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Cars on road highway in traffic jam
Cars on road highway in traffic jam

Autonomous Vehicles Are Not a “Rich Person’s” Technology

A transportation expert tells Jay Richards, alternative transport may disrupt the transportation industry but only in the short term

Jay Richards talked recently with Tom Alberg, Founder of the Madrona Venture Group and Co-chair of the ACES Northwest Network, about ACES’ efforts to bring Automated, Connected, Electric, and Shared vehicle technologies to the Puget Sound region:

The Benefits of ACES Vehicle Technology

A partial transcript follows:

Jay Richards: Well, you were chairing the panel on autonomous vehicles and you’re part of an initiative here in Seattle. What do you think is the most important takeaway from that?

Tom Alberg: I think that it’s really a combination of technologies. It’s both new technologies and it’s changed business models. So we formed a group here in Seattle called ACES, Autonomous, Connected, Electric, and Shared. “Shared” is really kind of the Uber and Lyft type car services, which really is a new business model. It depends on cell phones and, and technologies, but it is a new business model. Autonomous vehicles may end up being a new business model where no one owns a car, but it’s also very dependent on AI and other new technologies.

Jay Richards: So what do you think is the most positive implication of this coming technology?

Tom Alberg: There’s so many. My panelist Bryan Mistele listed something like seven different benefits, such as reducing traffic accidents and deaths. We have some 38,000 people die each year from automobiles. I mean, probably 80 or 90% of that could be eliminated with autonomous vehicles. It brings down the cost of transportation. So it’s not a rich person’s technology. It benefits everyone, including the handicapped people who need to get to jobs in the middle of the night.

Note: Motor vehicle deaths declined for three straight years in a row, even though miles driven increased, according to Car and Driver (May 6, 2020): “An estimated 36,120 people died in motor-vehicle traffic crashes in the United States last year, a drop of about 1.2 percent, according to new data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).” Historically, most such declines are thought to be due to new safety approaches, not only in vehicle technology but in traffic planning and management, and the availability of safe alternatives.

Jay Richards: When I talk to people about this, they’re worried really about the loss of jobs, long haul, trucking, taxi, the Uber drivers. I mean, what’d he say to that?

Tom Alberg: Well, the history of new technologies, going back to the 1800s if not before, is that when new technologies come along, they often create new jobs. There clearly will be displacement of jobs. But it’s over a long time period. And I mean, I’m such a believer in education that we need to be educating our future generations to be able to have these other jobs.

Note: Jay Richards has written a book, The Human Advantage, on thriving in the diverse job market created by new electronic technologies. He explains how in “Robot-proofing your career, Peter Thiel’s way” and “Students, don’t let smart machines disrupt your future.”

Jay Richards: Well, I think it’s important that there’s initiative here in Seattle. I lived here for many years and transportation and traffic is a continual nightmare in the city.

Tom Alberg: Yeah. We took a poll recently and the number one issue was homeless. Number two issue is traffic.

Note: The Seattle Times also sponsored a poll in January 2019 reporting that “A full two-thirds of Seattle residents said they would prefer to make it easier to travel without using a car, rather than make it easier to drive.” A cultural shift seems to have occurred in how residents feel about cars.

The panel discussion which Alberg moderated was “Will Pilots and Drivers Soon Be Obsolete?” at COSM, A National Technology Summit, October 23–25, 2019, sponsored by the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence, hosted by technology futurist George Gilder. Other panelists were Eben Frankenberg, Co-founder & CEO, Echodyne; and Bryan Mistele, Co-founder, President & CEO of Inrix.


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and

Have Millennials broken up with America’s car culture? They are less likely to have licenses; they prefer ride-sharing, says auto data analyst.


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Autonomous Vehicles Are Not a “Rich Person’s” Technology