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Will the Google Car Encourage Exurbanization?
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There has been a fair amount of speculation about how the advent, Real Soon Now, of the self-driving Google Car will change life as we know it forever.

Because the temper of the times is flowing toward urbanization and away from suburbanization, lots of people have assumed that having a robot car would be like having a chauffeur-driven limousine, which is a really nice way to live in Manhattan. Thus, in the future, everybody will live in high rises and ride around in Google Cars, and you won’t have to go through all the hassle of parking as you visit another high rise. Your Google Car will just go somewhere while you are inside, and then be waiting for you as you step off the elevator as you leave.

Right now, if you are a Master of the Universe, Senior Grade, your limousine drops you off at the door of the building you’re visiting, then goes away somewhere, then picks you up again at the door. You’re not exactly sure where it parks itself while you are inside, but that’s not your problem.

Of course, this is immensely expensive: in Bonfire of the Vanities, for example, Sherman McCoy, junior grade MotU, reflects bitterly upon how much it costs him to rent a limo a la carte to take him and his wife to a party a mile away and then pick them up five hours later.

But what if the technology of the Google Car doesn’t evolve to deal well with crowded, narrow urban streets and parking garages? What if the Google Car evolves to deal best with, say, freeways retrofitted with electronic signals?

From Slate:

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

By Lee Gomes

In summary, so far the Google Car doesn’t represent what we imagine to be artificial intelligence: it’s strength isn’t in responding brilliantly to the ever changing outside world, it’s strength is in having an incredibly detailed inch-by-inch map of the streets around Google’s Mountain View headquarters downloaded into its memory.

It’s like how Google Translate doesn’t actually understand what that French website is saying and translates it into English for you, it just looks up phrases in bilingual documents published by the government of Canada and the like and lets you, the human being, make sense out of what it comes up with. If you have enough data, Google don’t have to be terribly smart. But Google Translate presupposes that an intelligent human being will be able to make sense of what it dishes up.

But, because the point of Google Car is to take away the human intelligence at the end, a lot of human-hours have been put in earlier in the process into interpreting those super-maps of the Mountain View area to make automated driving safe.

My guess is that mapping can work well on controlled roadways like freeways, but the streets of Manhattan are constantly changing with transient obstacles, such as pedestrians and the remarkable number of holes in the streets being dug at all hours by workmen.

Google may have the resources to someday monitor Manhattan’s streets second by second, but it seems unlikely, contrary to much speculation, that the Google Car would lead to the rest of America being Manhattanized.

For one thing, parking is a nightmare for Google right now. Parking doesn’t map well because the obstacles keep changing. And parking is one of the key tasks people who have the Limo Model in mind want Google Car to do: drop you off downtown and automatically drive off somewhere and park itself where parking doesn’t cost $20 per day.

Instead, Google Cars might lead to a revival of the exurbanization trend that died with the increase in the price of gasoline in the first half of 2008. With the price of gasoline seemingly moderating, it’s worth thinking about how computers might make long distance commuting more attractive.

Say Google worked with governments to have freeways and major highways retrofitted with electronic sensors and the like that would interface very well with the Google Car. So, your Google Car could drive on the freeway for you, but you’d have to drive the surface streets and park yourself. For example, say your daily commute looks like:

Morning:

Driveway to freeway onramp: 5 minutes

Freeway: 60 minutes

Freeway offramp to office parking spot: 5 minutes

Evening:

Office to freeway onramp: 5 minutes

Freeway: 60 minutes

Offramp to driveway: 5 minutes

Currently, if you commute five days a week, that’s 11.6 hours per week you need to have at least one hand on the steering wheel and shouldn’t be reading.

In the scenario I’ve outlined, your Google Car could let you do reading/typing work ten additional hours per week while you automatically ride the freeway. But you have to drive the surface streets yourself for 1.6 hours per week.

This is much like taking commuter rail to work, which is a pretty nice way to live. The Chicago metropolitan area has a lot of commuter rail lines and houses near stops, such as in Lake Forest, are at a premium. (So, you could model how much people would be willing to pay for a car that drives the freeways by itself by looking at home prices near and away from commuter rail stops.)

In the Chicago area, commuter rail differs from the crowded inner El in that everybody who gets on in Lake Forest gets a seat. It’s an extremely civilized Mad Men way to live. But, it’s very hard to build more commuter rail lines these days. Light rail that has to stop at red lights doesn’t cut it. Heavy rail that rips along without stopping is wonderful, but just a gigantic problem to retrofit into a developed metropolis.

Moreover, most of the United States isn’t Chicago where job concentrations grew up around rail lines. Sunbelt cities grew up around freeways. Automated freeway driving opens up the possibility of the convenience of working while moving to places that aren’t going to get commuter rail.

Retrofitting freeways with transponders or whatever will take decades, but all freeway lanes have to be torn up and repaved every so many decades anyway, so embedding electronics in the pavement isn’t asking too much: look how those shiny bumps between lanes got embedded over the years.

So, a Google Car that automatically drives the freeways but not the surface streets would kind of like be extending commuter rail networks.

(Competing with this, of course, are voice recognition technologies that some people could use while driving themselves safely.)

But all this suggests that the 2020s or 2030s might be an era not of Manhattanization, but of Lake Forestization.

 
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  1. Maybe. But it will certainly make life more difficult for the 3.5+ million professional drivers who will be left unemployed once trucking, taxi service, etc., becomes automated.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    But a lot of what truckdrivers bring to the table is the beginnings and ends of their runs when they back up across four lanes of traffic. That's not a task Google is enthusiastic about taking on right now.

    Maybe automated cross-country trucks will pick up local pilots on the outskirts of town who will drive them the last 5 miles through congested cities?

    , @TWS
    Since virtually no driving jobs begin and end on the freeway I think you're missing the point of the posting.
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  2. @a boy and his dog
    Maybe. But it will certainly make life more difficult for the 3.5+ million professional drivers who will be left unemployed once trucking, taxi service, etc., becomes automated.

    But a lot of what truckdrivers bring to the table is the beginnings and ends of their runs when they back up across four lanes of traffic. That’s not a task Google is enthusiastic about taking on right now.

    Maybe automated cross-country trucks will pick up local pilots on the outskirts of town who will drive them the last 5 miles through congested cities?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Taco
    "But a lot of what truckdrivers bring to the table is the beginnings and ends of their runs when they back up across four lanes of traffic."

    This is a lot like aviation already is. Commercial pilots earn their paychecks in the takeoffs and the landings. As AirFrance flight 447 demonstrated, at this point pilots are so specialized to takeoffs and landings that even relatively minor mechanical hiccups in the cruise portion of flight are beyond their capability to comprehend. But for now, we still need an expensively trained human operator for the terminal portions of air travel.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  3. Was actually thinking this would lead to a sleeper car, where you could commute a couple hours and nap there in the am and read/work/text on the way back. Either way, this benefits the burbs and exurbs.

    Read More
    • Replies: @syonredux

    Was actually thinking this would lead to a sleeper car, where you could commute a couple hours and nap there in the am and read/work/text on the way back. Either way, this benefits the burbs and exurbs.
     
    Extra sleep would be a huge plus.I once went through a several month span where I had to commute from Sacramento to Berkeley, and I decided that taking the train was by far the best all around option, especially from a sleep standpoint.Of course, there were other pluses as well: time to read, eat a leisurely meal, chat with friends, etc.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  4. But what if the technology of the Google Car doesn’t evolve to deal well with crowded, narrow urban streets and parking garages? What if the Google Car evolves to deal best with, say, freeways retrofitted with electronic signals?

    The libs that want to cram us all into high-rises are actually starting to worry about this very thing:

    “The Self-Driving Tesla Might Make Us Love Urban Sprawl Again”

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2014/10/15/self_driving_tesla_car_might_encourage_urban_sprawl.html

    Elon Musk announced last week that the Model S will feature “autopilot,” an ability to take over for the driver in limited situations. The move closes a gap between Tesla and more established automakers, which have provided increasing levels of autonomous tech. It will net the young company quite a windfall and make driving safer and easier for its customers. It’s a significant step toward a future where cars drive themselves, and doing so with electricity offers an enticing view of a future where cars are awesome and the atmosphere is squeaky clean.

    Unless the new Tesla and other autonomous vehicles end up doing more harm than good to the planet.

    As driving becomes less onerous and computer-controlled systems reduce traffic, some experts worry that will eliminate a powerful incentive—commuting sucks—for living near cities, where urban density makes for more efficient sharing of resources. In other words, autonomous vehicles could lead to urban sprawl.

    It’s simple, says Ken Laberteaux, a senior scientist at Toyota. If you make transportation faster, easier and perhaps cheaper, then people won’t mind commuting. “What a consumer is expected to do is see what they can gain by moving a little further from the job centers or the cultural centers,” he says. That’s bad news: Urban sprawl is linked to economic, environmental, and health hardships.

    Read More
    • Replies: @granesperanzablanco
    How about within reason we just let areas develop as private interests want to develop them? Seems there is nothing more hypocritical in these debates than the conservative suburban dweller who wants little to no development of other's private property around them. Basically a form of socialism
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  5. It’s always going to be expensive to drag a couple thousand pounds of steel anywhere you go, and then pay for it to drive of to somewhere too? Autonomous cars (automobiles?) aren’t going to solve that problem.

    Affluent people now like living in moderately dense, close, nice neighborhoods: the future looks like Bucktown.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    So, Lake Forest has turned into a desolate, unpopulated wasteland?
    , @Bill M
    Affluent people have always lived in cities, or at least owned property and spent a lot of time living in cities while going out to the country on weekends and holidays and the like. Even during white flight, it wasn't affluent whites leaving. They still lived in NW Washington and the Upper East Side. It was non-affluent, working class, middle class, professionals, etc. leaving.

    What's happening now is that a lot of these non-affluent young middle class and professional types are moving back into cities primarily because that's where the jobs are, though it's being spun in the media as simply being about the overwhelming superiority of urban living or something. But eventually these people are going to get older and want to settle down and have more space and start families, and for most that means moving out of cities since there are only so many brownstones to go around. These self-driving cars could have the effect of enabling this desire, as well as incentivizing people who hadn't really thought about settling down out of cities and having families. And this is exactly what terrifies the libs who want to cram us all into high-rises.
    , @Big Bill

    It’s always going to be expensive to drag a couple thousand pounds of steel anywhere you go, and then pay for it to drive of to somewhere too? Autonomous cars (automobiles?) aren’t going to solve that problem.
     
    So why drag the 2000 pounds? With advanced communication between vehicles, cars can be made not to crash. Hence no need for huge, weighty vehicles. A small pod large enough for one or two people would be enough. And no need for a windshield ... or windows. With a computer controlling traffic movements, there would be no need for stop lights at fixed intersections. The cars could zip past each other, interleaving in the flow of traffic. Following distances could be virtually eliminated: no need to wait for human reaction times. Pack five times as many cars in a single lane. Safety, too. Lay down on a bed in the middle of the vehicle, strapped in: car as safety pod.

    All the things we take for granted about transportation are up for grabs. We cannot think outside the box.
    , @granesperanzablanco
    Yes, we love areas like Bucktown but make it virtually impossible to develop new areas this way making them more scarce
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  6. @Steve Sailer
    But a lot of what truckdrivers bring to the table is the beginnings and ends of their runs when they back up across four lanes of traffic. That's not a task Google is enthusiastic about taking on right now.

    Maybe automated cross-country trucks will pick up local pilots on the outskirts of town who will drive them the last 5 miles through congested cities?

    “But a lot of what truckdrivers bring to the table is the beginnings and ends of their runs when they back up across four lanes of traffic.”

    This is a lot like aviation already is. Commercial pilots earn their paychecks in the takeoffs and the landings. As AirFrance flight 447 demonstrated, at this point pilots are so specialized to takeoffs and landings that even relatively minor mechanical hiccups in the cruise portion of flight are beyond their capability to comprehend. But for now, we still need an expensively trained human operator for the terminal portions of air travel.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Retired
    Not true about the pilots. A few pilots are unqualified and poorly trained, and a few airlines. you won't see me flying Korean Air. It takes a lot of skill to navigate a plane cross country and be prepared for any emergencies.

    It will take decades to implement self driving cars. There are more unplanned events on the road than a computer can handle, particularly in Cali with an infinite number of illegal drivers staggering around.

    I also think that the 1%'s efforts and urban planning and social engineering will fail. We only pay the price with poorly designed transportation systems. e.g. clogged freeways and underused expensive light rail.
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  7. @DCThrowback
    Was actually thinking this would lead to a sleeper car, where you could commute a couple hours and nap there in the am and read/work/text on the way back. Either way, this benefits the burbs and exurbs.

    Was actually thinking this would lead to a sleeper car, where you could commute a couple hours and nap there in the am and read/work/text on the way back. Either way, this benefits the burbs and exurbs.

    Extra sleep would be a huge plus.I once went through a several month span where I had to commute from Sacramento to Berkeley, and I decided that taking the train was by far the best all around option, especially from a sleep standpoint.Of course, there were other pluses as well: time to read, eat a leisurely meal, chat with friends, etc.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Right. I didn't mention napping in your Google Car because I can't nap, but a lot of people can. In Pat Buchanan's new book about being Nixon's aide on his 1968 comeback, Pat mentions that when Nixon sat down on an airplane, he immediately fell asleep for 30 minutes, then woke up, pulled out his yellow legal pad and got to work.
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  8. @syonredux

    Was actually thinking this would lead to a sleeper car, where you could commute a couple hours and nap there in the am and read/work/text on the way back. Either way, this benefits the burbs and exurbs.
     
