emergency besides the standard ones. How could I share a car with people who don't care at all about things unless it's their very own one? I've see what happened to some of the shared electric cars already available here.

      Also, the car was ordered to suit my needs - and I use it every day, and waiting ten minutes for one to arrive would be too much - especially if there's an emergency.

      Autonomous car sharing won't be a universal solution, it will replace taxis, but it won't replace personal cars.

      Congestion will be increased if people actually using trains/buses will switch to use cars because they don't have to drive and park. It is true autonomous cars could coordinate better and make the traffic flow smoother - as long as there is some kind of "Road Traffic Control" which all cars have to obey.

      1. Stuart 22

        Re: Asking people if they're willing to share

        "There are several reason I won't share a car but with relatives. Hygiene is one reason, probably the main one, but not the only one


        waiting ten minutes for one to arrive would be too much - especially if there's an emergency."

        Wow to the first point. Looking at cars parked in streets around here - you are in a special class, a small class.

        Second point. Waiting 10 mins for car - you mean not walking 10 minutes to the spot you took another 10 minutes to find? The success of Uber despite all its downsides is sharing is attractive to a large proportion of the population of a large city. Uber just found a new and more efficient mechanism for enabling that rather than the minicab market before.

        Being able to call up a minicab without an undesirable driver looks to be an even more attractive and more efficient (ie cheaper) option.

        Will that expand the market? Moot point. Paying the real cost of every journey as opposed to just jumping in the car without thinking about it might make the choice of other methods (walk/bike/bus/train) more realistic.

        Plus congestion around here is caused more by parked cars than moving traffic. The easiest/cheapest way of increasing traffic flow is to not having parked vehicles obstructing it for 23 hours a day.

        Plus flexibility. A autonomous car for two for a nice night out, a Winnebago for a nice week out. You don't have to buy both. You can do other things than stare at the road ;-)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "congestion around here is caused more by parked cars than moving traffic"

          Some cities have already implemented the solution - you can't park everywhere in the streets. And you can't own a car if you don't have a place to park it when not in use. Public streets shouldn't be free parking - especially for cars that are left parked all the week and maybe used in the weekend only.

          For a nice night out in two, I'd like a clean car where someone else didn't perform some shaggin' just before... at least with a human driver people have to limit themselves most of the time.

          About waiting, I live in a small town. There could be instances I need a car immediately. A few days ago I brought my father to the emergency room, which is a few kilometeres away. I prefer to know I can rely on a car immediately when I need it.

          In large cities maybe it could work better - again, it will put out of job taxi drivers.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: "congestion around here is caused more by parked cars than moving traffic"

            "at least with a human driver people have to limit themselves most of the time."

            I would expect that shared/hired AVs will have CCTV inside too. The owner will want to protect their investment. I think I find that a bit creepy. It's one thing for the taxi firm to know who you are, where you live, where and when you go places, but to have a CCTV pointed at your face at all times? And you just KNOW this is how it will work. Your choices will be a) accept it, be never use an AV "taxi" or c) be rich enough to have your own or pay for the "exclusive luxury" service.

            1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

              Re: "congestion around here is caused more by parked cars than moving traffic"

              " I think I find that a bit creepy."

              "but to have a CCTV pointed at your face at all times?"

              look , if there was a driver in there he could see you at all times. do you find that creepy?

              problem - no driver to stop shaggin

              solution - CCTV

              simple fix

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: "congestion around here is caused more by parked cars than moving traffic"

                "look , if there was a driver in there he could see you at all times. do you find that creepy?"

                Only if his/her eyes glow with the "Recoding On" red LED indicator so they can keep a permanent recording.

        2. GruntyMcPugh

          Re: Asking people if they're willing to share

          I can't wait ten minutes for a ride, I nip home at lunch to check on my dogs, I can't lose ten minutes either side of that journey.

          Dogs, ... so car sharing really won't suit. My wife has a camper, we removed the seats, and boarded out the back, with a false floor gap for a pull out ramp. I have a 4x4 with the back seats flat, and a folding board that fills in the gaps to stop paws from getting trapped. Both cars have dog paraphernalia, first aid kits, towels, water, snacks, etc, because we spend a lot of time outdoors. I imagine parents have similar requirements with child seats, sun blinds, toys, wipes, sick bags etc. So car sharing might work if you live in a city, only travel within it, and don't have kids or pets.

      2. Adam 1

        Re: Asking people if they're willing to share

        I don't think that it is going to operate in the way imagined by some commentards. Whilst I would leave open the possibility of personal ownership, my money would be on these share vehicles being operated by a fleet company.

