Friday, May 5, 2017

The pinnacle of urban mobility

Two announcements this past week indicate the pace of innovation in transportation is about to accelerate drastically. On Monday, Waymo (of Google) announced the opening of its self-driving car program to the public in Phoenix. Secondly, Uber announced that it was aiming to launch a network of small, vertical-takeoff electric aircrafts.

Uber's Jeff Holden said that these kinds of flying taxis represent "the pinnacle of urban mobility - the reduction of congestion and pollution from transportation, giving people their time back, freeing up real estate, dedicated to parking and providing access to mobility in all corners of a city."

As we look back at Robert Gordon's arguments, will these innovations actually succeed? Are we witnessing the birth of more great inventions? Or are these innovations premature and need more R&D? Will there be failed launches like Tesla had with its Autopilot?

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  1. I cannot say for certain to say that these innovations will succeed, but I believe these kind of start-ups will promote more R&D into that area. More and more companies will start to make similar products as this will be an endeavor to significantly reduce traffic pollution and congestion.

  2. I agree with Daichi. There is no certain answer that these innovations will succeed or not. Yet still, when famous star-ups starting to promote such ideas, more companies will follow the pattern.

  3. Going off of a previous blog post, such innovations will probably create more technology inequality and decrease the mobility of people who cannot afford the technology. Innovation needs to be aimed towards addressing inequality before running with such ideas.

  4. I disagree with Kriti. I do see her point, but I doubt technology like electric cars will get more expensive at this point. The increasing competition and innovation in this sector is going to continue to make electric cars more accessible.

    Uber is also very reasonably priced (generally, unless it's 2am and prices are surging on the weekend). I can't say for certain their new, flying product will succeed. But it definitely will open up the playing field for more similar ideas.

  5. I think technological inequality will be derived less from the cost of services and more from the falling income of low-skill workers displaced by automation. Theoretically, an automated airborne taxi service would reduce the demand for traditional taxi services; a sector dominated by "low-skill" workers. These displaced workers will experience the difficulty of transitioning to similar work in a shrinking sector, while lacking the capital needed to improve their skills and leave the low-skill sector. Ceteris paribus, anyway.