    Extra sleep would be a huge plus.I once went through a several month span where I had to commute from Sacramento to Berkeley, and I decided that taking the train was by far the best all around option, especially from a sleep standpoint.Of course, there were other pluses as well: time to read, eat a leisurely meal, chat with friends, etc.

    Right. I didn’t mention napping in your Google Car because I can’t nap, but a lot of people can. In Pat Buchanan’s new book about being Nixon’s aide on his 1968 comeback, Pat mentions that when Nixon sat down on an airplane, he immediately fell asleep for 30 minutes, then woke up, pulled out his yellow legal pad and got to work.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Bill M
    He probably honed that technique growing up Quaker. At Quaker church services, the congregants sit in silence until the spirit moves one of them to speak out loud. Most people close their eyes, meditate, nap, etc.
    , @seth
    Why can't you nap?

    Napping is a supreme pleasure of life...seriously.
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  9. @vinny
    It's always going to be expensive to drag a couple thousand pounds of steel anywhere you go, and then pay for it to drive of to somewhere too? Autonomous cars (automobiles?) aren't going to solve that problem.

    Affluent people now like living in moderately dense, close, nice neighborhoods: the future looks like Bucktown.

    So, Lake Forest has turned into a desolate, unpopulated wasteland?

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  10. @Steve Sailer
    Right. I didn't mention napping in your Google Car because I can't nap, but a lot of people can. In Pat Buchanan's new book about being Nixon's aide on his 1968 comeback, Pat mentions that when Nixon sat down on an airplane, he immediately fell asleep for 30 minutes, then woke up, pulled out his yellow legal pad and got to work.

    He probably honed that technique growing up Quaker. At Quaker church services, the congregants sit in silence until the spirit moves one of them to speak out loud. Most people close their eyes, meditate, nap, etc.

    Read More
    • Replies: @DCThrowback
    Actually, i was going to go w/ Nixon's time in the Navy. In the military, you never knew when your next chance to sleep could be, so down time or travel time equaled rack time.
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  11. @Steve Lake Forest is great, but commuter rail is expensive, and moving cars will remain so.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Bill M
    Relative to what? Owning and moving cars is obviously cheaper than owning a lot of nice urban real estate.
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  12. The first/last 5 miles of the commute do seem like a technical challenge, but if solved it also would encourage suburbanization by eliminating the 2-car problem. Right now, Dad needs a car to drive to work, but then it sits in the parking lot all day, so Mom needs another car to run errands, take the kids to soccer practice, have lunch with other moms, etc… A self-driving car could, after taking Dad to work, drive itself home so Mom has transportation during the day, before driving itself back to work to pick up Dad. Halving the number of cars the family needs sounds like Affordable Family Formation to me.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Sure, but my point is that we shouldn't imagine that we'll soon have all-purpose artificial intelligence Jeeveses who will take care of all the complicated household tasks that require humans today, like driving surface streets. In 1957, Heinlein envisioned an all-purpose robot who would vacuum and wash your dishes for you. Instead, we got a single purpose robot, the dishwasher, and, much later, another single purpose robot, Roomba. The self-driving car of the future will likely be limited to controlled roadways such as freeways for, say, a generation before it takes on extremely tricky tasks like picking up children from school. I suspect Google's lawyers have nightmares thinking about lawsuits involving children crippled in front of their school by a Google Car.
    , @smurfette
    It could also swing by Costco after dropping off Dad, assuming Mom sent an electronic order yesterday. An employee loads it into the (refrigerated) compartment of the vehicle and off it heads home. Mom unloads the groceries, uses the car all day (Assume more errands are automated here) and then sends the car off to get Dad. Later in the evening the car picks up the son from soccer practice after getting Dad from the office before driving back home.
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  13. Why is rail so much better and cheaper in Europe? When I was in Italy last September, I noticed that they had new, super fast train lines connecting Milan to Florence to Rome to Naples. Previously it took four hours to get from Florence to Milan; now it takes two. A round trip will cost a tourist around 30 euro, but regular commuters pay much less. Italy, that has been in a recession for how long?, has far better transportation infrastructure than Chicago.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JerseyGuy
    That's because mass transit is MASSIVELY subsidized in Europe. It's really subsidized in the NY-NJ-CT area (the New York City Subway is the most cost effective and only covers two-thirds of its operating costs (that's not including any capital costs)). However, the subsidies in Europe are off the charts. I'm not at all against subsidies for certain public goods (i.e. I'm not by any means a libertarian) but if we need New York City type density to only cover two thirds of our operating costs, then I don't think it is a good system.

    By the way, most Europeans travel using budget airlines as they are much cheaper than high speed rail (even after including all of the subsidies).
    , @map
    In Europe, they move people by rail and freight by truck. In America, they move freight by rail and people by car and truck.

    The American system of on-demand transportation for people and scheduled transportation for freight makes a lot more sense than what they do in Europe.
    , @Anonymous
    How is Uptown these days?
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  14. @vinny
    It's always going to be expensive to drag a couple thousand pounds of steel anywhere you go, and then pay for it to drive of to somewhere too? Autonomous cars (automobiles?) aren't going to solve that problem.

    Affluent people now like living in moderately dense, close, nice neighborhoods: the future looks like Bucktown.

    Affluent people have always lived in cities, or at least owned property and spent a lot of time living in cities while going out to the country on weekends and holidays and the like. Even during white flight, it wasn’t affluent whites leaving. They still lived in NW Washington and the Upper East Side. It was non-affluent, working class, middle class, professionals, etc. leaving.

    What’s happening now is that a lot of these non-affluent young middle class and professional types are moving back into cities primarily because that’s where the jobs are, though it’s being spun in the media as simply being about the overwhelming superiority of urban living or something. But eventually these people are going to get older and want to settle down and have more space and start families, and for most that means moving out of cities since there are only so many brownstones to go around. These self-driving cars could have the effect of enabling this desire, as well as incentivizing people who hadn’t really thought about settling down out of cities and having families. And this is exactly what terrifies the libs who want to cram us all into high-rises.

    Read More
    • Replies: @uptown Resident
    "What’s happening now is that a lot of these non-affluent young middle class and professional types are moving back into cities primarily because that’s where the jobs are, though it’s being spun in the media as simply being about the overwhelming superiority of urban living or something."

    I think you're wrong on this. My DH and I are young (born '81) middle class professionals who would not consider living in the suburbs, have thought a lot about it, and really do think urban life is superior.

    It mostly comes down to being able to walk or take transit everywhere. There's also the fantastic housing stock instead of the hideous post-War residential architecture. There's the concerts, dining, culture. You don't need a car. And you don't have to look at the nauseating suburban landscape of chain restaurants and retail plazas with their parking aprons and cheap, disposable architecture.

    I think the media spin comes in when they say that city living is superior because there's more diversity. That's obviously BS. As the diversity of a neighborhood increases, it's desirability declines. I think the USA may be heading the way of Europe, where affluent and middle class whites are in the city centers, and the minorities are relegated to the suburbs.

    "The wealthy have always lived in cities. You do realize that young Spanish unemployment is extremely high and many young Spaniards are being forced to emigrate for work. Spanish fertility rates are among the world’s lowest as well. Ordinary Spaniards are not enjoying living in cities in which they don’t have steady work, can’t afford the real estate, and can’t form families in."

    Yes, but European unemployment, of which Spanish is the worst, is not caused by their urbanism. And frankly it would be better to be underemployed in Barcelona than in Dayton, Ohio.

    , @Whiskey
    It is not true that affluent people have always lived in cities, that would have surprised the real life analogs of Mr. Darcy, for example, who decidedly did NOT live in a city. Indeed the whole point of cities was a place where the landed aristocracy, the real powers, did not live, and merchants and tradespeople and financiers and mercenaries and adventurers and seamen all jostled about. Cities were great trading places, but they did not create wealth which lay in .... LAND.

    This is very hard for most people to grasp, because the emphasis on history starting last Thursday means people pencil in say, 1950-today as representative of most of Western let alone human history when its not.

    If anything, the time of the city has ended.

    Multiculturalism makes it a place where randomly, various Muslims try and cut off the heads of lone White males, or go shooting ala Mumbia/Bombay. Cities are choc-a-bloc with the Third World, and about 34 million or so are headed this way after the November election.

    Moreover, cities are fragile. When an epidemic strikes, they are the worst places to be. The best: places where you can grow your own food. I can grow food in my backyard. Not very well, but I can. Not enough to eat but lay in a few chickens, some tomatoes, some corn, some vegetables, I can scrape by a lot better than say, your average high rise resident during an Ebola plague. Or Marburg, or Nipah, or whatever else bursts out of forest host reservoirs into human populations going deeper into the African and Asian and South American jungle.

    Cities are fragile when social unrest strikes, from the Nika Riots to the storming of the Bastille or Winter Palace. Given the vibrant amount of extra diversity coming our way, better bet on even more fragility. Meanwhile the suburbs are resilient not the least of which is time and space.

    Finally, mass transit has one achilles heel. VIBRANCY. Have say, extra vibrant people on oh say, MARTA (known colloquially as "Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta") makes them no-go areas for Whites unwilling to join the Hells Angels or attend Raiders games as "Epic Bearded Guy" (the guy on the Oakland bus who fought back literally against White-baiting by a Black guy who called for the "ambulamps" at the end.)

    Self-driving cars are insurance against vibrancy. They allow people to avoid that vibrancy, shield themselves from all that diversity, which is the whole point.

    If anything I expect the elite to move out to various landed estates, just to escape the vibrancy. Imagine NYC after three years of Di Blasio.
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  15. @vinny
    @Steve Lake Forest is great, but commuter rail is expensive, and moving cars will remain so.

    Relative to what? Owning and moving cars is obviously cheaper than owning a lot of nice urban real estate.

    Read More
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  16. @Peter
    The first/last 5 miles of the commute do seem like a technical challenge, but if solved it also would encourage suburbanization by eliminating the 2-car problem. Right now, Dad needs a car to drive to work, but then it sits in the parking lot all day, so Mom needs another car to run errands, take the kids to soccer practice, have lunch with other moms, etc... A self-driving car could, after taking Dad to work, drive itself home so Mom has transportation during the day, before driving itself back to work to pick up Dad. Halving the number of cars the family needs sounds like Affordable Family Formation to me.

    Sure, but my point is that we shouldn’t imagine that we’ll soon have all-purpose artificial intelligence Jeeveses who will take care of all the complicated household tasks that require humans today, like driving surface streets. In 1957, Heinlein envisioned an all-purpose robot who would vacuum and wash your dishes for you. Instead, we got a single purpose robot, the dishwasher, and, much later, another single purpose robot, Roomba. The self-driving car of the future will likely be limited to controlled roadways such as freeways for, say, a generation before it takes on extremely tricky tasks like picking up children from school. I suspect Google’s lawyers have nightmares thinking about lawsuits involving children crippled in front of their school by a Google Car.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Uptown Resident
    There is not a day that goes by in which I do not thank God for the Roomba.

    Only a man could be dismissive of such a game-changing piece of technology.

    It has changed my life, giving me back hours/week that I'm no longer spending vacuuming or having a panic attack about the dog hair.

    iRobot is also the Mint Plus, which uses GPS technology to map your floors and then mop them. They still have some kinks to work out with the design, but it's a worthy machine.

    A self-driving car is precisely the kind of dumb, unnecessary technology--like continually refining how we can waste our time with new versions of smart phones--that men would obsess over. I hope it fails.
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  17. Also, as James Howard Kunstler is always noting, we will lessen our energy and transportation woes by rebuilding walkable cities and by connecting Lake Forests etc to major metro areas by rail. The solution isn’t to build greener/techier cars, but to re-urbanize so that people don’t need cars.

    I think that part of the millennial desire to live in city centers and not drive is due to the fact that most millennials spent a semester in Barcelona or Paris and realized, as their repatriating plane was landing in O’Hare or La Guardia, that America is not only goddam ugly, but that living in an activated, low-rise city is not a punishment but is actually much better than living in the car-dependent burbs. In Europe, they make the minorities live in the suburbs so the wealthy natives can enjoy living in their great cities.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    I need to write about some of the technological developments that have made living in close proximity to neighbors less noisy, such as air-conditioning, double pane windows, and good earplugs.
    , @Bill M
    The wealthy have always lived in cities. You do realize that young Spanish unemployment is extremely high and many young Spaniards are being forced to emigrate for work. Spanish fertility rates are among the world's lowest as well. Ordinary Spaniards are not enjoying living in cities in which they don't have steady work, can't afford the real estate, and can't form families in.
    , @JerseyGuy
    I do agree with some of James Howard Kunstler's view of certain suburbs (especially strip malls) but I don't agree with his blanket denigration of suburbs in general. I live in the Northern New Jersey suburbs and for all of the strip malls on certain state highways, there are a lot of really nice suburbs with small downtowns and very pleasant singe family home neighborhoods, like certain Chicago burbs. Most of these are pre-1950s suburban development but not all. However, everyone uses a car and I don't think that is going away. Driverless cars are a great development in that it will dramatically reduce the demand for owning a car and all of the ancillary costs (maintaining two and three car garages, etc.). It will make extra rooms available for families to use as well.

    Rather than try to cram everyone into Matthew Yglesias' Blade Runner utopia, a good public policy plan should be to develop small and medium size villages similar to Lake Forest, IL and certain towns in the North East that have nice downtowns, pleasant single family homes and sufficient open space that can complement both a driverless car and walkability. Driverless cars won't work well in Manhattan or Hong Kong. But they will work in Lake Forest.