        To the concern about not having a car in an emergency or having to wait 10 minutes, or being too rural, I don't think they are deal-breakers. How many families do you know with two cars, where for the most part one of them is almost only used to transport someone to and from work and maybe the odd errand? It can easily be 10K a year to operate a car once you include depreciation, insurances, registration fees, servicing, tyres and fuel. That is not to even talk of having to have additional garage/driveway/kerb space to store such vehicles for the most of the time when they are at home or at the shop or whatever. Public transport may not be an option between the places and at the times needed, or may add half an hour to each trip, or may feel unsafe waiting at a poorly lit bus stop awaiting a bus that may not arrive, so whilst we might argue that public transport is a better option, the reality is that public transport operators cherry pick the routes with the highest patronage.

        If families kept their primary vehicle, then a compelling case could be made to ditch that second car and use some on demand system not unlike Uber. This could be a fraction of the cost of ownership. You don't have the inconvenience of getting the thing serviced or repaired or new tyres or checked for rego or having to decide when it's time to sell it. If you are going from suburb to city for business, you probably end up sharing a van with 3-6 others with your fee heavily discounted. Getting a new fridge? Take a ute with you to the shop. Actually, take whatever comes with you and order a ute home. Flying somewhere? No need to rent a car at your destination. No need to even pay the extortionate airport parking rates to leave a perfectly functioning vehicle a few 10s of Kms from home for a week.

        It's not going to happen overnight. It doesn't have to. But my prediction is that most kids born in 30 years time will have a puzzled look when you tell them about how you used to spend a double digit percentage of your income on owning a car that you left in your garage except for a dozen trips per week.

    3. rmason

      Re: Asking people if they're willing to share

      It's all in the questions asked isn't it?

      Did they include the bit about the autonomous vehicles (at first at least) presumably being rather expensive?

      the drive to share such vehicles won't be pushed by the simple fact they are autonomous, but rather the fact that at first they will be out of the reach, in financial terms, to many who were surveyed.

      Make that clearer and the answers some give might change.

      "Would you share an autonomous Vehicle?"

      don't be daft.

      Vs "We currently expect autonomous vehicles to cost around [cost of standard runabout+50-100%) will you buy one immediately, share one or wait?"

      Also it will all be down to how they are presented and sold.

      right now your average punter thinks that some sort of agreement will be drawn up whereby 4-6 of you "buy" a car. It wont be like that at all.

      Yes, they will share a vehicle with random other families, because they will all have enrolled into the same "pay us this much a month and book an AV whenever" service. Not because you and three neighbouring families have teamed up to pay for one, but rather that you're all paying whatever a month google/apple/ford etc decide they can charge to rent them out on a contract type basis.

      You'll always get weird answers to surveys when you're asking questions that don't make sense, or make assumptions that the model for ownership of these things remains the same as it is currently.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Asking people if they're willing to share

        Quite right RMason , without knowing the questions asked , and the context , the survey is worthless.

        Was the sharing linked to AV cars? or is 7% the default for sharing of any vehicle?

        Is that 7% of those asked or 7% of the 27% who said theyd buy an AV?

        Whats Leasing and sharing got to do with AVs anyway? we could do that now but we dont.

        So mixing two completley unrelated questions into 1 survey only muddys the waters.

        Also , Aussies dont walk anywhere , trust me . Too hot and dusty , and everythings 100s of miles away.

        (please dont correct me on this , I was just indulging in a bit of harmless lazy cultural stereotyping )

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Asking people if they're willing to share

      Ask this question on a 'Tesla fan forum' and the majority would be all for it. They seem to see a utopia ahead that IMHO just won't happen.

      They think that we will need around 25% of the cars on the road today.

      Those lucky sods with a Fully Autonomous Tesla will just let others use it all day (Saves on parking charges) and it will head to the nearest Supercharger then it needs some electrons.

      Then it will magically appar at their place of work to whisk them home on the now empty freeways.

      That folks is what the Tesla people are forcasting.

      Now us down to earth El Reg cynics know that we all have our shit in our cars. It is our shit so that it why we don't want others to drive it and walk off with our shit which has suddenly become their shit.

      Then we all know that the Polis will be down on us like a firestorm if they stop our car and someone is smoking a joint or worse still, using the shared ride to transport drugs. Suddenly, that car of ours is not ours any longer as the Polis have siezed it as evidence. I could go on about the impracticalities of thie car sharing utopia but her indoors is about to put tea on my plate. I know where my bread is buttered thank you very much.

