Rambling Thoughts from a Wandering Mind


Thoughts on another blogger’s predictions for the future

Brennen Bearnes has some predictions (or, more accurately, guesses) about what the world — and the US in particular — might look like in five or 10 years. I suspect he’ll be right about a lot, which is depressing because most of his guesses are pretty negative. I’d say he was cynical if I didn’t think he was likely pretty close to the truth.

The one point I’m not so sure about is regarding self-driving cars.

6. Driverless cars will be happening for real, and like Uber or Lyft, they’ll have serious practical advantages for prosperous (sub)urbanites and the professional class. They’ll also gut public transit systems, increase congestion and passenger miles traveled, further marginalize poor people and “gig economy” laborers, and double as data sponges for various megacorps. Truckers will be looking real worried.

6a. There will still be no genuinely serious indications of a shift in the United States away from car-centric development patterns and lifestyles.

Self-driving cars have been “just five years away” for probably 20 years, if not more. I think they might actually hit the roads as more than just test cases in a few years, but they won’t be widespread enough to make much of an impact on infrastructure planning. They may result in the start of a hollowing out of public transit, as Brennan suggests, but I think it’ll take a while before it gets as bad as he suggests (definitely closer to the 10-year end of his spectrum than to the five-year end).

When self-driving cars do eventually become a meaningful factor in transportation and infrastructure planning, I suspect he’ll be dead-on accurate about point 6a, though.