    Telecommuting plus driverless cars. Now there is a public policy plan that is both family friendly and environmentally conscious. Let's see which politically party has the brains to put this on the agenda.
    , @Reg Cæsar

    In Europe, they make the minorities live in the suburbs so the wealthy natives can enjoy living in their great cities.
     
    Paris is said to vote to the right of the rest of France. Where l'enfer else does that happen?
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  18. @Uptown Resident
    Also, as James Howard Kunstler is always noting, we will lessen our energy and transportation woes by rebuilding walkable cities and by connecting Lake Forests etc to major metro areas by rail. The solution isn't to build greener/techier cars, but to re-urbanize so that people don't need cars.

    I think that part of the millennial desire to live in city centers and not drive is due to the fact that most millennials spent a semester in Barcelona or Paris and realized, as their repatriating plane was landing in O'Hare or La Guardia, that America is not only goddam ugly, but that living in an activated, low-rise city is not a punishment but is actually much better than living in the car-dependent burbs. In Europe, they make the minorities live in the suburbs so the wealthy natives can enjoy living in their great cities.

    I need to write about some of the technological developments that have made living in close proximity to neighbors less noisy, such as air-conditioning, double pane windows, and good earplugs.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Uptown Resident
    True. And there's also the adaptation factor. When I visit my parents's place in rural Michigan, the quietness gets to me. I think of "The Shining" often.
    , @a Newsreader
    Steve, have you read any of the "traditional city" advocacy by Nathan Lewis and Andrew Price? These guys have done some thinking about how urban design choices have had some effect in driving people away from urban cores in America.

    They don't really touch on the other problems in cities that scare away middle-class people (e.g. bad schools where middle-class kids are mixed with underclass kids, crime, Al Sharpton, etc.), but their ideas on city construction are interesting at least. I think that making cities more attractive to families will require both social reform (e.g. find a way to keep the Camp of the Saints away from law abiding families), and better urban design (e.g. narrow residential streets, less noise, etc.).

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  19. You don’t have to wait for Google… this tech is already here. Audi has had “active cruise control” for a while now. The newer luxury autos are offering “lane assist.” While they’re still marketed as “assists” they really do take over in the intended functions (speed, braking, staying in the lane) and mean you can read/text/etc. on the go.

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    • Replies: @Scott Locklin

    While they’re still marketed as “assists” they really do take over in the intended functions (speed, braking, staying in the lane) and mean you can read/text/etc. on the go.
     
    Obviously, you do not own such an Audi, because if you tried that, you'd be dead, rather than typing your opinion here.

    Lee is actually too nice to the Google car. Useful autonomous vehicles are very, very far into the future, and there will be a huge backlash against the idea once people realize how badly they've been had by Google's preposterous marketing hype.

    A very simple driving problem that people do naturally: read street signs. Even illiterates can do it. Only in the last few years, and only in very limited circumstances (centered photos of nothing but the sign) can deep learning algorithms do it. FWIIW, DL algos as they stand don't run in anything approaching real time like you'd need for a car. Don't believe me? Do real time classification on this data set, which is a standard for machine learning researchers:

    http://benchmark.ini.rub.de/
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  20. @Steve Sailer
    Sure, but my point is that we shouldn't imagine that we'll soon have all-purpose artificial intelligence Jeeveses who will take care of all the complicated household tasks that require humans today, like driving surface streets. In 1957, Heinlein envisioned an all-purpose robot who would vacuum and wash your dishes for you. Instead, we got a single purpose robot, the dishwasher, and, much later, another single purpose robot, Roomba. The self-driving car of the future will likely be limited to controlled roadways such as freeways for, say, a generation before it takes on extremely tricky tasks like picking up children from school. I suspect Google's lawyers have nightmares thinking about lawsuits involving children crippled in front of their school by a Google Car.

    There is not a day that goes by in which I do not thank God for the Roomba.

    Only a man could be dismissive of such a game-changing piece of technology.

    It has changed my life, giving me back hours/week that I’m no longer spending vacuuming or having a panic attack about the dog hair.

    iRobot is also the Mint Plus, which uses GPS technology to map your floors and then mop them. They still have some kinks to work out with the design, but it’s a worthy machine.

    A self-driving car is precisely the kind of dumb, unnecessary technology–like continually refining how we can waste our time with new versions of smart phones–that men would obsess over. I hope it fails.

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  21. @vinny
    It's always going to be expensive to drag a couple thousand pounds of steel anywhere you go, and then pay for it to drive of to somewhere too? Autonomous cars (automobiles?) aren't going to solve that problem.

    Affluent people now like living in moderately dense, close, nice neighborhoods: the future looks like Bucktown.

    It’s always going to be expensive to drag a couple thousand pounds of steel anywhere you go, and then pay for it to drive of to somewhere too? Autonomous cars (automobiles?) aren’t going to solve that problem.

    So why drag the 2000 pounds? With advanced communication between vehicles, cars can be made not to crash. Hence no need for huge, weighty vehicles. A small pod large enough for one or two people would be enough. And no need for a windshield … or windows. With a computer controlling traffic movements, there would be no need for stop lights at fixed intersections. The cars could zip past each other, interleaving in the flow of traffic. Following distances could be virtually eliminated: no need to wait for human reaction times. Pack five times as many cars in a single lane. Safety, too. Lay down on a bed in the middle of the vehicle, strapped in: car as safety pod.

    All the things we take for granted about transportation are up for grabs. We cannot think outside the box.

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    • Replies: @Uptown Resident
    For millennia people lived within walking distance of everything they needed. What if thinking outside the box simply means realizing that traditional urbanism is a really good, low-tech, low-energy model for civilization?

    Surely it would be easier and cheaper to re-populate and renew our abandoned American cities.
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  22. @Steve Sailer
    I need to write about some of the technological developments that have made living in close proximity to neighbors less noisy, such as air-conditioning, double pane windows, and good earplugs.

    True. And there’s also the adaptation factor. When I visit my parents’s place in rural Michigan, the quietness gets to me. I think of “The Shining” often.

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    • Replies: @Udolpho

    True. And there’s also the adaptation factor. When I visit my parents’s place in rural Michigan, the quietness gets to me. I think of “The Shining” often.
     
    do you own a hugbox?
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  23. @Big Bill

    It’s always going to be expensive to drag a couple thousand pounds of steel anywhere you go, and then pay for it to drive of to somewhere too? Autonomous cars (automobiles?) aren’t going to solve that problem.
     
    So why drag the 2000 pounds? With advanced communication between vehicles, cars can be made not to crash. Hence no need for huge, weighty vehicles. A small pod large enough for one or two people would be enough. And no need for a windshield ... or windows. With a computer controlling traffic movements, there would be no need for stop lights at fixed intersections. The cars could zip past each other, interleaving in the flow of traffic. Following distances could be virtually eliminated: no need to wait for human reaction times. Pack five times as many cars in a single lane. Safety, too. Lay down on a bed in the middle of the vehicle, strapped in: car as safety pod.

    All the things we take for granted about transportation are up for grabs. We cannot think outside the box.

    For millennia people lived within walking distance of everything they needed. What if thinking outside the box simply means realizing that traditional urbanism is a really good, low-tech, low-energy model for civilization?

    Surely it would be easier and cheaper to re-populate and renew our abandoned American cities.

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    • Replies: @Bill M
    Most people did not live in cities. And contemporary cities have nothing to do with "traditional urbanism". There is nothing "low tech" or "low energy" about contemporary cities. The ecological footprints of contemporary cities are huge. And in terms of the thermodynamics of agricultural production, cities are completely obsolete today because of technology. These trade route bottlenecks are absolutely unnecessary. But despite all their rhetoric, people who like urban living don't care about the environment. That's not why they like and promote urban living.
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  24. “I think that part of the millennial desire to live in city centers and not drive is due to the fact that most millennials spent a semester in Barcelona or Paris and realized, as their repatriating plane was landing in O’Hare or La Guardia, that America is not only goddam ugly”

    Most millenials spent a semester overseas??

    Hahahaha

    Someone is projecting.

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    • Replies: @guest007
    In any one year, only about 1% of college students study abroad.

    http://www.nafsa.org/Explore_International_Education/Advocacy_And_Public_Policy/Study_Abroad/Trends_in_U_S__Study_Abroad/

    Also, for all of those who think that the upper class Manhattan dwellers will move to the suburbs when they want to have children: They will skip on children before they skip on living in Manhattan. Look up the fertility rate of Ivy League educated women to see that they are not going to move to the suburbs.
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  25. >In Europe, they make the minorities live in the suburbs so the wealthy natives can enjoy living in their great cities.<

    oh i see apartheid. how dutch treat.

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  26. @Uptown Resident
    Also, as James Howard Kunstler is always noting, we will lessen our energy and transportation woes by rebuilding walkable cities and by connecting Lake Forests etc to major metro areas by rail. The solution isn't to build greener/techier cars, but to re-urbanize so that people don't need cars.

    I think that part of the millennial desire to live in city centers and not drive is due to the fact that most millennials spent a semester in Barcelona or Paris and realized, as their repatriating plane was landing in O'Hare or La Guardia, that America is not only goddam ugly, but that living in an activated, low-rise city is not a punishment but is actually much better than living in the car-dependent burbs. In Europe, they make the minorities live in the suburbs so the wealthy natives can enjoy living in their great cities.

    The wealthy have always lived in cities. You do realize that young Spanish unemployment is extremely high and many young Spaniards are being forced to emigrate for work. Spanish fertility rates are among the world’s lowest as well. Ordinary Spaniards are not enjoying living in cities in which they don’t have steady work, can’t afford the real estate, and can’t form families in.

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    • Replies: @Uptown Resident
    Re: Spain. Their unemployment is not caused by their urbanism. And frankly it would be more enjoyable to be unemployed in Barcelona than in Dayton, Ohio.
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  27. @Steve Sailer
    I need to write about some of the technological developments that have made living in close proximity to neighbors less noisy, such as air-conditioning, double pane windows, and good earplugs.

    Steve, have you read any of the “traditional city” advocacy by Nathan Lewis and Andrew Price? These guys have done some thinking about how urban design choices have had some effect in driving people away from urban cores in America.

    They don’t really touch on the other problems in cities that scare away middle-class people (e.g. bad schools where middle-class kids are mixed with underclass kids, crime, Al Sharpton, etc.), but their ideas on city construction are interesting at least. I think that making cities more attractive to families will require both social reform (e.g. find a way to keep the Camp of the Saints away from law abiding families), and better urban design (e.g. narrow residential streets, less noise, etc.).

    Read More
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  28. @Bill M
    Affluent people have always lived in cities, or at least owned property and spent a lot of time living in cities while going out to the country on weekends and holidays and the like. Even during white flight, it wasn't affluent whites leaving. They still lived in NW Washington and the Upper East Side. It was non-affluent, working class, middle class, professionals, etc. leaving.

    What's happening now is that a lot of these non-affluent young middle class and professional types are moving back into cities primarily because that's where the jobs are, though it's being spun in the media as simply being about the overwhelming superiority of urban living or something. But eventually these people are going to get older and want to settle down and have more space and start families, and for most that means moving out of cities since there are only so many brownstones to go around. These self-driving cars could have the effect of enabling this desire, as well as incentivizing people who hadn't really thought about settling down out of cities and having families. And this is exactly what terrifies the libs who want to cram us all into high-rises.

    “What’s happening now is that a lot of these non-affluent young middle class and professional types are moving back into cities primarily because that’s where the jobs are, though it’s being spun in the media as simply being about the overwhelming superiority of urban living or something.”

    I think you’re wrong on this. My DH and I are young (born ’81) middle class professionals who would not consider living in the suburbs, have thought a lot about it, and really do think urban life is superior.

    It mostly comes down to being able to walk or take transit everywhere. There’s also the fantastic housing stock instead of the hideous post-War residential architecture. There’s the concerts, dining, culture. You don’t need a car. And you don’t have to look at the nauseating suburban landscape of chain restaurants and retail plazas with their parking aprons and cheap, disposable architecture.

    I think the media spin comes in when they say that city living is superior because there’s more diversity. That’s obviously BS. As the diversity of a neighborhood increases, it’s desirability declines. I think the USA may be heading the way of Europe, where affluent and middle class whites are in the city centers, and the minorities are relegated to the suburbs.

    “The wealthy have always lived in cities. You do realize that young Spanish unemployment is extremely high and many young Spaniards are being forced to emigrate for work. Spanish fertility rates are among the world’s lowest as well. Ordinary Spaniards are not enjoying living in cities in which they don’t have steady work, can’t afford the real estate, and can’t form families in.”

    Yes, but European unemployment, of which Spanish is the worst, is not caused by their urbanism. And frankly it would be better to be underemployed in Barcelona than in Dayton, Ohio.

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    • Replies: @Bill M
    If you were born in '81, you're not young anymore. You're in your mid thirties.

    I'm talking about people in general, not about you or any other individual case. Most of these non-affluent young middle class and professional types are moving back into cities primarily because that’s where the jobs are. Most of these people cannot afford the "fantastic housing stock" of urban areas. There are only so many brownstones to go around. There's a reason why pundits are always complaining about building codes and thiink building high-rises are a fantastic idea.

    You seem confused about Europe just because you heard about how banlieues have lots of immigrants. In general, European suburbs and rural areas are much whtier than European cities.

