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November 08, 2010

Economic benefits of robotic cars include super cities

Economist Robin Hanson at Overcoming Bias notes that robotic cars will make cities more efficient and productive.

Google told the world it has developed computer driving tech that is basically within reach of doubling (or more) the capacity of a road lane to pass cars. Pundits don’t seem to realize just how big a deal this is – it could let cities be roughly twice as big, all else equal. The main problems here are not technical but legal (& political) – first to not excessively punish tech sellers for related car accidents, and second to sufficiently reward car owners for their contribution to reducing congestion.



Doubling the population of any city requires only about an 85% increase in infrastructure, whether that be total road surface, length of electrical cables, water pipes or number of petrol stations. This systematic 15% savings happens because, in general, creating and operating the same infrastructure at higher densities is more efficient, more economically viable, and often leads to higher-quality services and solutions that are impossible in smaller places. Interestingly, there are similar savings in carbon footprints — most large, developed cities are ‘greener’ than their national average in terms of per capita carbon emission

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