      The way to get those Tesla fanatics all riled up is to say that car sharing is very socialist. They american Tesla Fanbois don't like that at all.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @AC - "getting Tesla fanatics all riled up"

        I'd wager that Tesla owners skew pretty liberal, so I doubt calling them socialist would rile them up all that much. Now try that with pickup truck owners and you'll get a very different result :)

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          Re: @AC - "getting Tesla fanatics all riled up"

          I think you have to stop thinking of your car as your office , and more of a personal bus seat.

    5. Kernel

      Re: Asking people if they're willing to share

      "Or they'll leave their half eaten McDonalds breakfast under the seat and it'll still be pretty ripe just as edible after a few days years."


  3. as2003

    Are they saying that because 'only' a third of people would consider sharing their car, congestion may increase? A third of people willing to share seems to be a lot higher than current rates of sharing.

    And sure, people don't want to share their cars, but what if no one has cars because the self-driving fleets operated by the ubers of the future are so ubiquitous, convenient and cost effective?

    Just going by the press release, it sounds like they are drawing some pretty wild conclusions that they have no right to be drawing.

    1. Neoc

      Not quite, AS2003: 28% of Australians said they'd buy an AV, 7% (about 1/4 of the 28%) said they'd let someone else rent it.

      And if no-one owns a car, then they would not be "renting" it to someone else, would they? Mind you, with no-one driving the buggers, you could never be sure of the state of the car you'd be getting into.

    2. MonkeyCee


      " A third of people willing to share seems to be a lot higher than current rates of sharing."

      It's almost meaningless really.

      Most people already share their car, to some degree. Certainly more than a third anyway. Most people do not regularly share their car with strangers. How many hitch hikers does an average driver pick up in a year*?

      So that statistic isn't really based on current actual behaviors, because it would show that people overwhelmingly do not let strangers into their cars.

      * the answer is usually zero or many :)

  4. pleb

    Am I stupid (be kind)?

    Ok, I'm maybe being thick, but I don't get how car sharing reduces congestion. Just because everybody has their own personal car parked somewhere (i.e. static), how does that increase traffic congestion? If anything, lots of shared cars transiting to their next assignment can only add to the number of vehicle movements.

    1. MonkeyCee

      Re: Am I stupid (be kind)?

      " but I don't get how car sharing reduces congestion."

      The theory is that instead of three people making three journeys in three separate cars, they all go in one together, saving the planet etc etc.

      Now you may well have done that awkward "real world thinking" thing that is so prevalent on el reg, and noted that getting the various people organised and comfortable with sharing is tricky at the best of times. Hence the suggestion that the exact opposite will happen :)

      I suspect here will be significant differences in opinion about sharing or riding in shared vehicles that will be hard to capture in a simple survey. Some people own private vehicles precisely because they don't like waiting around for someone else to get their shit together. Some really like their personal space. Some would be fine, as long as there is appropriate vetting of the drivers/riders, others would never let a stranger in their car.

      It's also already entirely possible to share your car. It doesn't require driverless technology to do that, but the uptake is pretty limited relevant to number of people driving. If carpooling isn't already a success when the owner is going to be in the car, how would it be more successful with the owner being away from it?

    2. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: Am I stupid (be kind)?

      Mrs Git picks Jo up as she passes her house in Franklin, then Jenny in Huonville and then drops them off in Hobart before proceeding to work on the other side of the River. On her way home the reverse happens. Jo's vehicle remains at home all day, as does Jenny's. Three commuters, one vehicle on the road rather than three. Jo and Jenny pay Mrs Git "petrol money" defraying her cost of commuting.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Am I stupid (be kind)?

        Mrs Git picks Jo up as she passes her house in Franklin, then Jenny in Huonville and then drops them off in Hobart before proceeding to work

        Lovely. And all based on low flexibility patterns of work with similar start and finish times. Which highlights that all of the assumptions about the impacts of AVs seem to be predicated on the continuation of the problem-causing behaviours, like people living a long way from where they work, high degrees of urbanisation and centralisation, and the nature of work continuing to be 9-5 grinds, five days a week.

        Of course, in a similar time frame that AVs might actually work in a truly autonomous fashion (say ten of fifteen years), the same advances in AI, sensors and data processing will inevitably alter the nature of work itself, with a likely reduction in clerical, administrative, manual roles, a commensurate reduction in management and supporting roles for those activites, not to mention a hit on professional and white collar roles, as elements of these can be automated (eg an architect comes up with a design concept for a building (essentially a sketch and outline plans, but every other aspect of its design, compliance with regulations, functional capability could be produced by computer - we're not far off that capability even now).