    I never said European or Spanish unemployment was caused by "urbanism". You suggested that ordinary Spaniards were having fantastic lives because they were living in cities. When in reality many of them are forced to emigrate for work and have trouble forming families.
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  29. @Bill M
    The wealthy have always lived in cities. You do realize that young Spanish unemployment is extremely high and many young Spaniards are being forced to emigrate for work. Spanish fertility rates are among the world's lowest as well. Ordinary Spaniards are not enjoying living in cities in which they don't have steady work, can't afford the real estate, and can't form families in.

    Re: Spain. Their unemployment is not caused by their urbanism. And frankly it would be more enjoyable to be unemployed in Barcelona than in Dayton, Ohio.

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    • Replies: @sanjoaquinsam
    Metro areas are enjoyable to visit from time to time but the second I'm back in my car driving home I am grateful to live 90 minutes from all the Vibrant Diversity and Cosmopolitans; they really are the worst.
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  30. @Uptown Resident
    Also, as James Howard Kunstler is always noting, we will lessen our energy and transportation woes by rebuilding walkable cities and by connecting Lake Forests etc to major metro areas by rail. The solution isn't to build greener/techier cars, but to re-urbanize so that people don't need cars.

    I think that part of the millennial desire to live in city centers and not drive is due to the fact that most millennials spent a semester in Barcelona or Paris and realized, as their repatriating plane was landing in O'Hare or La Guardia, that America is not only goddam ugly, but that living in an activated, low-rise city is not a punishment but is actually much better than living in the car-dependent burbs. In Europe, they make the minorities live in the suburbs so the wealthy natives can enjoy living in their great cities.

    I do agree with some of James Howard Kunstler’s view of certain suburbs (especially strip malls) but I don’t agree with his blanket denigration of suburbs in general. I live in the Northern New Jersey suburbs and for all of the strip malls on certain state highways, there are a lot of really nice suburbs with small downtowns and very pleasant singe family home neighborhoods, like certain Chicago burbs. Most of these are pre-1950s suburban development but not all. However, everyone uses a car and I don’t think that is going away. Driverless cars are a great development in that it will dramatically reduce the demand for owning a car and all of the ancillary costs (maintaining two and three car garages, etc.). It will make extra rooms available for families to use as well.

    Rather than try to cram everyone into Matthew Yglesias’ Blade Runner utopia, a good public policy plan should be to develop small and medium size villages similar to Lake Forest, IL and certain towns in the North East that have nice downtowns, pleasant single family homes and sufficient open space that can complement both a driverless car and walkability. Driverless cars won’t work well in Manhattan or Hong Kong. But they will work in Lake Forest.

    Telecommuting plus driverless cars. Now there is a public policy plan that is both family friendly and environmentally conscious. Let’s see which politically party has the brains to put this on the agenda.

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    • Replies: @Uptown Resident
    "Rather than try to cram everyone into Matthew Yglesias’ Blade Runner utopia ..."

    I completely agree about high-rises. Some neo-tradionalist architect (Leon Krier?) is always going around noting that with the exception of Rome, no pre-modern city had more than 50,000 residents. And the limit was the surrounding agriculture needed to support the city's population.

    Many downtown areas are striving to keep a 6-story limit (which is what Paris and many other Euro cities have. It might be 7.).

    JHK thinks that Yglesias etc are crazy for promoting the high-rises because (1) there won't be enough capital to renovate and run them, and (2) they require too much energy, (3) there is a Just Right spot for urban density, and high rises are too much porridge.
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  31. Have faith in the singularity. Put sensors on the shocks of the car to detect a pot hole and tag it instantly before it gets significant. All cars will be notified of its presence. It will be treated as a hazard and on a multilane road traffic will be shifted over. A road crew (or Roadbot) will be dispatched to repair it. On single lane roads, traffic will be slowed until a road crew is dispatched and the traffic will then be rerouted. Roadbots could be roaming during pothole season. Planned road work would need a permit requiring its location being sent to the map database. Emergency work could be barricaded by stanchions that emit signals to the map database. You could even have more advanced “explorer” cars constantly roaming during the night to detect conflicts in the database. Actually, the Google car could result in better roads.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    If we really get the Singularity, and intelligent machines displace most workers, what will be the need for everyone to have access to a self-driving car? People would no longer need to commute, and most would no longer have the means to pay for any aspect of car ownership, maintenance or even short-term rental. Would there even be a need for people to leave their homes? Local governments (since few would have resources to pay) could send standardized food pallets out to houses with a small fleet of self-driving trucks and robot deliverers.
    , @International Jew
    "A road crew (or Roadbot) will be dispatched to repair it. On single lane roads, traffic will be slowed until a road crew is dispatched and the traffic will then be rerouted. Roadbots could be roaming during pothole season."

    Nice idea, but it assumes public institutions both better-funded and more efficient than the ones we have now. Somehow, that doesn't seem a likely prospect for the glorious diverse future America. Already today, the streets and highways in my part of California are in bad shape, and it's not for any failure, on the part of the authorities, to know about the existence and location of potholes. And as for the efficient piece, look at the ineptitude with which infrastructure projects are done (if ever) now, compared to the early 20th Century.
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  32. @uptown Resident
    Why is rail so much better and cheaper in Europe? When I was in Italy last September, I noticed that they had new, super fast train lines connecting Milan to Florence to Rome to Naples. Previously it took four hours to get from Florence to Milan; now it takes two. A round trip will cost a tourist around 30 euro, but regular commuters pay much less. Italy, that has been in a recession for how long?, has far better transportation infrastructure than Chicago.

    That’s because mass transit is MASSIVELY subsidized in Europe. It’s really subsidized in the NY-NJ-CT area (the New York City Subway is the most cost effective and only covers two-thirds of its operating costs (that’s not including any capital costs)). However, the subsidies in Europe are off the charts. I’m not at all against subsidies for certain public goods (i.e. I’m not by any means a libertarian) but if we need New York City type density to only cover two thirds of our operating costs, then I don’t think it is a good system.

    By the way, most Europeans travel using budget airlines as they are much cheaper than high speed rail (even after including all of the subsidies).

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  33. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Robinson
    Have faith in the singularity. Put sensors on the shocks of the car to detect a pot hole and tag it instantly before it gets significant. All cars will be notified of its presence. It will be treated as a hazard and on a multilane road traffic will be shifted over. A road crew (or Roadbot) will be dispatched to repair it. On single lane roads, traffic will be slowed until a road crew is dispatched and the traffic will then be rerouted. Roadbots could be roaming during pothole season. Planned road work would need a permit requiring its location being sent to the map database. Emergency work could be barricaded by stanchions that emit signals to the map database. You could even have more advanced "explorer" cars constantly roaming during the night to detect conflicts in the database. Actually, the Google car could result in better roads.

    If we really get the Singularity, and intelligent machines displace most workers, what will be the need for everyone to have access to a self-driving car? People would no longer need to commute, and most would no longer have the means to pay for any aspect of car ownership, maintenance or even short-term rental. Would there even be a need for people to leave their homes? Local governments (since few would have resources to pay) could send standardized food pallets out to houses with a small fleet of self-driving trucks and robot deliverers.

    Read More
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  34. @Bill M
    He probably honed that technique growing up Quaker. At Quaker church services, the congregants sit in silence until the spirit moves one of them to speak out loud. Most people close their eyes, meditate, nap, etc.

    Actually, i was going to go w/ Nixon’s time in the Navy. In the military, you never knew when your next chance to sleep could be, so down time or travel time equaled rack time.

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  35. Does anybody alive today ever stop to think why the great old commuter suburbs fit into the rail system so beautifully? Gee, maybe, just maybe, might it have some tenuous connection to the fact that the railroads themselves built those towns?

    Now, if Google wants to bring back the leafy exurb, then maybe, just maybe, Google might invest in the infrastructure itself, and leave the taxpayer out of it?

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  36. It sounds like Google has invented a product with the same value proposition as a commuter bus.

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  37. @Uptown Resident
    Re: Spain. Their unemployment is not caused by their urbanism. And frankly it would be more enjoyable to be unemployed in Barcelona than in Dayton, Ohio.

    Metro areas are enjoyable to visit from time to time but the second I’m back in my car driving home I am grateful to live 90 minutes from all the Vibrant Diversity and Cosmopolitans; they really are the worst.

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    • Replies: @Uptown Resident
    "Metro areas are enjoyable to visit from time to time but the second I’m back in my car driving home I am grateful to live 90 minutes from all the Vibrant Diversity and Cosmopolitans; they really are the worst."

    But there are Really Nice neighborhoods in most cities that are majority white. In Seattle, for instance, many zip codes are over 90 per cent white. And I think that trend is only going to continue, as minorities are pushed out to the suburbs and young affluent and middle class whites move to the city centers. I was born in '81, and all my college-educated friends are living in cities. The suburbs are considered gross and lame.

    Also, if you don't have a crack problem and aren't in a gang, your chances of getting hurt in the city are pretty low--much lower than getting in a traffic accident. I live in one of the more diverse neighborhoods on the North Side of Chi-town, am female, and am very aware of the crime because I obsessively read the crime blogs. And don't get me wrong the diversity sucks. But not as much as the suburbs do.
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  38. @Uptown Resident
    Also, as James Howard Kunstler is always noting, we will lessen our energy and transportation woes by rebuilding walkable cities and by connecting Lake Forests etc to major metro areas by rail. The solution isn't to build greener/techier cars, but to re-urbanize so that people don't need cars.

    I think that part of the millennial desire to live in city centers and not drive is due to the fact that most millennials spent a semester in Barcelona or Paris and realized, as their repatriating plane was landing in O'Hare or La Guardia, that America is not only goddam ugly, but that living in an activated, low-rise city is not a punishment but is actually much better than living in the car-dependent burbs. In Europe, they make the minorities live in the suburbs so the wealthy natives can enjoy living in their great cities.

    In Europe, they make the minorities live in the suburbs so the wealthy natives can enjoy living in their great cities.

    Paris is said to vote to the right of the rest of France. Where l’enfer else does that happen?

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  39. Elderly people could keep there licenses until death and be brought straight to the morgue if they die in the car, or to Martine Rothblatt’s lab if they want their consciousness transferred to a robot, hell, you could even change your name to Herbie and have your consciousness transferred directly to your Google car if you like.

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  40. @Peter
    The first/last 5 miles of the commute do seem like a technical challenge, but if solved it also would encourage suburbanization by eliminating the 2-car problem. Right now, Dad needs a car to drive to work, but then it sits in the parking lot all day, so Mom needs another car to run errands, take the kids to soccer practice, have lunch with other moms, etc... A self-driving car could, after taking Dad to work, drive itself home so Mom has transportation during the day, before driving itself back to work to pick up Dad. Halving the number of cars the family needs sounds like Affordable Family Formation to me.

    It could also swing by Costco after dropping off Dad, assuming Mom sent an electronic order yesterday. An employee loads it into the (refrigerated) compartment of the vehicle and off it heads home. Mom unloads the groceries, uses the car all day (Assume more errands are automated here) and then sends the car off to get Dad. Later in the evening the car picks up the son from soccer practice after getting Dad from the office before driving back home.

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  41. @JerseyGuy
    I do agree with some of James Howard Kunstler's view of certain suburbs (especially strip malls) but I don't agree with his blanket denigration of suburbs in general. I live in the Northern New Jersey suburbs and for all of the strip malls on certain state highways, there are a lot of really nice suburbs with small downtowns and very pleasant singe family home neighborhoods, like certain Chicago burbs. Most of these are pre-1950s suburban development but not all. However, everyone uses a car and I don't think that is going away. Driverless cars are a great development in that it will dramatically reduce the demand for owning a car and all of the ancillary costs (maintaining two and three car garages, etc.). It will make extra rooms available for families to use as well.

    Rather than try to cram everyone into Matthew Yglesias' Blade Runner utopia, a good public policy plan should be to develop small and medium size villages similar to Lake Forest, IL and certain towns in the North East that have nice downtowns, pleasant single family homes and sufficient open space that can complement both a driverless car and walkability. Driverless cars won't work well in Manhattan or Hong Kong. But they will work in Lake Forest.

    Telecommuting plus driverless cars. Now there is a public policy plan that is both family friendly and environmentally conscious. Let's see which politically party has the brains to put this on the agenda.

    “Rather than try to cram everyone into Matthew Yglesias’ Blade Runner utopia …”

    I completely agree about high-rises. Some neo-tradionalist architect (Leon Krier?) is always going around noting that with the exception of Rome, no pre-modern city had more than 50,000 residents. And the limit was the surrounding agriculture needed to support the city’s population.

    Many downtown areas are striving to keep a 6-story limit (which is what Paris and many other Euro cities have. It might be 7.).

    JHK thinks that Yglesias etc are crazy for promoting the high-rises because (1) there won’t be enough capital to renovate and run them, and (2) they require too much energy, (3) there is a Just Right spot for urban density, and high rises are too much porridge.

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    • Replies: @granesperanzablanco
    Urban density and high rises are not strongly correlated. Your example of Paris is super dense. You get high density with street after street of zero lot line 6 story residential buildings with little to no parking.
    , @Anonymous
    Kunstler is an idiot. The capital and energy costs of high rises are much lower. There's a reason the USSR and communist bloc used them.
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  42. Ex-urbanization is continuing apace in New Zealand as prosperous whites flee the increasingly multicultural cities. An excuse is needed and here its the need for Kiwis to own a pony and reconnect with their rural heritage.

    The result is that whole districts in Canterbury and the Waikato have been ruined by what are euphemistically called “lifestyle blocks.” These are ten acre sections, ten acres being the minimum area that rural land can be subdivided into and still be classified as rural.

