My latest piece is online in the Washington Post. I was asked to contribute about carless cities and driverless cars. I see these as two separate things. Carless cities is a niche phenomenon of relevance to only a few places because the vast bulk of the existing American landscape was designed around the car. Driverless cars, however, have the potential to profoundly transform our society. Here’s an excerpt:
The locus of power in the automobile industry might also shift from Detroit to Silicon Valley. In the case of music, newspapers and other industries where digitization has already shifted power in that direction, we’ve seen vast industrial disruption. Massive wealth has accrued to a handful of insiders in technology, as tech advances have undermined many formerly middle-class occupations. The auto business is one of the major bastions of good-paying jobs that remain.
Keep in mind that one reason President Obama bailed out GM and Chrysler is because more than 1 million jobs in the United States are linked to the auto industry. Yet the tech industry does most of its manufacturing outside the country. Apple employs 700,000 people offshore (including subcontractors), compared with only 43,000 people in the United States. If Silicon Valley wins the driverless car industry, we may see this shift accelerate.
Click through to read the whole thing.
Conveniently, Paul Roales, a friend at Google who is very interested in driverless cars, recently organized an invigorating salon discussion on the topic in New York. I’m indebted to him and the others in this discussion for some of the ideas I used.