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Forget the sci-fi utopian dreaming- self-driving cars could mean Cambridge grinds to a halt for good

I was reading a very interesting academic paper on the impacts on public transport and congestion th..

By admin , in Cambridge , at April 23, 2018

I was reading a very interesting academic paper on the impacts on public transport and congestion that may be caused by connected autonomous vehicles.

They acknowledged that they had no idea if these vehicles would be privately owned by people like you and me, or if they would be owned by corporations like Panther Taxis or Stagecoach or Uber.

However, some striking conclusions can be drawn from these two simple possibilities/options.

Would companies like Uber corner the market in self-driving cars? (Image: 2016 Getty Images)

More cars on the road

Today, it is illegal for a 15-year-old to drive a car in the UK, and yet if there was a spare autonomous vehicle then these school children could be driven to school.

This means there would be more cars on the road, and congestion around schools would be even worse than it is today.

Hopefully, of course, these vehicles hopefully wouldn't kill other parent's children and definitely won't get angry at people just blocking the road completely because walking an extra 10 metres is so hard to do.

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Of course, owning a car is expensive, so many parents may want their children carried in special school shared-rides.

Those companies providing this service will tell everybody that these children will be safer and that because we now have three or four children per vehicle there will be fewer motor vehicles on the road.

Yes, compared with every child travelling in a separate car there would be fewer, but compared with children walking or children cycling there would be many more.

Self-driving cars could revolutionise the school run (Image: Getty)

Where to park?

So the shareable connected autonomous vehicle is another interesting issue. You don't have to park these cars, so having them drive into the city centre, or through the centre, will not be a problem.

See, they would most likely be classified as taxis, and taxis are allowed to drive through the centre of Cambridge.

However, now there would 100,000 of them on the roads of Greater Cambridge rather than just a few hundred.

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This is a really serious issue that will need to be addressed. Is a taxi a vehicle that has special privileges because it is a vehicle you don't own and get driven around in, or for some other reason?

Having thousands of self-driving cars driving along Bridge Street and Silver Street in the evening would cause absolute chaos for buses and people cycling or walking.

Could Cambridge cope with thousands of autonomous taxis? (Image: David Johnson)

A 'moving living room'

But the biggest problem is that the time-cost of being driven in an autonomous vehicle, whether you own it or not, will suddenly reduce.

If you can do work on the way into work, read the newspaper, have breakfast, then who cares if it takes 30 minutes or an hour to get to work.

You just hop in your vehicle, the kids hop into each of their vehicles, and off you all pop into the biggest traffic jam you could imagine.

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Cycling news

There will be no incentive to go to work early, or negotiate a later start time with your boss.

You just get into your moving living room and become all self-focused, catch up on some television. I very much doubt you'll watch the world go by.

Autonomous cars promise many benefits to drivers- but could they also have a sinister dark side? (Image: Getty)

And what is Cambridge doing about that? We charge an extra 50p an hour for those parking a car in a car park first thing in the morning. Great idea, but who cares when you could just send your car to park for free back at home.

I shouldn't be upset; traffic congestion is the biggest incentive for many to cycle, so perhaps I should encourage these new vehicles for the good of everybody who cycles today, and in the future?