To follow up my previous post about the future of transportation technology, mass transit and car ownership becomes part of the equation. While a bus can be more energy efficient, if self-driving cars powered by renewable technology at charging stations becomes an economical way to transport people, at what point do mass transit and personal ownership of an automobile become obsolete?
Some people will want to drive, at least for the next few decades. Eventually who is to say it won't become the equivalent of enjoying riding a horse as time passes? What practical need is there for wanting to drive instead of be driven?
Obviously the transition will take some time, but what might things be in a few decades if the self-driving car in combination with improved battery technology mixed with improved engine efficiency?
The carshare model and artificial intelligence mixed with a need to recharge, in addition to improved charging technologies could easily be leading to a situation where you request a car by internet, phone, or some currently unknown technology, and a car pilots itself from the charging location to you, picks you up, and takes you to your destination. Take it as a mix of a cab, a carshare, and a carpool all into one.
With improved AI it would be possible for such a system to respond to peak demands and have cars near employment centers at the end of a shift, outside schools at the end of the school day, near major events after a big game finishes, or stationed outside a mall during a busy shopping season.
The ways this would change the American lifestyle would be quite profound. Parking lots would be changed forever, high speed rail, mass transit, and even many flights would be obsolete.
Maybe autonomous cars won't be going 100+ mph in the next twenty years, but eventually on grade separated roads like the Interstate Highway System it could be reasonable to ban human driven vehicles in order to increase the throughput of the roads in addition to increase the speed to rates that are unthinkable with a human driver.
Nobody can predict the future, but some parts of the future are here today. Maybe we should plan for them.