Self-driving cars will change your life more than you can ever imagine
The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed an autonomous vehicle bill in September, signaling broad support for the emerging technology.
What's not to like about vehicles that are expected to help curtail automobile deaths, which hit a staggering 37,461 in 2016.
CNN spent more than a year traveling the country talking to technology and transportation experts about self-driving cars and trucks. We'll explore how autonomous vehicles will impact our jobs, and access to transportation. Episodes will examine the safety benefits, and the risks of these cars and trucks being hacked.
Experts tell CNN Tech that autonomous vehicles, like any other new technology, will be a doubled-edged sword that brings both positive and negative changes.
Some caution that the negative impact on cities, and the social implications aren't being addressed.
"So far it's basically been a runaway train of enthusiasm, and not a lot of serious policy being bantered about how we're going to deal with some of the challenges that unfettered automation is going to bring," Steven Farber, a professor of geography and planning at University of Toronto, told CNN Tech.
These experts warn that autonomous vehicles may worsen congestion, exacerbate inequality and trigger runaway sprawl. It's difficult to predict the future, but the history of transportation innovation offers some clues.
"As transportation costs go down, cities get bigger. It's urban economics 101," Farber said.
Autonomous vehicles are expected to significantly decrease transportation cost. With these lower costs, people will be motivated to move farther from urban cores, attracted by lower housing costs. Because workers won't be driving, some can start their work day while commuting. This will make longer commutes increasingly tolerable, triggering more sprawl.
And road capacity will be strained by how much more time people spend in motor vehicles.
Ultimately, experts say that the wealthy are best positioned to enjoy the gains of the new technology. For example, low-income service sector workers won't be able to move to big, affordable homes in the exurbs. Their work requires being on-site for an entire shift, which makes a two or three hours commute in a car unrealistic.
"Every invention or discovery is made or seized by the exceptional individual, and makes the strong stronger and the weak relatively weaker," the Pulitzer Prize winning historians Ariel Durant and Will Durant wrote in their 1968 book, The Lessons of History.
Ralph McLaughlin, the chief economist at Trulia, the real estate website, expects residents to gravitate toward nature and pristine regions, which are within an hour or two of their offices. For example, some Philadelphia residents could shift to Harrisburg, which is located about 100 miles away. He sees some San Francisco some residents choosing to relocate to wine country, a couple hours north of the city.
This would be a blow to some cities' tax bases, making it difficult to provide services for remaining residents.
"There's a common view from the technologists that this technology is all fantastic," said Graham Currie, a professor of transport engineering at Monash University. "I think we're going to create new problems we haven't thought of yet."
What might those problems be? Myron Orfield, director of the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity at University of Minnesota Law School, warns that autonomous vehicles will make segregation easier. A similar script played out when the United States built out its highway system, speeding suburban development and white flight.