    3. bigc

      Re: Am I stupid (be kind)?

      I was thinking the same thing. Sequential (i.e. one passenger at a time) car sharing reduces parking problems, but surely must increase congestion due to the extra journeys to pick up the next passenger.

    4. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Am I stupid (be kind)?

      You have 4 very sensible comprehensive answers up there above this one.

      my answers are

      Short version: Yes, you are being a bit thick

      Long version: I think you are missing the point when you say

      "Just because everybody has their own personal car parked somewhere (i.e. static), how does that increase traffic congestion? "

      The difference is that less cars are moving , not that more cars are static , which I believe would ease congestion , unless indeed I'm being a bit thick , and I'll happily admit it if proved wrong. I know where the paris icon is , and im not afraid to use it on myself!

    5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Am I stupid (be kind)?

      "I don't get how car sharing reduces congestion"

      The predictions we're usually given are not so much private individuals' cars being shared but commercial autonomous fleets, something Uber-like but without the drivers. According the Beeb's report (but not included in el Reg's coverage) one of TfL's reasons for pulling Uber's licence was that the Uber cars increased congestion.

      1. pleb

        Re: Am I stupid (be kind)?

        @Dr Syntax. Thank you. I was not explicit enough, but you expressed it much better. Indeed I was referring to the sharing of cars rather than sharing of journeys. As others point out, we already can share journeys if we wish, driverless changes nothing there. Driverless means we can share the car (sequentially, as another has helpfully clarified) instead of owning it. And as you point out with the Uber example, why would that not add to conjestion?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Am I stupid (be kind)?

          Driverless means we can share the car (sequentially, as another has helpfully clarified) instead of owning it. And as you point out with the Uber example, why would that not add to conjestion?"

          I think the main difference bewteen driven and driverless car sharing is how the car gets between users, ie with driverless, the users don't need to be physically at the same point to swap over.

          Uber, on the other hand, with their apps bookings and mapping/navigation information could offer to ride share by picking up and/or dropping off along the route, possibly with some relatively slight detours along the way. Maybe charge more for guaranteed exclusive use of the car for the trip. In a busy city I'd bet that most taxi trips could quite easily double up or better for much of the trip. Currently they are subsidising by so much that people are choosing Uber over buses and the Tube, hence the TfL complaint about congestion.

    6. Citizens untied

      Re: Am I stupid (be kind)?

      Don't forget the number of likely empty cars trying to get to their next passenger. My guess is the end result will be a reflexive, double-long rush hour as the AVs go to home base or some such nonsense. Commuting is the problem, if we could only use our cars only when we need to travel (mainly recreationally I would think) outside the normal human range, and only had to travel within the normal human range to do whatever the hell is is we need to do on average the situation would be improved. The only people working to "solve" this are the one's deeply invested in the current format.

  5. John Robson Silver badge

    Rational conclusions

    Still to come...

    Any discussion of the reduced congestion from sane driving styles, and any discussion of people not owning as many cars (or any at all).

    Sure taxi style services may mean more journeys, but it's impatient journeys that contribute disproportionately to congestion - and pointless journeys... would you still wait five minutes for a car when you could have walked to your destination?

    1. Charles 9

      Re: Rational conclusions

      Would you walk in an unfamiliar area? And/or the dead of night? And/or in the rain or snow?

  6. jake Silver badge

    A car is a tool.

    I don't loan out tools.

    In the past, I loaned out tools occasionally. They always came back in an inferior condition than they were when they left the shop. Thus the rule: No loaners, end of discussion.

    (I'm not an asshole ... I'll happily use my own tools to help a person in need. I'll even let them do the work, using my tools. But never when out of my sight!)

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: A car is a tool.

      "In the past, I loaned out tools occasionally. They always came back in an inferior condition than they were when they left the shop. Thus the rule: No loaners, end of discussion."
      I must be lucky. My friends Tony and Fran return tools in as good as or better condition. I learnt how to sharpen drill bits from those guys. Fran dropped by a few hours ago with an electric fence energiser I need for a while and borrowed my star-post driver.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: A car is a tool.

        Git, I respectfully suggest they aren't friends, they are family.