    I used to own one of these land-gobbling monstrosities. It was a huge personal and professional mistake as lifestyle blocks require a lot of time and energy that can more profitably be used to make a success of your job. It’s not the cost of fuel, it’s the time. I actually got fat because I spent so much time driving and sitting on a ride-on lawnmower.

    The average occupation time for a life-style block is 2 1/2 years when the suckers who buy them finally realize they need a thirty-five hour day to make a go of everything they have taken on.

    The Google car doesn’t matter. People need to be close to their work. When this sinks in, there will be a mad rush back to the cities.

    For all its faults, Auckland is, mostly, still a very nice place to life. Wellington is even better, but it located at the end of a peninsula. This means it proves the Steve theory of family friendly city planning better than virtually anywhere else and I see a massive rise in city-centre prices in the medium term.

    Christchurch is still being rebuilt after the earthquakes. There had been plans to give the city a keynote Neo-gothic architectural style, but apparently that would not have reflected the country’s new cultural diversity and so the new metropolis will be another concrete and plate glass monstrosity. It will be interesting to see which part of town is designated as White-opia.

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  43. @sanjoaquinsam
    Metro areas are enjoyable to visit from time to time but the second I'm back in my car driving home I am grateful to live 90 minutes from all the Vibrant Diversity and Cosmopolitans; they really are the worst.

    “Metro areas are enjoyable to visit from time to time but the second I’m back in my car driving home I am grateful to live 90 minutes from all the Vibrant Diversity and Cosmopolitans; they really are the worst.”

    But there are Really Nice neighborhoods in most cities that are majority white. In Seattle, for instance, many zip codes are over 90 per cent white. And I think that trend is only going to continue, as minorities are pushed out to the suburbs and young affluent and middle class whites move to the city centers. I was born in ’81, and all my college-educated friends are living in cities. The suburbs are considered gross and lame.

    Also, if you don’t have a crack problem and aren’t in a gang, your chances of getting hurt in the city are pretty low–much lower than getting in a traffic accident. I live in one of the more diverse neighborhoods on the North Side of Chi-town, am female, and am very aware of the crime because I obsessively read the crime blogs. And don’t get me wrong the diversity sucks. But not as much as the suburbs do.

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    • Replies: @sanjoaquinsam
    "And don’t get me wrong the diversity sucks. But not as much as the suburbs do."

    It shouldn't matter but I'm not a country bumpkin; I'm the same age as you, am college educated, and don't care what your friends think about the suburbs.

    I find the Cosmopolitans--i.e. SWPLS--to be as odious as the Vibrancy, only in different ways.

    Riding BART in the San Francisco Bay area is a loathsome experience; much like the Elevated train in Chicago. My uncle lived on the South Side for most of his life; as a kid, I loved riding METRA into the city. He has since sold and moved to the North Side, not far from you presumably, due to encroaching Vibrancy.

    To be fair I live in a small town, not suburban sprawl, and with the exception of work walk to all the same places you do. Thank you for the geography lesson on American urban centers yet if demanded the choice I'd chose first small town then suburbs over the city, the Vibrancy, and the Cosmopolitans every single time. I do not presume all my peers would choose the same.

    Now knowing you're female, lived in Italy for a time, and now live in a big city, your projection of your own experience onto all people your own age makes sense.

    , @Bill M
    Obviously the trend can't continue. Cities are population sinks.
    , @guest007
    Middle class whites are not living in urban centers. Please point out the DC or Baltimore neighborhood where middle class whites. The rents are too high for safe housing, the middle class cannot afford private schools, and a middle class white is competing with minorities for jobs in such situations. Do you really think middle class white teachers want to teach in the public schools in DC, BAltimore, etc or want to work for municipal government?
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  44. @uptown Resident
    Why is rail so much better and cheaper in Europe? When I was in Italy last September, I noticed that they had new, super fast train lines connecting Milan to Florence to Rome to Naples. Previously it took four hours to get from Florence to Milan; now it takes two. A round trip will cost a tourist around 30 euro, but regular commuters pay much less. Italy, that has been in a recession for how long?, has far better transportation infrastructure than Chicago.

    In Europe, they move people by rail and freight by truck. In America, they move freight by rail and people by car and truck.

    The American system of on-demand transportation for people and scheduled transportation for freight makes a lot more sense than what they do in Europe.

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    • Replies: @Uptown Resident
    "In Europe, they move people by rail and freight by truck."

    And by foot, maybe even principally. I lived in Italy for two years, in downtown Florence, and was in a car maybe once a week if that.

    In a good city, you can walk out your door--"on demand"--and go to the grocery store, restaurant, gym, salon, bar, dry cleaners, etc. My DH works downtown and infinitely prefers taking the El to driving because he can work on the train rather than stew in traffic on LSD.

    Living in a good city makes life lets you be way more spontaneous because you're not dependent on a car, parking, route, etc.

    our efficient transportation for freight has enabled this wonderful global economy, which has replaced American-made goods (and jobs) with third world garbage, etc.
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  45. @uptown Resident
    Why is rail so much better and cheaper in Europe? When I was in Italy last September, I noticed that they had new, super fast train lines connecting Milan to Florence to Rome to Naples. Previously it took four hours to get from Florence to Milan; now it takes two. A round trip will cost a tourist around 30 euro, but regular commuters pay much less. Italy, that has been in a recession for how long?, has far better transportation infrastructure than Chicago.

    How is Uptown these days?

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    • Replies: @Uptown Resident
    "How is Uptown these days?"

    Lol. Terrible. It's getting better, but it's got a ways to go. We are currently renting in the Margate Park area and will probably not stay much longer. We were looking to buy a multi in Uptown--so much room for appreciation and great buildings and soaring rental market--but decided it's not worth it. There incredible real estate deals ended in 2011, and the street element is depressing.

    There has been a push to convert SRO's/nursing homes to market rate housing. For instance the gorgeous and infamous Somerset Place, which was shut down by the state in 2011 (after one of its residents who was whoring herself out for crack was found in a nearby hotel murdered), has been extensively and beautiful renovated and is now opening its doors to fresh, non-Medicaid tenants. http://www.somersetplace-apartments.com. 2-brs go for as much as $2,400/mo.

    But there's a lot of resistance from community activists to the SRO conversions. Exporting diversity, etc.

    Also, they have grand plans for renewing Argyle and making it more bike and pedestrian friendly (which will hopefully cause the Asian restaurant owners to take better care of their stores). http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140905/uptown/argyle-streetscape-plans-finalized

    I bet it will be spectacular in 20 years.
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  46. @map
    In Europe, they move people by rail and freight by truck. In America, they move freight by rail and people by car and truck.

    The American system of on-demand transportation for people and scheduled transportation for freight makes a lot more sense than what they do in Europe.

    “In Europe, they move people by rail and freight by truck.”

    And by foot, maybe even principally. I lived in Italy for two years, in downtown Florence, and was in a car maybe once a week if that.

    In a good city, you can walk out your door–”on demand”–and go to the grocery store, restaurant, gym, salon, bar, dry cleaners, etc. My DH works downtown and infinitely prefers taking the El to driving because he can work on the train rather than stew in traffic on LSD.

    Living in a good city makes life lets you be way more spontaneous because you’re not dependent on a car, parking, route, etc.

    our efficient transportation for freight has enabled this wonderful global economy, which has replaced American-made goods (and jobs) with third world garbage, etc.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    In a good city you need lots of money for the rent and to have all those things "on demand".
    , @The Last Real Calvinist

    Living in a good city makes life lets you be way more spontaneous because you’re not dependent on a car, parking, route, etc.
     
    This is such a boon, I agree. The Family Calvinist hasn't had a car for over a decade, and I can't see ever getting one again. On a weekend day we often bounce around the city (we live in Hong Kong) to two, three or more destinations with minimal cost and trouble. When we're visiting the USA -- usually LA, since I've got relatives there -- I am reminded over and over what a ball and chain a car can be.

    I acknowledge, of course, that if you've got small children, lots of purchases to carry, etc., the tables may turn.

    But overall my point is that it can be hard for American urban residents to grasp how unconstrained urban travel can be when you don't need to worry about 'stabling your steed' at every stage of your journey, and when you can go freely to any part of your city via various means -- bus, taxi, train, walking -- without fear of getting mugged or assaulted.
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  47. I also first thought that self driving cars would give new life to the suburbs and exurbs, but reconsidered. The technology of self-driving cars only indirectly and slightly affects traffic, and doesn’t affect the price of oil extraction and gas at all. And the main reason the car centered lifestyle is running into problems is the increase in traffic, which is mainly due to population increase, and increased gas prices (which are actually indirectly due to the population increase).

    Also, I’m not sure the self driving cars will be allowed. Much of the effect of self driving cars could be captured by making it much easier for people to drive other people and their goods for payment. The fact that this is strictly controlled and regulated in the US, precisely to limit competition for the people with these licenses, and to force people into buying cars for themselves, should be a clue as to how self driving cars will be received.

    Incidentally, you don’t want to be in any sort of car in Manhattan given the traffic, and a scheme to remove cars from at least part of the island altogether makes more sense than having self driving cars there. And its the traffic, not the highrises or the layout of the island, most of which is covered by a sensible grid of wide streets.

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  48. @Uptown Resident
    For millennia people lived within walking distance of everything they needed. What if thinking outside the box simply means realizing that traditional urbanism is a really good, low-tech, low-energy model for civilization?

    Surely it would be easier and cheaper to re-populate and renew our abandoned American cities.

    Most people did not live in cities. And contemporary cities have nothing to do with “traditional urbanism”. There is nothing “low tech” or “low energy” about contemporary cities. The ecological footprints of contemporary cities are huge. And in terms of the thermodynamics of agricultural production, cities are completely obsolete today because of technology. These trade route bottlenecks are absolutely unnecessary. But despite all their rhetoric, people who like urban living don’t care about the environment. That’s not why they like and promote urban living.

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    • Replies: @Uptown Resident
    Those who didn't live in cities lived in rural villages that were, for our purposes, the same as cities in that they were supported by local resources. They weren't living in sprawling suburbs and driving to Walmart and McDonalds for food.

    It's true that most contemporary cities have expanded far beyond traditional urbanism and need to contract. But they are far more efficient, per capita, than suburbia. If everybody in the cities sprawled out into suburbia, it would be an ecological catastrophe.

    Even if you don't believe in environmental consequences of running agriculture on cheap oil, there's the moral problem of doing really unnatural, even evil things to tens of billions of sentient, intelligent animals in order to feed our sprawling, obese population.

    I agree with JHK that traditional urbanism (small towns mainly supported by local agriculture) would be much better than both our current mega-cities and suburbia. Obviously a huge population contraction is necessary for traditional urbanism to work at its historical scale.

    I promote urban living mainly because I think it has always offered a superior lifestyle to living in the country. And it also happens to be better for nonhuman species who are competing with us, and losing miserably, for habitat.
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  49. @Thomas
    You don't have to wait for Google... this tech is already here. Audi has had "active cruise control" for a while now. The newer luxury autos are offering "lane assist." While they're still marketed as "assists" they really do take over in the intended functions (speed, braking, staying in the lane) and mean you can read/text/etc. on the go.

    While they’re still marketed as “assists” they really do take over in the intended functions (speed, braking, staying in the lane) and mean you can read/text/etc. on the go.

    Obviously, you do not own such an Audi, because if you tried that, you’d be dead, rather than typing your opinion here.

    Lee is actually too nice to the Google car. Useful autonomous vehicles are very, very far into the future, and there will be a huge backlash against the idea once people realize how badly they’ve been had by Google’s preposterous marketing hype.

    A very simple driving problem that people do naturally: read street signs. Even illiterates can do it. Only in the last few years, and only in very limited circumstances (centered photos of nothing but the sign) can deep learning algorithms do it. FWIIW, DL algos as they stand don’t run in anything approaching real time like you’d need for a car. Don’t believe me? Do real time classification on this data set, which is a standard for machine learning researchers:

    http://benchmark.ini.rub.de/

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    • Replies: @Silicon Valley Dinosaur
    "Useful autonomous vehicles are very, very far into the future, and there will be a huge backlash against the idea once people realize how badly they’ve been had by Google’s preposterous marketing hype."

    Yep. People who haven't been behind the scenes of a software sausage factory need to know a few basic facts.

    1. Humans are superb pattern recognizers. Computers are better than humans at some things, but pattern recognition (and interpretation) is the last area they'll catch up to us in -- if they ever do.

    2. Big software systems are inherently buggy. And the bigger they get, the harder it is to add features without
    introducing new bugs. A working robot car's software would be big, and constantly growing too (as code is
    added to deal with special cases earlier overlooked).

    That, and one specific observation about autonomous cars: as the software improves (to the extent it ever really can, subject to #2 above), they become *more* dangerous. That's because early on, when you know
    the car can't be trusted, you (the human) pay close attention, ready to take over the controls at any time. But the better the software gets, the less alert you become. You allow yourself a 2-second glance at your phone, then 5, then 30 seconds. So when the near-perfect car makes that inevitable mistake, you're probably not looking: bam!!

    And back to what you call Google's hype: I'm not so impressed by the claimed 700,000 miles of accident-free driving. What I want to know, is what's the average distance traveled between incidents when the human has to take over? They don't tell us that (though from the accounts of thrilled journalists, I guesstimate the answer is about 20 miles).
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  50. “True. And there’s also the adaptation factor. When I visit my parents’s place in rural Michigan, the quietness gets to me. I think of “The Shining” often.”

