Felix Salmon considers the ups of driverless cars, including the safety benefits:
If and when self-driving cars really start taking off, it’s easy to see where the road leads. Firstly, they probably won’t be operated on the owner-occupier model that we use for cars today, where we have to leave our cars parked for 97% of their lives just so that we know they’re going to be available for us when we need them. Given driverless cars’ ability to come pick you up whenever you need one, it makes much more sense to just join a network of such things, giving you the same ability to drive your car when you’re at home, or in a far-flung city, or whenever you might normally take a taxi. And the consequence of that is much less need for parking (right now there are more than three parking spots for every car), and therefore the freeing up of lots of space currently given over to parking spots.
Paul Krugman is on board:
By and large, I’m in the camp of those disillusioned about technology — mainly, I think, because the future isn’t what it used to be. A case in point is Herman Kahn’s The Year 2000, a 1967 exercise in forecasting that offered a convenient list of “very likely” technological developments. When 2000 actually did roll around, the striking thing was how over-optimistic the list was: Kahn foresaw most things that actually did happen, but also many things that didn’t (and still haven’t). And economic growth fell far short of his expectations.
But driverless cars break the pattern: even Kahn’s list of “less likely” possibilities only mentioned automated highways, not city streets, which is where we will apparently be in the quite near future.