Self Driving Cars Will Increase Traffic, Not Reduce Traffic

FBN has a piece on the possibility of self-driving big rigs.

That got me thinking.

Such rigs will, in all likelihood, or perhaps at some point, not have a human in the vehicle (such rigs, after all, are intended to transport cargo, not passengers.)

What I easily envision happening is this: ‘youth’, driving the old fashioned way in their own cars, will play games with such trucks, cutting in front of them just to watch the automatic safety breaking sensors of the rig get slammed on.

With human drivers, when someone tries to cut into another driver’s lane, it’s not always the case that the car being cut in front of responds nicely. They may accelerate, to prevent the lane cut-in, or otherwise engage in some form of mild road rage.

The aggregation of singular instances of such ‘road rage’ forms a body of social practices, a series of disincentive mechanisms, which lead collectively to norms of road behavior.

With self-driving vehicles, these norms are taken out of the equation.

Forget the ‘youth’. If I’m running late for work, which I often am, and I’m screaming down the highway, which I often am, and enough time has passed wherein the ‘safety sensors’ on self-driving vehicles have statistically proven themselves to be effective, then why shouldn’t I race down an open lane, then ‘cut off’ the self-driving car just before taking the exit ramp? For all intents and purposes, I know the vehicle will brake itself for the sake of ‘safety’

The effectiveness of another vehicle’s safety sensor inversely rewards my own selfish driving behavior. It’s a variation of the (no pun intended) free rider problem.

Once this new, operative, psychological dynamic becomes known (it will be ‘known’ by urban youth first, just for kicks and derring-do), the cumulative effect will be to reduce travel times for irresponsible drivers and slow down traffic for everyone else.

This entry was posted in Culture. Bookmark the permalink.