    To me rural areas are fine for vacations, but I would not want to spend the rest of my life living in a rural area. I would feel very uneasy living so far away from hospitals, police stations, supermarkets, and fire stations. The sticks are not for me.

    Since I am more of an extrovert than an introvert, spending the rest of my life in area where Livestock outnumber Human Beings is not my cup of tea.

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  51. @Uptown Resident
    "Metro areas are enjoyable to visit from time to time but the second I’m back in my car driving home I am grateful to live 90 minutes from all the Vibrant Diversity and Cosmopolitans; they really are the worst."

    But there are Really Nice neighborhoods in most cities that are majority white. In Seattle, for instance, many zip codes are over 90 per cent white. And I think that trend is only going to continue, as minorities are pushed out to the suburbs and young affluent and middle class whites move to the city centers. I was born in '81, and all my college-educated friends are living in cities. The suburbs are considered gross and lame.

    Also, if you don't have a crack problem and aren't in a gang, your chances of getting hurt in the city are pretty low--much lower than getting in a traffic accident. I live in one of the more diverse neighborhoods on the North Side of Chi-town, am female, and am very aware of the crime because I obsessively read the crime blogs. And don't get me wrong the diversity sucks. But not as much as the suburbs do.

    “And don’t get me wrong the diversity sucks. But not as much as the suburbs do.”

    It shouldn’t matter but I’m not a country bumpkin; I’m the same age as you, am college educated, and don’t care what your friends think about the suburbs.

    I find the Cosmopolitans–i.e. SWPLS–to be as odious as the Vibrancy, only in different ways.

    Riding BART in the San Francisco Bay area is a loathsome experience; much like the Elevated train in Chicago. My uncle lived on the South Side for most of his life; as a kid, I loved riding METRA into the city. He has since sold and moved to the North Side, not far from you presumably, due to encroaching Vibrancy.

    To be fair I live in a small town, not suburban sprawl, and with the exception of work walk to all the same places you do. Thank you for the geography lesson on American urban centers yet if demanded the choice I’d chose first small town then suburbs over the city, the Vibrancy, and the Cosmopolitans every single time. I do not presume all my peers would choose the same.

    Now knowing you’re female, lived in Italy for a time, and now live in a big city, your projection of your own experience onto all people your own age makes sense.

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  52. Ahh, Americans penchant for wanting to live like the wealthy.

    Instead of the excutive who emotes: “james take me home”, the cube drone gets in his Google car and belches “home” and takes the prole back to his dwelling for some porn and beer.

    Here’s the drawback, the more popular those robot cars become the bigger targets they’ll be for hackers. Want to bet what happens when one of those cars gets hacked and plows into a crowd of people what will happen to Google and the idiot automaker that turned their cars into robots?

    Lawsuit city.

    And there are a lot very clever and intelligent people who don’t work Google and wouldn’t be caught dead working for the police state organ, who love hacking. Once they get their hands on one of the cars…. I certainly wouldn’t want to be in one of those self-propelled coffins when some hacker monkey hammers the brakes while you’re going 65 on the freeway.

    The upside is Google is rich enough and connected enough to Uncle Sam to pay off most mass death claims so, I think they can weather the beat down.

    Besides there is the privacy issue, why in the hell do you want to use a vehicle that snitches on the occupant? Look the thing knows when and where you went and Google will probably gives that info to Uncle Sam like they do all the rest of your personal you put in their cloud and email services. Heck it probably will record conversations in the cabin as well, it certainly has the mass storage capacity to do so.

    Sorry no sale. I spent far too long in military IT to see the downsides of this greed driven idiocy.

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  53. @Bill M

    But what if the technology of the Google Car doesn’t evolve to deal well with crowded, narrow urban streets and parking garages? What if the Google Car evolves to deal best with, say, freeways retrofitted with electronic signals?
     
    The libs that want to cram us all into high-rises are actually starting to worry about this very thing:

    "The Self-Driving Tesla Might Make Us Love Urban Sprawl Again"

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2014/10/15/self_driving_tesla_car_might_encourage_urban_sprawl.html

    Elon Musk announced last week that the Model S will feature “autopilot,” an ability to take over for the driver in limited situations. The move closes a gap between Tesla and more established automakers, which have provided increasing levels of autonomous tech. It will net the young company quite a windfall and make driving safer and easier for its customers. It’s a significant step toward a future where cars drive themselves, and doing so with electricity offers an enticing view of a future where cars are awesome and the atmosphere is squeaky clean.

    Unless the new Tesla and other autonomous vehicles end up doing more harm than good to the planet.

    As driving becomes less onerous and computer-controlled systems reduce traffic, some experts worry that will eliminate a powerful incentive—commuting sucks—for living near cities, where urban density makes for more efficient sharing of resources. In other words, autonomous vehicles could lead to urban sprawl.

    It’s simple, says Ken Laberteaux, a senior scientist at Toyota. If you make transportation faster, easier and perhaps cheaper, then people won’t mind commuting. “What a consumer is expected to do is see what they can gain by moving a little further from the job centers or the cultural centers,” he says. That’s bad news: Urban sprawl is linked to economic, environmental, and health hardships.
     

    How about within reason we just let areas develop as private interests want to develop them? Seems there is nothing more hypocritical in these debates than the conservative suburban dweller who wants little to no development of other’s private property around them. Basically a form of socialism

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    • Replies: @Bill M
    I've never heard of conservative suburban and rural dwellers caring about urban development plans.
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  54. @vinny
    It's always going to be expensive to drag a couple thousand pounds of steel anywhere you go, and then pay for it to drive of to somewhere too? Autonomous cars (automobiles?) aren't going to solve that problem.

    Affluent people now like living in moderately dense, close, nice neighborhoods: the future looks like Bucktown.

    Yes, we love areas like Bucktown but make it virtually impossible to develop new areas this way making them more scarce

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  55. @Anonymous
    How is Uptown these days?

    “How is Uptown these days?”

    Lol. Terrible. It’s getting better, but it’s got a ways to go. We are currently renting in the Margate Park area and will probably not stay much longer. We were looking to buy a multi in Uptown–so much room for appreciation and great buildings and soaring rental market–but decided it’s not worth it. There incredible real estate deals ended in 2011, and the street element is depressing.

    There has been a push to convert SRO’s/nursing homes to market rate housing. For instance the gorgeous and infamous Somerset Place, which was shut down by the state in 2011 (after one of its residents who was whoring herself out for crack was found in a nearby hotel murdered), has been extensively and beautiful renovated and is now opening its doors to fresh, non-Medicaid tenants. http://www.somersetplace-apartments.com. 2-brs go for as much as $2,400/mo.

    But there’s a lot of resistance from community activists to the SRO conversions. Exporting diversity, etc.

    Also, they have grand plans for renewing Argyle and making it more bike and pedestrian friendly (which will hopefully cause the Asian restaurant owners to take better care of their stores). http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140905/uptown/argyle-streetscape-plans-finalized

    I bet it will be spectacular in 20 years.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    I lived on Margate from 1988-2000.
    , @Steve Sailer
    Back in my in Uptown in Chicago north lakefront (about 4950 North), the big problem was that the Alderwoman to the south of us was an old Sixties radical who had, back in the day, started a white people's auxiliary of the Black Panthers. She worked diligently to keep the areas around 4600 North a black slum, which kept the nicer area to the north cut off from the really nice areas to the south. It was reasonably safe to walk south along the lakefront, but not a couple of blocks inland.
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  56. @uptown Resident
    "What’s happening now is that a lot of these non-affluent young middle class and professional types are moving back into cities primarily because that’s where the jobs are, though it’s being spun in the media as simply being about the overwhelming superiority of urban living or something."

    I think you're wrong on this. My DH and I are young (born '81) middle class professionals who would not consider living in the suburbs, have thought a lot about it, and really do think urban life is superior.

    It mostly comes down to being able to walk or take transit everywhere. There's also the fantastic housing stock instead of the hideous post-War residential architecture. There's the concerts, dining, culture. You don't need a car. And you don't have to look at the nauseating suburban landscape of chain restaurants and retail plazas with their parking aprons and cheap, disposable architecture.

    I think the media spin comes in when they say that city living is superior because there's more diversity. That's obviously BS. As the diversity of a neighborhood increases, it's desirability declines. I think the USA may be heading the way of Europe, where affluent and middle class whites are in the city centers, and the minorities are relegated to the suburbs.

    "The wealthy have always lived in cities. You do realize that young Spanish unemployment is extremely high and many young Spaniards are being forced to emigrate for work. Spanish fertility rates are among the world’s lowest as well. Ordinary Spaniards are not enjoying living in cities in which they don’t have steady work, can’t afford the real estate, and can’t form families in."

    Yes, but European unemployment, of which Spanish is the worst, is not caused by their urbanism. And frankly it would be better to be underemployed in Barcelona than in Dayton, Ohio.

    If you were born in ’81, you’re not young anymore. You’re in your mid thirties.

    I’m talking about people in general, not about you or any other individual case. Most of these non-affluent young middle class and professional types are moving back into cities primarily because that’s where the jobs are. Most of these people cannot afford the “fantastic housing stock” of urban areas. There are only so many brownstones to go around. There’s a reason why pundits are always complaining about building codes and thiink building high-rises are a fantastic idea.

    You seem confused about Europe just because you heard about how banlieues have lots of immigrants. In general, European suburbs and rural areas are much whtier than European cities.

    I never said European or Spanish unemployment was caused by “urbanism”. You suggested that ordinary Spaniards were having fantastic lives because they were living in cities. When in reality many of them are forced to emigrate for work and have trouble forming families.

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    • Replies: @Uptown Resident
    My experience of living in Italy for several years was that the Africans and Chinese lived in the "periferia", and that Italians lived in the city centers. I've seen similar situations in France and Spain. Maybe the rural areas are whiter than the cities, but the immigrant enclaves are not in the city centers, as they still are here in the USA.
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  57. […] Source: Steve Sailer […]

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  58. @Uptown Resident
    "How is Uptown these days?"

    Lol. Terrible. It's getting better, but it's got a ways to go. We are currently renting in the Margate Park area and will probably not stay much longer. We were looking to buy a multi in Uptown--so much room for appreciation and great buildings and soaring rental market--but decided it's not worth it. There incredible real estate deals ended in 2011, and the street element is depressing.

    There has been a push to convert SRO's/nursing homes to market rate housing. For instance the gorgeous and infamous Somerset Place, which was shut down by the state in 2011 (after one of its residents who was whoring herself out for crack was found in a nearby hotel murdered), has been extensively and beautiful renovated and is now opening its doors to fresh, non-Medicaid tenants. http://www.somersetplace-apartments.com. 2-brs go for as much as $2,400/mo.

    But there's a lot of resistance from community activists to the SRO conversions. Exporting diversity, etc.

    Also, they have grand plans for renewing Argyle and making it more bike and pedestrian friendly (which will hopefully cause the Asian restaurant owners to take better care of their stores). http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140905/uptown/argyle-streetscape-plans-finalized

    I bet it will be spectacular in 20 years.

    I lived on Margate from 1988-2000.

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  59. @Uptown Resident
    "Metro areas are enjoyable to visit from time to time but the second I’m back in my car driving home I am grateful to live 90 minutes from all the Vibrant Diversity and Cosmopolitans; they really are the worst."

    But there are Really Nice neighborhoods in most cities that are majority white. In Seattle, for instance, many zip codes are over 90 per cent white. And I think that trend is only going to continue, as minorities are pushed out to the suburbs and young affluent and middle class whites move to the city centers. I was born in '81, and all my college-educated friends are living in cities. The suburbs are considered gross and lame.

    Also, if you don't have a crack problem and aren't in a gang, your chances of getting hurt in the city are pretty low--much lower than getting in a traffic accident. I live in one of the more diverse neighborhoods on the North Side of Chi-town, am female, and am very aware of the crime because I obsessively read the crime blogs. And don't get me wrong the diversity sucks. But not as much as the suburbs do.

    Obviously the trend can’t continue. Cities are population sinks.

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  60. @Uptown Resident
    "How is Uptown these days?"

    Lol. Terrible. It's getting better, but it's got a ways to go. We are currently renting in the Margate Park area and will probably not stay much longer. We were looking to buy a multi in Uptown--so much room for appreciation and great buildings and soaring rental market--but decided it's not worth it. There incredible real estate deals ended in 2011, and the street element is depressing.

    There has been a push to convert SRO's/nursing homes to market rate housing. For instance the gorgeous and infamous Somerset Place, which was shut down by the state in 2011 (after one of its residents who was whoring herself out for crack was found in a nearby hotel murdered), has been extensively and beautiful renovated and is now opening its doors to fresh, non-Medicaid tenants. http://www.somersetplace-apartments.com. 2-brs go for as much as $2,400/mo.

    But there's a lot of resistance from community activists to the SRO conversions. Exporting diversity, etc.

    Also, they have grand plans for renewing Argyle and making it more bike and pedestrian friendly (which will hopefully cause the Asian restaurant owners to take better care of their stores). http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20140905/uptown/argyle-streetscape-plans-finalized

    I bet it will be spectacular in 20 years.

    Back in my in Uptown in Chicago north lakefront (about 4950 North), the big problem was that the Alderwoman to the south of us was an old Sixties radical who had, back in the day, started a white people’s auxiliary of the Black Panthers. She worked diligently to keep the areas around 4600 North a black slum, which kept the nicer area to the north cut off from the really nice areas to the south. It was reasonably safe to walk south along the lakefront, but not a couple of blocks inland.