        Question: You lot need electric fencing, and don't have spares? I have a dozen 5 mile energisers that I picked up for 20 bucks apiece (on sale at Tractor Supply). Handy. Likewise, Fran's running fence and doesn't own a post driver? Why ever not? Also cheap and handy to have about.

        1. Pompous Git Silver badge

          Re: A car is a tool.

          "Git, I respectfully suggest they aren't friends, they are family."
          Touché; not related, Fran's a Londoner (originally) and Tony is from the bit of land to the north of Tasmania.

          "Question: You lot need electric fencing, and don't have spares?"
          I could have run a line to the boundary fence, but as it happens a small strip-grazer around the garden to keep out the wallabies and possums that were not a problem prior to gun-control makes more sense (topographically). Some items are needed only occasionally and we figure why bother purchasing something that one of us already owns. Such items as sash clamps, specialised router bits, biscuit-joiners, Gripple-tool, wool-classing table, post-hole diggers, star-post pullers and too many other tools to mention are virtually held in common. My friend Doug has a lathe capable of making a replacement crank-shaft. A bit silly for all of us to own one, even if we had the kind o shed-space Doug has.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: A car is a tool.

            I have all of those tools. Why? Because when I have a need for them, chances are 'tis the season for that tool ... and all my neighbors are already using theirs (except the grinder & tables). It's cheaper to keep 'em on-hand than it is to rent them.

            My crank grinding machine (Storm Vulcan 15A & matching cam grinder) came to me in a "if you can get that stuff out of here this week, it's yours" deal. I win, I own a fully functional pair of grinders for about $1,500 in repairs. They win in that they didn't have to figure out how to scrap about 10 tons (literally!) worth of "obsolete" equipment. Handy when restoring old engines.

            I don't use grandad's wool classing tables anymore. I switched to a hair breed (Royal White), I don't need/want the pain in the ass of wool production. I sold one table to a yuppie for $1,700 ... Not sure what they wanted a hundred-year-old hand built 8 foot long slatted table for. It's completely lanolin impregnated, there is no way it'll take paint or a stain ... and yet, somehow, I allow the other ones to take up valuable storage space.

      2. Donn Bly

        Re:I must be lucky.

        Yes, you are lucky.

        I have a large collection of tools -- much larger than the average guy. Whenever I need a tool the decision is not whether I borrow or buy, but whether I will buy the cheap one or the good one. As such, I'm the guy in the neighborhood that everyone comes to when they need something, and while I'm not opposed to loaning something out experience has shown that if I do I only have a 50/50 chance of it coming back in good condition.

        Of course, there are a few people that I do consider trustworthy and I know that I will get it back in good condition, but they aren't very common anymore. I think the biggest problem is that fewer people actually know how to use the tools correctly -- like the guy who wanted to borrow my post driver AND sledgehammer. Instead I told I would stop over in a bit and show him how to use the driver so that he didn't ruin it.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Re:I must be lucky.

          "the cheap one or the good one."

          Neither. The best one. That way you only make the purchase once.

          Concur with your second paragraph. In my case, I tend to think of the trustworthy few more as family than as friends, thus my comment to HisGitness, above.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A car is a tool.

      > A car is a tool.

      >I don't loan out tools.

      Do you ever hire tools?

      Implicit in your statement is "I will always own one of these tools".

      This may be true for you but is not true for all people (it is not true for me) and it may be that in at least some places where problems of congestion exist it is not true for sufficient people for this sort of scheme to bring a beneficial outcome, although I share with many in this thread considerable skepticism about the likely benefit of driverlessness per se of vehicles to this problem.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: A car is a tool.

        "Do you ever hire tools?"

        If you are asking if I ever pay for the use of a tool, yes. But rarely these days. For example, I paved about a mile of road last year. I rented the paving machine (a friend who used to work for CalTrans operated it for me). I'll probably only need to do that once, so why purchase one? But for the vast majority of maintenance around here, I'll use any given tool several times per year ... if not per day. Why spend money at an equipment yard when I can own the tool in question?

        That said, what does your question have to do with me not loaning out my tools? I was pointing out that I will not share a vehicle that I purchase with a third party.

  7. ozobken

    Did they consider that AVs are likely to be better at using freeways - ie: more able to merge, convoy, etc, which will definitely reduce congestion?

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      indeed , they will drive much more sensibly and avoid "waves" of congestion , even if there is the same number of cars cos no one shares one.

    2. Bob Rocket

      No they didn't consider any of that because that is not their aim,

      “the real challenge is getting society to become more sharing either by allowing others to use their cars or through a third party mobility plan”

      Their unstated aim is to erect a New Soviet, a land in which "fear of the state -- and its suffocating reach -- prevails" by introducing numerous laws that limit freedom of action and expression.

