An increase in driverless cars that some in Europe anticipate will occur between now and the year 2050 could result in what one research group likens to "rush hour that lasts all day."
The report, released last month from Europe's Transport & Environment, calls the potential "Wild West" unregulated increase in driverless cars a threat to commute times and stress levels that could make Europe's climate goals "all but impossible to achieve."
It may sound like hyperbole, but T&E's study paints a credible picture of a future where the proliferation of zero-emission, driverless cars results in a gridlock which could ultimately lead to greater energy consumption and reduced efficiency.
As mobility becomes more convenient and the discounts associated with automation start to take hold, the total number of trips will increase, T&E says. This increase in demand could eclipse the trips that would have been otherwise taken by privately owned cars.
"Automation, electrification and sharing are three revolutions that can transform the way we move around. But whether this will be a good thing for the environment or for the livability of our cities depends entirely on the choices governments make," said T&E new mobility expert Yoann Le Petit.
Europe's balance of transportation modes heavily favors public transit, which is why T&E suggests it could take decades for this shift to take place. However, America's roads are crowded already, and its balance is skewed far more toward private ownership of the means of transportation.
This leads to an inevitable question: Could such a thing happen here, and if so, what would the timeline be? Would it be shortened by Americans' rejection of mass transit as a viable means of getting around, resulting in even more urban gridlock? Or will ownership trump sharing, throwing the balance off in a new, unpredictable direction?
After all, Americans have little faith in EVs, and even less in self-driving vehicles. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts.