Robo-taxis,auto-mobility, and the right to the city

Today is the day Amsterdam is implementing 30km/h on the majority of its streets. So a good occasion to reblog this article here. Vox writes that San Francisco’s robotaxi experiment is getting out of hand >>

In San Francisco – and in other US cities too – self-driving taxis operated by companies like GM’s Cruise and Alphabet’s Waymo are clogging the city streets and are becoming a nuisance if not downright dangerous for emergency vehicles.

In a podcast interview between Vox host Sean Rameswaram and Liz Lindqwister, a data journalist at the nonprofit news startup the San Francisco Standard, it is explained that because of flexible pricing schemes, people are frequently taking robotaxis just to ride around town and hang out and do – I love the word – debaucherous things. What can be more American than people using robotaxis to have sex in the backseat. The problem is, however, that any complicated traffic situation makes these robotaxis completely freeze and block traffic.

To me, the real issue that is barely touched upon in this article, is the question whether ‘smart’ cities in general need more tech-optimized car mobility, or whether they should radically rethink what fair and equitable mobility might mean in the future? After all, cars take up a lot of space, come with huge environmental downsides, and serve the needs of privileged while being downright dangerous to weaker sections of the population like children and elderly. Moreover, visions of robotaxis are such poor imaginations of urban futures by totally uncreative people. Ultimately this is a question of ‘the right to city’.

Link to original article on Vox >>

Additional important context from another article on robotaxis:

“Legal frameworks remain woefully inadequate: in the Golden State, cities have no regulatory authority over the robotaxis that ply their streets, and police legally cannot cite them for moving violations.” (Source: MIT technology Review)

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