While all eyes are glued to the debt-ceiling debate and the ongoing crisis in Greece, the news from Nevada, as reported by the Daily Mail, will prove far more consequential for the future of humanity:
Self-driving cars designed by Google will soon be a reality on the roads of Nevada.
State legislators have passed a bill that requires the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles to draw up rules for driver-less vehicles.
Assembly Bill No 511 paves the way for Google’s automated Toyota Priuses and Audi TT to be operated legally in the Silver State.
Late last year, Robin Hanson predicted that “auto-autos,” as he dubbed them, would have far-reaching consequences:
Automated Driving – In the last month Google told the world it has developed computer driving tech that is basically within reach ofdoubling (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. Achieving these will require great coordination, more than for congestion pricing, but much less than for mass mass transit. [Emphasis added]
Nevada has only taken the first step on what will surely prove a long and winding road. One can expect opponents of self-driving cars to organize. But if we can increase the density of the world’s biggest cities by a considerable margin, we could markedly increase global energy efficiency and productivity, preserve forestland, and much else. Well done, Nevada.