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    • Replies: @Uptown Resident
    The infamous Helen Shiller! So many conversations about Uptown's problems begin and end with her aldermanship.
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  61. @granesperanzablanco
    How about within reason we just let areas develop as private interests want to develop them? Seems there is nothing more hypocritical in these debates than the conservative suburban dweller who wants little to no development of other's private property around them. Basically a form of socialism

    I’ve never heard of conservative suburban and rural dwellers caring about urban development plans.

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    • Replies: @granesperanzablanco
    The distinction between city and suburb is artificial but the point is strict zoning to artificially restrict development is a form of socialism yet is very useful for existing homeowners

    Land use regulation for health safety and welfare has morphed into much more than that

    As an example the suburb my wife and I just moved to banned mid-rise buildings arbitrarily some 20 years ago downtown. People want to build them. Many older and young people alike demand them but apparently it hurt the sensibilities of enough people concerned about "character" and traffic that they can't be built. This is absurdly counterproductive
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  62. @Bill M
    Most people did not live in cities. And contemporary cities have nothing to do with "traditional urbanism". There is nothing "low tech" or "low energy" about contemporary cities. The ecological footprints of contemporary cities are huge. And in terms of the thermodynamics of agricultural production, cities are completely obsolete today because of technology. These trade route bottlenecks are absolutely unnecessary. But despite all their rhetoric, people who like urban living don't care about the environment. That's not why they like and promote urban living.

    Those who didn’t live in cities lived in rural villages that were, for our purposes, the same as cities in that they were supported by local resources. They weren’t living in sprawling suburbs and driving to Walmart and McDonalds for food.

    It’s true that most contemporary cities have expanded far beyond traditional urbanism and need to contract. But they are far more efficient, per capita, than suburbia. If everybody in the cities sprawled out into suburbia, it would be an ecological catastrophe.

    Even if you don’t believe in environmental consequences of running agriculture on cheap oil, there’s the moral problem of doing really unnatural, even evil things to tens of billions of sentient, intelligent animals in order to feed our sprawling, obese population.

    I agree with JHK that traditional urbanism (small towns mainly supported by local agriculture) would be much better than both our current mega-cities and suburbia. Obviously a huge population contraction is necessary for traditional urbanism to work at its historical scale.

    I promote urban living mainly because I think it has always offered a superior lifestyle to living in the country. And it also happens to be better for nonhuman species who are competing with us, and losing miserably, for habitat.

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    • Replies: @Bill M
    Cities are not supported by "local resources". Cities by definition are places that must import calories. That's what they are ecologically. They are not better for "nonhuman species". Calories have to be produced somewhere outside of the cities and imported.
    , @TWS

    I promote urban living mainly because I think it has always offered a superior lifestyle to living in the country. And it also happens to be better for nonhuman species who are competing with us, and losing miserably, for habitat.

     

    Ha, ha, ha, ah that is rich. Have you ever looked down from a plane? Have you ever hiked cross country, not along paths and old logging roads? Species losing miserably for habitat is a third world phenomenon. In case you missed it the West is actually lowering its birthrates. If not for illegal aliens and immigrants the US would be losing population. And Cities are a 'First World' issue. The question is will some farmland become suburban or will our cities continue to be population sinks with people stacked on top of each other like ants in a hive.

    How the hell can anyone live in a city? Tried it once and kept meeting people I didn't know and couldn't trust or were actually trying to harm me. Try living in a small town or rural area, you'll never look back.
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  63. @Uptown Resident
    "Rather than try to cram everyone into Matthew Yglesias’ Blade Runner utopia ..."

    I completely agree about high-rises. Some neo-tradionalist architect (Leon Krier?) is always going around noting that with the exception of Rome, no pre-modern city had more than 50,000 residents. And the limit was the surrounding agriculture needed to support the city's population.

    Many downtown areas are striving to keep a 6-story limit (which is what Paris and many other Euro cities have. It might be 7.).

    JHK thinks that Yglesias etc are crazy for promoting the high-rises because (1) there won't be enough capital to renovate and run them, and (2) they require too much energy, (3) there is a Just Right spot for urban density, and high rises are too much porridge.

    Urban density and high rises are not strongly correlated. Your example of Paris is super dense. You get high density with street after street of zero lot line 6 story residential buildings with little to no parking.

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  64. Most futuristic Hollywood films do not include the self driving car. But that will most likely change with newer Hollywood releases about the distant future.

    I find it funny that in “Total Recall” for example, Mankind was smart enough to create technology that makes it possible Human Beings to live on planet Mars. But not smart enough to create self driving cars. Total Recall takes place in the year 2084, yet people still have to drive their own cars in the year 2084. Humans can permanently reside on Mars, but the technology for self driving cars still does not exist, lol.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    They have flying cars though, which are cooler than self-driving cars.
    , @map
    Total Recall had self-driving cars.
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  65. @Bill M
    If you were born in '81, you're not young anymore. You're in your mid thirties.

    I'm talking about people in general, not about you or any other individual case. Most of these non-affluent young middle class and professional types are moving back into cities primarily because that’s where the jobs are. Most of these people cannot afford the "fantastic housing stock" of urban areas. There are only so many brownstones to go around. There's a reason why pundits are always complaining about building codes and thiink building high-rises are a fantastic idea.

    You seem confused about Europe just because you heard about how banlieues have lots of immigrants. In general, European suburbs and rural areas are much whtier than European cities.

    I never said European or Spanish unemployment was caused by "urbanism". You suggested that ordinary Spaniards were having fantastic lives because they were living in cities. When in reality many of them are forced to emigrate for work and have trouble forming families.

    My experience of living in Italy for several years was that the Africans and Chinese lived in the “periferia”, and that Italians lived in the city centers. I’ve seen similar situations in France and Spain. Maybe the rural areas are whiter than the cities, but the immigrant enclaves are not in the city centers, as they still are here in the USA.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Italian farmers traditionally liked to live in a dense village and walk out to their acreage.
    , @Bill M
    Europe in general is whiter than the US. And in general, European suburbs and rural areas are much whtier than European cities. Immigrant enclaves tend to be in urban areas.
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  66. @Steve Sailer
    Back in my in Uptown in Chicago north lakefront (about 4950 North), the big problem was that the Alderwoman to the south of us was an old Sixties radical who had, back in the day, started a white people's auxiliary of the Black Panthers. She worked diligently to keep the areas around 4600 North a black slum, which kept the nicer area to the north cut off from the really nice areas to the south. It was reasonably safe to walk south along the lakefront, but not a couple of blocks inland.

    The infamous Helen Shiller! So many conversations about Uptown’s problems begin and end with her aldermanship.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Shiller

    When you talk about "walkability," Alderwoman Shiller devoted her 24 years in office to preventing women pushing baby carriages from daring to walk across her district by keeping as many young thugs around as possible.
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  67. @Uptown Resident
    "Rather than try to cram everyone into Matthew Yglesias’ Blade Runner utopia ..."

    I completely agree about high-rises. Some neo-tradionalist architect (Leon Krier?) is always going around noting that with the exception of Rome, no pre-modern city had more than 50,000 residents. And the limit was the surrounding agriculture needed to support the city's population.

    Many downtown areas are striving to keep a 6-story limit (which is what Paris and many other Euro cities have. It might be 7.).

    JHK thinks that Yglesias etc are crazy for promoting the high-rises because (1) there won't be enough capital to renovate and run them, and (2) they require too much energy, (3) there is a Just Right spot for urban density, and high rises are too much porridge.

    Kunstler is an idiot. The capital and energy costs of high rises are much lower. There’s a reason the USSR and communist bloc used them.

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  68. @Uptown Resident
    My experience of living in Italy for several years was that the Africans and Chinese lived in the "periferia", and that Italians lived in the city centers. I've seen similar situations in France and Spain. Maybe the rural areas are whiter than the cities, but the immigrant enclaves are not in the city centers, as they still are here in the USA.

    Italian farmers traditionally liked to live in a dense village and walk out to their acreage.

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  69. @Uptown Resident
    The infamous Helen Shiller! So many conversations about Uptown's problems begin and end with her aldermanship.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Shiller

    When you talk about “walkability,” Alderwoman Shiller devoted her 24 years in office to preventing women pushing baby carriages from daring to walk across her district by keeping as many young thugs around as possible.

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    • Replies: @Lurker
    Again - terrorism!
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  70. @Bill M
    I've never heard of conservative suburban and rural dwellers caring about urban development plans.

    The distinction between city and suburb is artificial but the point is strict zoning to artificially restrict development is a form of socialism yet is very useful for existing homeowners

    Land use regulation for health safety and welfare has morphed into much more than that

    As an example the suburb my wife and I just moved to banned mid-rise buildings arbitrarily some 20 years ago downtown. People want to build them. Many older and young people alike demand them but apparently it hurt the sensibilities of enough people concerned about “character” and traffic that they can’t be built. This is absurdly counterproductive

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  71. @Uptown Resident
    Those who didn't live in cities lived in rural villages that were, for our purposes, the same as cities in that they were supported by local resources. They weren't living in sprawling suburbs and driving to Walmart and McDonalds for food.

    It's true that most contemporary cities have expanded far beyond traditional urbanism and need to contract. But they are far more efficient, per capita, than suburbia. If everybody in the cities sprawled out into suburbia, it would be an ecological catastrophe.

    Even if you don't believe in environmental consequences of running agriculture on cheap oil, there's the moral problem of doing really unnatural, even evil things to tens of billions of sentient, intelligent animals in order to feed our sprawling, obese population.

    I agree with JHK that traditional urbanism (small towns mainly supported by local agriculture) would be much better than both our current mega-cities and suburbia. Obviously a huge population contraction is necessary for traditional urbanism to work at its historical scale.

    I promote urban living mainly because I think it has always offered a superior lifestyle to living in the country. And it also happens to be better for nonhuman species who are competing with us, and losing miserably, for habitat.

    Cities are not supported by “local resources”. Cities by definition are places that must import calories. That’s what they are ecologically. They are not better for “nonhuman species”. Calories have to be produced somewhere outside of the cities and imported.

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  72. @Jefferson
    Most futuristic Hollywood films do not include the self driving car. But that will most likely change with newer Hollywood releases about the distant future.

    I find it funny that in "Total Recall" for example, Mankind was smart enough to create technology that makes it possible Human Beings to live on planet Mars. But not smart enough to create self driving cars. Total Recall takes place in the year 2084, yet people still have to drive their own cars in the year 2084. Humans can permanently reside on Mars, but the technology for self driving cars still does not exist, lol.

    They have flying cars though, which are cooler than self-driving cars.

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  73. If you exclude Great Britain and France, Europe’s big cities are Whiter than America’s big cities. Warsaw, Poland for example is Whiter than Portland, Oregon.

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  74. @Uptown Resident
    My experience of living in Italy for several years was that the Africans and Chinese lived in the "periferia", and that Italians lived in the city centers. I've seen similar situations in France and Spain. Maybe the rural areas are whiter than the cities, but the immigrant enclaves are not in the city centers, as they still are here in the USA.

    Europe in general is whiter than the US. And in general, European suburbs and rural areas are much whtier than European cities. Immigrant enclaves tend to be in urban areas.

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    • Replies: @Jack D
    In France, the word for suburb (banlieue) has the same meaning as "ghetto" does in English.

    The European idea is that the closer you are to the center of town, the more valuable the real estate is. So low value people live in low value areas distant from the city center. Post-war America turned this upside down because American families wanted to live in single family houses with a yard and a pool and there is no room to put these in the middle of town. America is gradually coming around to the European pattern. As hipsters gentrify the downtown, displaced blacks end up in formerly white suburbs like Ferguson.
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  75. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    “Moreover, most of the United States isn’t Chicago where job concentrations grew up around rail lines”

    It’s kind of ironic, but silicon valley is really built around the oldest railroad on the west coast (and California), the rail line between San Francisco and San Jose. These days it’s mostly a CalTrans commuter line and yeah, ridership is up higher than it’s ever been.

    -bruce

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  76. “It sounds like Google has invented a product with the same value proposition as a commuter bus.”

    Maybe that would be an alternative model for self-driving vehicles: the equivalent of light rail in the form of automated vans on known routes. It’s much cheaper than laying down the infrastructure for light rail, and the routes could be heavily pre-surveyed, as the Google campus was for their vehicles. Say, a series of self-driving vans circulating on a route. Without the cost of a driver on board every vehicle the average passenger load could be made smaller. You could have a remote driver take over if things went south.

    In dodgy areas mass transit is how the criminal class gets to their place of work.

    “Ask virtually any store manager at the Saint Louis Galleria about shoplifting, and you’ll invariably get two responses: One, it’s out of control; and two, it’s gotten exceedingly worse since August 2006, when MetroLink opened a stop just 500 yards from the high-end shopping center.”

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  77. @Jefferson
    Most futuristic Hollywood films do not include the self driving car. But that will most likely change with newer Hollywood releases about the distant future.

    I find it funny that in "Total Recall" for example, Mankind was smart enough to create technology that makes it possible Human Beings to live on planet Mars. But not smart enough to create self driving cars. Total Recall takes place in the year 2084, yet people still have to drive their own cars in the year 2084. Humans can permanently reside on Mars, but the technology for self driving cars still does not exist, lol.

    Total Recall had self-driving cars.

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  78. @Uptown Resident
    "In Europe, they move people by rail and freight by truck."

    And by foot, maybe even principally. I lived in Italy for two years, in downtown Florence, and was in a car maybe once a week if that.

