Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Car Culture

The Street of the Future: No Humans Necessary

This 45-second simulation of cute miniature jelly beans multi-ton driverless vehicles navigating the intersection of twin 12-lane monstrosities was featured on Atlantic Cities yesterday, and it's been making the rounds via Twitter. With Google engineers tooling around in vehicles that drive themselves, it looks like the 1950's-era dream of cars on autopilot zooming about on massive elevated highways has morphed into a thoroughly modern vision of cars on autopilot zooming about on street-level highways.

Ian Lockwood, a Loeb Fellow at Harvard University, wrote in with his take on the driverless car fantasy:

Just think, five-year-olds will finally have their own cars to take them to birthday parties, play-dates, and kindergarten. Elementary schools could be the size of regional high schools (think of the economies of scale) and have the big parking lots too. Commutes could be four hours long because car occupants could recline their seats and go to sleep. Think of the new sprawl opportunities. Designated drivers would be obsolete; so, let's everyone get drunk!  If there is no parking spot at the restaurant, then no problem; just have your car drive around the block a few hundred times while you eat supper. People in cars could text all they want, yak on the phone continuously, or surf the internet on their computers; think of the productivity gains. Taxi drivers would not exist anymore which begs the question, "Would the driverless taxis take you the long way too?"

Trucks could be driverless too; which would make Wal-Mart even more profitable. Their 80,000 pound steel boxes could drive around town automatically 24 hours a day. Why put people in all the cars, anyway? Some cars could evolve into highly mobile robots. Without the huge passenger volume, new designs of mobile robots would exist; sleek ones, tall ones, small ones, fun ones, etc. Robots could deliver pizzas, run errands, display moving billboards, and be used to bomb sensitive targets without the need of someone to commit suicide. However, all of this might be worth it for a particular household on a street in Brookline because cars would no longer have horns. Even Mumbai's streets might be quiet. After a few generations, literary scholars would write papers and have long debates about, "What was the real purpose of Honku?"

Mr. Lockwood, as it happens, is an accomplished amateur cartoonist. We'll be featuring his work on Tuesdays, reviving an old Streetsblog tradition.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Disabled NYer’s are Victims of Gov. Hochul’s Congestion Pricing Pause

So many New Yorkers can’t use the closest subway station to their homes because they don't have an elevator. And Gov. Hochul just halted funding for 23 new lifts.

July 23, 2024

DOT Will Fast-Track Private Sidewalk E-Bike Charging Stations

The mayor announced a new sidewalk e-bike charging station initiative, along with progress on the e-bike battery swap program and more money to FDNY for educational outreach.

July 23, 2024

Tuesday’s Headlines: LEGO Finally Gets It Edition

Streetsblog has had our issues with LEGO over the years, but we're willing to forgive. Plus other news.

July 23, 2024

Speeding Fuels Pedestrian Death Crisis As Council Stalls ‘Sammy’s Law’ Changes

Pedestrian fatalities were up 27 percent in the first six months of the year compared to 2023.

July 23, 2024

Bike Rack Saves Pedestrians in Crash on Busy Brooklyn Street

The white Hyundai involved in the crash has been nabbed 10 times by city speed- and red-light cameras since Oct. 10, 2023, city records show.

July 22, 2024
See all posts