Autonomous Vehicles, New Mobility & the Built Environment

The Real Reason for Driverless Vehicles – A Brief Book Review

The reason to implement driverless technology is to improve mobility for those with limited transportation options. In a nutshell, that is what authors, Alain Kornhauser and Michael Sena argue in their recently published book, The Real Case for Driverless Mobility

Sena and Kornhauser make the case that providers of driverless mobility should focus on those who cannot drive themselves, whether because of age, physical ability, legal restrictions, and/or income. This is somewhat counter to the traditional introduction of a new technology where the focus is on early adopters who are willing to pay a premium. 

Joel Johnson, who has over 100 videos documenting his driverless rides, indicates that those rides are 7x the cost of Phoenix-area, public transit. As a college student who works for a large retailer, he points out that he cannot afford that luxury experience. This is a great example of a market segment that Kornhauser and Sena suggest should be an initial target for driverless service providers.

The book takes the reader on a journey that starts in Roman times and provides a history of mobility and how the United States became car-dependent. It offers food for thought on safety and what is safe enough. It points out that Operational Design Domains (where, when, and under what conditions a driverless vehicle should operate) are dynamic.  It provides a concise summary of the various technologies necessary for driverless.

A Must-Read for Policymakers #

But the point of this book isn’t about the technology. It is about getting to proof-of-market, as Kornhauser often says on his Smart Driving Cars podcast. As such, one audience for this book is policymakers who want to balance protecting public safety, while improving the quality of mobility options for the citizens they represent. 

Both policymakers and the companies championing driverless should pay close attention to the final chapter, Making it Happen. This describes the proof-of-market approach that Kornhauser has been advocating for with TrentonMOVES. MOVES (Mobility Opportunity Vehicle Equity System) is fundamentally a grassroots initiative to identify how to serve people who need rides on a community-by-community basis.  

Given Kornhauser’s academic background and Sena’s many years in the telematics and automotive industry, it provides the depth one would expect from an academic book. However, it is written for the layman and the anecdotes make for an enjoyable read. The biggest criticism is that the book should be priced for a broader audience and not only for the academic market or those who can afford to pay academic prices. 

This criticism is not directed toward the authors as they did not write this book for the money. Their motivation is to ensure driverless technologies help those who need affordable and high-quality rides. If this can be achieved, then this will mean a better quality of life for individuals and collectively a better society

Authors Note:  #

Alain Kornhauser and Michael Sena are great friends and teachers, respectively, to this author. It has been a privilege to document Alain Kornhauser’s Smart Driving Cars Summits. Sena’s monthly Dispatcher and Kornhauser’s Smart Driving Cars newsletter/podcast are must-reads as they provide cogent analyses of the driverless market.

Author Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

By Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

Ken Pyle is Marketing Director for the Broadband Forum. The mission of this 25+-year-old non-profit “is to unlock the potential for new markets and profitable revenue growth by leveraging new technologies and standards in the home, intelligent small business, and multi-user infrastructure of the broadband network.”

He is also co-founder of Viodi, LLC and Managing Editor of the Viodi View, a publication focused on the rural broadband ecosystem, autonomous vehicles, and electric aviation. He has edited and produced numerous multimedia projects for NTCA, US Telecom and Viodi. Pyle is the producer of Viodi’s Local Content Workshop, the Video Production Crash Course at NAB, as well as ViodiTV. He has been intimately involved in Viodi’s consulting projects and has created processes for clients to use for their PPV and VOD operations, as well authored reports on the independent telco market.

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