Portland Says Yes to Testing Driverless Cars, Other Cities Will Follow: Mass Adoption When?

Finding driverless-friendly cities that allow car makers to test their technology has been one of the challenges facing the driverless industry.

by Mish

Today, Portland stepped up to the plate. “The technology is coming,” says Mayor Ted Wheeler. “Either the technology will happen to us, or we are going to shape the playing field.”

Autonomous vehicles need to drive and drive and drive, vacuuming up hours of real-life encounters on the road to make their algorithms smarter and safer.

But there’s one thing in relatively short supply: cities willing to have test cars on their streets. Portland, Oregon, is trying to change that and be what it says would be the first to issue permits for driverless vehicles, with the goal of getting them on its roads this year.

“The technology is coming,” says Mayor Ted Wheeler. “Either the technology will happen to us, or we are going to shape the playing field.”

The city will solicit proposals from companies working on driverless cars to gauge how they can help Portland reach its goals of reducing carbon emissions and providing equitable service. The city would also consider providing financial support for businesses to test autonomous transit vehicles, such as shuttles or buses, that could potentially connect passengers to its existing transit infrastructure. Wheeler says two years of pilot testing would inform final rules: “If we wait five years, my concern is we are not going to have a say in the matter at all.”

General Motors, Lyft Inc., and Daimler AG were among those that wanted to partner with Portland on autonomous transportation as part of Portland’s submission for the U.S. Department of Transportation Smart City Challenge last year.
If the city’s plan works out, driverless cars can learn more about maneuvering in the rain while dodging Portland’s many modes of transit, from light rail trains and buses, to pedestrians and unicycles.

Most Disruptive Force Since the Internet

Some of my readers think I am obsessed with this topic, and most of those who do, still have their heads buried in the sand believing driverless technology is decades away from happening.

By now it should be crystal clear the nay-sayers are all wet. Driverless is going to happen, in a major way, by 2022 at the latest.

I write about the topic because driverless technology is the most disruptive force since the internet. It will bring about major changes in the car ownership, the way people commute, and the need for insurance.

Accident rates will plunge. The gas station model and the car dealer model will have major changes as well. Instead of buying two cars at $20,000 to $40,000 each, families will share a single car. A growing percentage those who live in major cities will choose to not have a car at all.

Instead of buying two cars at $20,000 to $40,000 each, families will share a single car. A growing percentage those who live in major cities will choose to not have a car at all.

Mass Adoption When?

Driverless long haul trucks will be the norm within two years of interstate approval. I expect approval by 2021 at the latest.

In contrast to trucks, mass adoption by the general public will not be immediate, but it will progress rapidly within a decade.

Portland now leads the charge in testing. Competition between cities is sure to heat up. Expect another dozen announcements this year.

A Study Says by 2030 1/4th of Miles Driven will be Driverless. I expect 85 percent of miles driven will be driverless by 2030.

For further discussion, please consider Second-Order Consequences of Self-Driving Vehicles.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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