      Done correctly, Autonomous Vehicles will free ordinary people from the twin tyrannies of traffic jams and public transport.

    3. Spender

      Did they consider that the "alpha" driver (with their 4-litre Holden) will be able to exploit the intrinsic politness of any AI powered car to muscle their way through the heaviest queues of driverless cars, forcing the AI to hesistantly wait for the danger to pass?

  8. bat

    Saving money not parking

    I can also see people trying to saving money not parking their cars whilst in town. It would be set to drive economically and cruse around until needed for the return trip, thus added to the traffic.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Saving money not parking

      That's a good point, and the only answer I can see to that problem is pricing the roads so they're more expensive than parking. Or you could ban driverless cars from travelling with no passengers, but that compromises a lot of the benefit too.

      Another reason that they'll increase congestion is that people will care less about congestion. A traffic jam is going to be a lot less frustrating when you're snoozing or watching TV than it is when you're alert and at the wheel. There's less electoral incentive for government to spend money on easing congestion.

      1. Bob Rocket

        Re: Saving money not parking

        Your AV will choose quiet roads to cruise up and down whilst it is waiting for your call :)

        It is all about the money (and control) though.

        AVs cannot break the speed limit - no more fixed penalties

        AVs don't need car parking space away from home - no more parking charges or Parking Eye

        AVs can't drive recklessly - no need for traffic cops

        No need for DVLA (other than model approvals)

        No need for DoT

        No need for HoC Transport committee

        The list goes on and on

        The potential impact on political control of AVs is only just being realised by those whose very livelihoods currently depend on non AV forms of transport (including Professors of Institutes of Transport and Logistical Studies).

  9. Nattrash

    Public transport


    <quote> the rise of the autonomous vehicle will make congestion worse</quote>

    Isn't that what we see nowadays, even with the availability of public transport?

    <quote>That sharing is vital to any assumption that self-driving vehicles would reduce congestion...</quote>

    Isn't that what we have been told all the time about public transport?

    <quote>traffic congestion could get worse in the self-driving car era, unless governments encourage sharing</quote>

    Isn't this what governments have been doing currently with respects to public transport use?

    <quote>Only one-third of people who think they'd buy an autonomous vehicle</quote>

    So why would I like to buy/ own the bus/ tube/ train/ taxi/ ferry/ plane (fill in as desired) I ride on with others, when I can use it for a "for-the-ride-only" fee?

    Maybe I'm the misguided one, but this sounds like some warped society image, ignore human nature and behaviour, and carving out "an unique market space" for a new product without looking at the expectations and needs of the ones that are expected to pay. Or maybe it is just one of those tech developments that actually nobody has any use for? Then again, I can image those road trains being driverless. Then again, we do have freight trains. Need... coffee... now...

  10. Blergh

    Is the idea not for taxis to be cheaper?

    With autonomous cars taxis could become much cheaper, thereby meaning the occasional user can get rid of their car. Commutes could also start to be covered, perhaps on a subscription model. Anyway either way there are still just as many journeys, maybe even more, the only difference is that it is covered by less vehicles. The only reduction in volume is when it might be easier to set up a cab sharing, maybe for a 30% discount and 10min longer route.

    1. Francis Boyle

      or just

      fully integrate them into public transport.

    2. imski

      Re: Is the idea not for taxis to be cheaper?

      I think that's the real use case for autonomous vehicles: combining taxi and car sharing into public transport.

      If you can have an uber style app to hail a ride from a fleet of AV's cheaply, and don't mind that car picking up someone else along the way, you could get cheaper and more conveniently to work than by owning a car or current public transport for your day to day movements.

      That would free you up to own something personal and fun for the weekend, or alternatively have a family SUV and not use it 95% of the time to sit in city or commuting traffic by yourself but possibly use it for its capabilities.

      And it could free you up from owning a car altogether which a growing number of people might find attractive.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Is the idea not for taxis to be cheaper?

      "With autonomous cars taxis could become much cheaper,"

      But won't because "new technology", "safer" etc, so a premium will be charged, at least initially. Once critical mass is achieved, prices will tumble to kill off the remaining human driven taxis, then the prices will rice back up to "all the market will bear", possibly with a slight nod to competition when the newest incarnation of Uber and their ilk try to "disrupt" the new market.

