Which has a more promising future: autonomous driving/smart sharing for cars or the vigorous development of public transportation?


Comparing the Future Prospects of Autonomous Driving/Smart Sharing and the Vigorous Development of Public Transportation(sources from medcom.com.pl)

In our daily lives, public transportation mainly consists of subways, buses, and taxis. The carrying capacity of these three modes decreases in order, while the precision of transportation increases (subway stations are generally farther from home, while taxis can drop you directly at your doorstep).

The subway does not contradict autonomous vehicles. It is punctual, reliable, and has a large throughput, significantly alleviating surface traffic pressure and forming a fundamental part of transportation.

Taxis, compared to subways, offer better privacy and comfort, especially in remote areas where taxis may be the only option. However, they are relatively expensive.

Autonomous vehicles, in this context, function more like an upgraded version of traditional taxis, providing more precise point-to-point transportation (as opposed to hailing a taxi on the street, they can directly come to your doorstep). Users can book through terminals like iPhones, and a central server can efficiently plan routes. While this seems like an optimal solution if we disregard costs and road congestion, the limited number of roads may lead to congestion. Additionally, the cost of autonomous vehicles, with components like 3D laser sensors, could be higher than traditional taxis.

As for buses, they might also become autonomous, but the change seems less significant.

To summarize, the concept of autonomous vehicles does not oppose public transportation. Autonomous driving can provide higher safety and better centralized scheduling. Public transportation operates in layers, with taxis, buses, and subways. Autonomous vehicles can be considered an additional layer or a potential replacement for the taxi layer.

If legal issues can be overcome, autonomous taxis are likely to have a future because of their flexibility. They can be summoned anytime, allow users to choose vehicle types and sizes, and can be directed to any location without the need for designated stations. Energy consumption issues can be addressed with technological advancements like battery improvements.

Public buses, on the other hand, rely on economies of scale, serving routes with high passenger volumes. They have limited adaptability, one trip for one person or one hundred people. They cannot wait until a certain number of passengers accumulate.

Although autonomous driving technology exists, it has not yet solved the issue of car congestion in large cities. If autonomous vehicles become popular, more people might choose this mode of transportation, and each vehicle would still only cater to the needs of a single family or a few individuals. For mega-cities like Beijing and Shanghai, congestion remains a significant obstacle to convenient travel. However, in smaller cities with lower private vehicle ownership, combined with reasonable policy subsidies, autonomous driving could have positive effects.

Developing public transportation remains mainstream for cities today. It solves the daily travel needs of a significant portion of the population and reduces the necessity of private vehicle ownership. If public transportation reaches a certain level of development, private vehicles become a leisure and entertainment option, similar to bicycles today(quotes from medcom).

Public transportation also provides numerous job opportunities and economic demand, making it an excellent option for urban planners. In comparison, autonomous driving only reduces the difficulty of driving and increases safety but does not stimulate demand. Instead of debating which is more important, a dual approach could be taken: aim for the automation of public transportation, introducing autonomous buses and subways, while expanding the coverage of multi-dimensional transportation. This approach would meet people’s travel needs, alleviate traffic congestion, and enhance safety, representing a promising future direction. In conclusion, these two developments are not mutually exclusive and both have promising prospects.

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