      1. Francis Boyle


        And yet every week right here we have stories of manufacturers of a technology that has become ubiquitous struggling to survive on paper thin margins. For every Apple their will always be a dozen Lenovos, Dells, and Samsungs.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If AV cars no longer need the driver to be a competent licensed driver then more people will buy cars. Older people who may have retired their car due to the person's declining abilities will now be able to own a car for even longer.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    only seven per cent would lease theirs to others

    how many people would have wanted to fly in a wooden box with a quirky "engine" upfront, over the Atlantic? Say, one hundred years ago? How many would have send the photo of their willy to the world to see, and be proud of the clicks, say, 50 years ago? (yeah, I know, just you wait, it will come ;)

    p.s. the analogy is not like for like, it's not meant to be. The point is: people attitudes change (shudder).

  13. Primus Secundus Tertius

    Challenge to democracy

    “the real challenge is getting society to become more sharing either by allowing others to use their cars or through a third party mobility plan”.

    No! The real challenge is to get those busybodies to respect democracy when it comes from ordinary more or less selfish people.

  14. msknight

    If autonomous cars become a serious, cost effective option...

    ...then I'll ditch my car and use an autonomous taxi service.

    The car is an expensive luxury which has become an expensive necessity in todays society and I'd love to be able to spend that money on other things.

  15. Alan Bourke

    Just as well there won't be a rise of the autonomous vehicle ...

    since even if we weren't a very long way from it being realistic technically, it's solving a problem that doesn't exist.

  16. JamesPond

    MIB2 - Virtual Driver Required

    I think it needs the pop-up (blow-up?) driver from MIB2 to act as the drivers conscience. In my experience the majority of people don't deface/mess up others cars when they are [sober] passengers. Therefore the autonomous car needs the MIB2 pop-up driver to keep the owners of the car in check. It will need to be a white driver in USA and Britain because as K says in MIB2, the black driver will be racially profiled by the police and keep getting pulled over for no reason.

  17. Salestard

    Design out the issue?

    Perhaps the problem lies deeper than people's attitudes.

    All AVs are currently based on normal cars, or derivative thereof. Car interiors are designed environments, with a specific identity and feel to them. They become our personal space by virtue of clutter, seat settings, radio presets, and so on.

    A bus or train on the other hand, is not - it's a functional impersonal space.

    Perhaps attitudes will change if AVs were designed specifically as functional impersonal things that nobody will mind sharing.

  18. Complicated Disaster

    Car / Taxi / Train

    This is how I expect I will use my AV. Most of the time it will be like a normal car - driving me to work and to the shops etc. Some of the time it will be like a taxi - driving me to/from the airport or the pub. And sometimes it will be like a train - driving me into London for a meeting or for dinner. And the beauty of it? I'll never have to pay for parking as I'll just set it to driving round the block until I'm ready for it again. Or send it home, maybe. I certainly won't be allowing the great unwashed into it. I can totally see how that would increase congestion.

  19. unwarranted triumphalism

    Got rid of mine...

    Bike for short journeys, train for longer ones. I've saved money and lost weight.

    Win-win in my book.

    1. Charles 9

      Re: Got rid of mine...

      How rainy or snowy is it in your area? Given England's notorious weather (not to mention other areas' propensities for cyclones, tornadoes, blizzards, etc.), being forced to bike around during a downpour is not my idea of a good time.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Got rid of mine...

      "Bike for short journeys, train for longer ones."

      That works for you so it must work for everyone else. Everywhere is reasonably flat. Everywhere has good local train services ("good" because I've had experience with not good) and everyone has a good enough sense of balance and fitness to ride a bike. And, as per Charles 9's comment, everywhere has an agreeable climate.

  20. handleoclast

    New idea

    I get it. People don't want to share their cars because, well, other people are arseholes.

    So, given the Uber is going down the tubes, I came up with a new idea for an app and car sharing.

    I call it TWOC.

    Use the app to request a car and some local scallies will twoc one, then drive you around. After they've finished, they make sure it's hygienically clean by torching it. You don't have to worry about some arsehole having a dump in your car's ashtray because you get a new car with the insurance. Everyone is happy.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  21. teebie


    "such a low rate of sharing would be too low to offset population-driven growth"

    That doesn't mean they "will make more traffic", it means they will reduce traffic, but won't reduce traffic as much as other factors increase it.

    A bit pedantic I know, but the same logic can be used for "vaccines make more measles" and other tomfoolery.

  22. DropBear

    All I can say is that based on what I see around me, humans are incomparably worse than any corrosive agent nature ever had - anything left accessible to the public quickly degrades to somewhere between a seedy baseline and complete ruin in a few months at best, in a matter of days at worst.

    There's no way in hell I'd ever share a vehicle with other owners, regardless of how well I know them, and sharing with complete strangers is downright ludicrous. I already do that every time I climb into a cab - privately owned, therefore looked after, and _still_ a rather unpleasant experience more often than not.

    As for travelling _together_ with others... well, based on surrounding standards here: NOPE. At least buses, as bad as they are, allow me to scoot away from the worst offenders; but if you climb into my cab next to me, I get out, full stop.

  23. Alan Brown Silver badge

    The part they missed asking

    If cheap autonomous vehicle hire was available, would you even bother buying your own car?

    1. Charles 9

      Re: The part they missed asking

      I think what they're saying is that the answer may well be, "No, but ONLY if I can hire an EMPTY one."

  24. Stevie


    A rare pro-case from me:

    Instead of thinking of them as self-driving cars, try thinking of autonomous vehicles as trains that go where you need them to go.

    Should SDC/AVs become reality, they will spell he end of widespread private vehicle ownership in net-connected areas.

    Back to moaning as per usual: The idea of installing auto-driving stuff in articulated trucks is a problem, especially when the developers blither about the increased brake-awareness meaning trucks can slipstream in trains.

    Imagine not only having to follow a truck, but never being able to pass because there are six of the buggers driving nose-to-tail. I predict this will result in fatalities and backlash.

    And I remain terrified about the certainty of the repurposed ADC/AV low-speed cruise missile.

    1. Charles 9

      Re: Bah!

      "Imagine not only having to follow a truck, but never being able to pass because there are six of the buggers driving nose-to-tail. I predict this will result in fatalities and backlash."

      Given the size of your average convoy (to the point there's a whole bloody song about it), you're not thinking big enough (and no, no one wants to slip between the trucks of a regular convoy unless they have to--too risky).

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      "Instead of thinking of them as self-driving cars, try thinking of autonomous vehicles as trains that go where you need them to go."

      But not necessarily when you want one for the simple reason that you'll want one at more or less the same time as everyone else and most of the time someone else will have got them before you.

      1. Charles 9

        Re: Bah!

        There's that big bug-a-boo about flexible capacity: that also means surge capacity, that rarely gets used but when it DOES get used, it gets USED! Like when the big game lets out, everyone gets out at once and needs a ride at once. Now you're caught in a vice. Having enough cars to handle this surge means a lot of idle rides most of the time, whereas anything less will mean people wait and gripe as a result. Lose-lose.

  25. earl grey

    Only if they autoclave the interior

    And i don't have to ride with anyone else

    and it's available exactly when and where i need it

    and i don't have to pay every time (my auto is payed off and only minor maintenance)

    and it's smart enough to take a different route if i tell it

    and it works well in all weather and road conditions (snow, rain, etc.)

    and the answer is still HELLZ NO!

  26. PacketPusher


    Why would anyone lease their car out? It seems to me that once autonomous cars become common, they will mostly become taxis. Without the cost of a driver, I would think that the cost of a taxi would be lower than driving your own car. Some individuals might have their own specialty vehicle such as luxury cars for the wealthy or muscle cars for hoons. Just chrystal ball thoughts.

    1. Charles 9

      Re: Taxi?

      And you're overlooking the EXACT reason so many people hate to take taxis: because they don't know who rode it before them nor what they did IN it before then.

  27. Jim Birch

    Game change

    If autonomous cars become common, a lot of things will change including people's attitudes.

    Autonomous cars won't become normal unless they produce benefits for users, and if they do people make trade-offs. This is how change works. People are inherently conservative. Taxis have been around for a long time but they are expensive for most people. The real impact depends on the economics. Most commuters would like to be able to use their commute time to work or play.

  28. Sherrie Ludwig

    Maybe family?

    In my area of rural USA, a four person family (two driving age kids plus parents) has four cars, because there is no public transport, and the distances are too long to walk or bike. In this case, that might be pared down by one or two cars. My husband's car, driving him three towns away to get the train into the major city, then sits in the lot all day too far away for me to use. I would happily give up a second car and use one car for the both of us, since I have a much shorter commute, and closer errands to run, and can get the car to go back to the train station and pick him up. I can't see sharing with neighbors or strangers, but it would be convenient for us. If I had driving age kids living at home, they could either share parent car or split one between them. Given teenage driver accidents, that would be less worry for parents as well. So, might remove some cars from multi car families.

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