    In a good city, you can walk out your door--"on demand"--and go to the grocery store, restaurant, gym, salon, bar, dry cleaners, etc. My DH works downtown and infinitely prefers taking the El to driving because he can work on the train rather than stew in traffic on LSD.

    Living in a good city makes life lets you be way more spontaneous because you're not dependent on a car, parking, route, etc.

    our efficient transportation for freight has enabled this wonderful global economy, which has replaced American-made goods (and jobs) with third world garbage, etc.

    In a good city you need lots of money for the rent and to have all those things “on demand”.

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  79. It looks like relatively low oil prices are here to stay and that people like Kunstler are wrong:

    http://online.barrons.com/articles/SB50001424053111903536004579459323209921860

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  80. @Bill M
    Affluent people have always lived in cities, or at least owned property and spent a lot of time living in cities while going out to the country on weekends and holidays and the like. Even during white flight, it wasn't affluent whites leaving. They still lived in NW Washington and the Upper East Side. It was non-affluent, working class, middle class, professionals, etc. leaving.

    What's happening now is that a lot of these non-affluent young middle class and professional types are moving back into cities primarily because that's where the jobs are, though it's being spun in the media as simply being about the overwhelming superiority of urban living or something. But eventually these people are going to get older and want to settle down and have more space and start families, and for most that means moving out of cities since there are only so many brownstones to go around. These self-driving cars could have the effect of enabling this desire, as well as incentivizing people who hadn't really thought about settling down out of cities and having families. And this is exactly what terrifies the libs who want to cram us all into high-rises.

    It is not true that affluent people have always lived in cities, that would have surprised the real life analogs of Mr. Darcy, for example, who decidedly did NOT live in a city. Indeed the whole point of cities was a place where the landed aristocracy, the real powers, did not live, and merchants and tradespeople and financiers and mercenaries and adventurers and seamen all jostled about. Cities were great trading places, but they did not create wealth which lay in …. LAND.

    This is very hard for most people to grasp, because the emphasis on history starting last Thursday means people pencil in say, 1950-today as representative of most of Western let alone human history when its not.

    If anything, the time of the city has ended.

    Multiculturalism makes it a place where randomly, various Muslims try and cut off the heads of lone White males, or go shooting ala Mumbia/Bombay. Cities are choc-a-bloc with the Third World, and about 34 million or so are headed this way after the November election.

    Moreover, cities are fragile. When an epidemic strikes, they are the worst places to be. The best: places where you can grow your own food. I can grow food in my backyard. Not very well, but I can. Not enough to eat but lay in a few chickens, some tomatoes, some corn, some vegetables, I can scrape by a lot better than say, your average high rise resident during an Ebola plague. Or Marburg, or Nipah, or whatever else bursts out of forest host reservoirs into human populations going deeper into the African and Asian and South American jungle.

    Cities are fragile when social unrest strikes, from the Nika Riots to the storming of the Bastille or Winter Palace. Given the vibrant amount of extra diversity coming our way, better bet on even more fragility. Meanwhile the suburbs are resilient not the least of which is time and space.

    Finally, mass transit has one achilles heel. VIBRANCY. Have say, extra vibrant people on oh say, MARTA (known colloquially as “Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta”) makes them no-go areas for Whites unwilling to join the Hells Angels or attend Raiders games as “Epic Bearded Guy” (the guy on the Oakland bus who fought back literally against White-baiting by a Black guy who called for the “ambulamps” at the end.)

    Self-driving cars are insurance against vibrancy. They allow people to avoid that vibrancy, shield themselves from all that diversity, which is the whole point.

    If anything I expect the elite to move out to various landed estates, just to escape the vibrancy. Imagine NYC after three years of Di Blasio.

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  81. @Uptown Resident
    True. And there's also the adaptation factor. When I visit my parents's place in rural Michigan, the quietness gets to me. I think of "The Shining" often.

    True. And there’s also the adaptation factor. When I visit my parents’s place in rural Michigan, the quietness gets to me. I think of “The Shining” often.

    do you own a hugbox?

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  82. Follow up — What will kill cities like say, Portland or Seattle is vibrancy. Already the Census data reveals more vibrancy of the Latino variety in both cities compared to ten years ago, and there is no reason to think that lots of “excess” White wealth won’t attract extra amounts of vibrancy, if the Obama Administration does not dump say 100,000 Liberian refugees from Ebola, or Malian refugees from AQ, or South Sudanese, as they have done so to supporters in Vermont, Maine, Minnesota, and other places.

    You just can’t escape vibrancy in cities. If vibrancy is not there, trust me, it WILL be imported. So Portland’s future is Detroits. It will just take about the same amount of time. And need its own Henry Ford (the man behind the Great Migration — never underestimate the drive for cheap labor among the oligarchs). But it will happen.

    Where vibrancy does NOT happen, is places cold, wet, and rural. For all the “Shining” stuff — Thoreau, Darwin, Wallace, Twain, all the great writers and naturalists found rural isolation far more appealing than urban tension. Particularly for non-dominant, non-Alpha male aggressive men, the rural environment allowing a slower pace for perception and pattern recognition: “Is that a storm front moving in?” vs. “Will that Street person of Vibrant Extraction try and kill me in the next six seconds?” has traditionally appealed to the more refined and cultured. For example, Albert Einstein and William Faulkner both chose (for the time) sleepy College towns rather than the pulsing urbanism of NYC or Chicago for their careers. Twain, a wealth man, chose the healthy Connecticut countryside rather than the plague-ridden cities.

    The power goes out in Manhattan for say, a month, something easily that could happen, do you trust Mayor Di Blasio and the Governor of New York to fix things — and people in NYC freeze to death in January. You live in the suburbs, you can use a fireplace and this heating element called “wood.” Even better in the country side.

    As remote telepresence and robotics make Doctoring a thing akin to outsourced H1-B programmers, expect medical care and the like to really fall by the wayside for being in a city.

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  83. Self-driving vehicles are going to happen. Long-distance trucking along interstates will come first (along with unmanned ships, but that’s another story). Next they will come to the cities, which will have networks of sensors to guide vehicles along and keep them from colliding. Roadways will be much more efficient because cars will merge into lanes automatically and tailgate constantly without accidents. Taxis will disappear, but cars will be available for very short-term rental, even shorter than Zipcars et cetera are now.

    It will be the era of personal transportation, and it will mean the end of mass transit. Many people will not own cars, but simply hire an automatic self-driving vehicle whenever they need to go somewhere. Just as people pick up a golf cart whenever they want to play 18 holes, or grab a shopping cart outside the store and put it back after shopping, they’ll text for an autocar when they want to go to work or the hospital or shopping or whatever. Their credit card accounts will be automatically debited. This won’t happen tomorrow, but it will start the day after tomorrow and it will be an ongoing huge change. No I am not a technodweeb; I don’t believe in solar or wind power or globull warming, I don’t wear Google Glass, and I’m not looking for a prosthetic girlfriend.

    Here is a great interview/talk show on this topic with Syd Mead, a designer who worked on movies like Blade Runner. The discussion on the near future of cars starts around 10:00. It may seem a little esoteric at first, but this show has grown on me. I’ve listened through it three times, and each time it makes even more sense.

    “The Real Blade Runner: A Conversation with Futurist Syd Mead”

    BTW, when I get to ride in a self-driving car, unlike Steve I’m going to nap, but like Steve I think it will promote long commutes.

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    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Wouldn't this be more like personalized mass transit, rather than genuine personalized transportation? All the vehicles and roads would be integrated into a network, like a mass transit system.
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  84. @Uptown Resident
    "In Europe, they move people by rail and freight by truck."

    And by foot, maybe even principally. I lived in Italy for two years, in downtown Florence, and was in a car maybe once a week if that.

    In a good city, you can walk out your door--"on demand"--and go to the grocery store, restaurant, gym, salon, bar, dry cleaners, etc. My DH works downtown and infinitely prefers taking the El to driving because he can work on the train rather than stew in traffic on LSD.

    Living in a good city makes life lets you be way more spontaneous because you're not dependent on a car, parking, route, etc.

    our efficient transportation for freight has enabled this wonderful global economy, which has replaced American-made goods (and jobs) with third world garbage, etc.

    Living in a good city makes life lets you be way more spontaneous because you’re not dependent on a car, parking, route, etc.

    This is such a boon, I agree. The Family Calvinist hasn’t had a car for over a decade, and I can’t see ever getting one again. On a weekend day we often bounce around the city (we live in Hong Kong) to two, three or more destinations with minimal cost and trouble. When we’re visiting the USA — usually LA, since I’ve got relatives there — I am reminded over and over what a ball and chain a car can be.

    I acknowledge, of course, that if you’ve got small children, lots of purchases to carry, etc., the tables may turn.

    But overall my point is that it can be hard for American urban residents to grasp how unconstrained urban travel can be when you don’t need to worry about ‘stabling your steed’ at every stage of your journey, and when you can go freely to any part of your city via various means — bus, taxi, train, walking — without fear of getting mugged or assaulted.

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  85. “By the way, most Europeans travel using budget airlines as they are much cheaper than high speed rail (even after including all of the subsidies).”

    Depends on the length of the journey and speed of the rail connection. If its doable in a few hours by rail, then usually the low cost airlines will not even try to compete. Check out Brussels to Paris for instance here:

    http://www.whichairline.com/search/#/Brussels,%20Belgium/Paris,%20France/2014-10-31/

    See – no direct flight. Flying is far more unpleasant and difficult (think check in and security) than rail, so you really have to save some time and money to make it a better option. Try Berlin to Madrid and of course you’ll get a ton of low cost flights.

    @RegCaesar
    “Paris is said to vote to the right of the rest of France. Where l’enfer else does that happen?”

    This is not uncommon in Europe.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Bill M
    Paris is closer to Brussels than NYC is to DC. Most people travel by train, bus, or car between NYC and DC.

    Low cost airlines have become quite popular in Europe recently and taken a lot of business away from the trains, despite the high subsidies of the rail system.
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  86. I think with the advent of automated cars the number of cars would drastically decrease. Only the wealthy would need private cars. The rest would just use ride-share systems. So the car circling around the block issue wouldn’t be a significant one. As far as the technological issues, it does seem pretty daunting.

    One easy and feasible way to actually use the Google car in the near future would be to build a private, narrow, fenced-in, one-lane road instead of the high speed rail line in California. At intervals along the road, there would be wide portions. The Google cars traveling in opposite directions would be tracking each other so that they can adjust their speeds to pass each on the wide stretches. Hundreds of vehicles of differing sizes could be running the road at the same time, meaning a much more flexible schedule than a rail line could have. Prices would be set by the size of the vehicle (plebs would ride the buses, rich people would get a private ride) and the number of stops.

    With only one small lane to build and maintain, this could be a much smoother surface as well, meaning the ride could be almost as comfortable as that of a rail line. A fleet of drones would be monitoring the roads, allowing human intelligence to deal with any unconventional situations, and for the removal of any obstructions. The Google cars would have the roads mapped down to the finest detail, and Google would be aware of any changes. Speeds could easily exceed 130mph in such a controlled environment.

    So it would be cheaper, more flexible, and easier than a high speed rail. Google has the cash and connections to make it work. Why haven’t they already thought of this?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    We currently have public jets, various forms of private jet sharing, and private jets. Rich guys, really, really like private jets. Why?
    , @Steve Sailer
    The middle section of I-5 between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area in California's Central Valley is a very straight 1970s divided superhighway, the West Side Freeway, that was built with lots of room for more lanes in the middle. (I don't know about bridge abutments and the like, however). This isolated, boring stretch is maybe 225 miles long. Wikipedia says it was built with room to expand to 6 or even 8 lanes.

    It would seem like an ideal location for Google's automated car/electronic highway. (I believe Heinlein's 1940 short story about "The Roads Must Roll" involves roughly the same Central Valley location.)

    , @Justpassingby

    With only one small lane to build and maintain, this could be a much smoother surface as well....
     
    But how can "only one small lane" be maintained, and driven on, at the same time?
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  87. @David M.
    I think with the advent of automated cars the number of cars would drastically decrease. Only the wealthy would need private cars. The rest would just use ride-share systems. So the car circling around the block issue wouldn't be a significant one. As far as the technological issues, it does seem pretty daunting.

    One easy and feasible way to actually use the Google car in the near future would be to build a private, narrow, fenced-in, one-lane road instead of the high speed rail line in California. At intervals along the road, there would be wide portions. The Google cars traveling in opposite directions would be tracking each other so that they can adjust their speeds to pass each on the wide stretches. Hundreds of vehicles of differing sizes could be running the road at the same time, meaning a much more flexible schedule than a rail line could have. Prices would be set by the size of the vehicle (plebs would ride the buses, rich people would get a private ride) and the number of stops.

    With only one small lane to build and maintain, this could be a much smoother surface as well, meaning the ride could be almost as comfortable as that of a rail line. A fleet of drones would be monitoring the roads, allowing human intelligence to deal with any unconventional situations, and for the removal of any obstructions. The Google cars would have the roads mapped down to the finest detail, and Google would be aware of any changes. Speeds could easily exceed 130mph in such a controlled environment.

    So it would be cheaper, more flexible, and easier than a high speed rail. Google has the cash and connections to make it work. Why haven't they already thought of this?

    We currently have public jets, various forms of private jet sharing, and private jets. Rich guys, really, really like private jets. Why?

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  88. Great comments from CJ and David M. I agree that Steve’s vision of private self-driving car may not solve enough problems to make the whole scenario plausible. You’ve got to let go of the private ownership of a particular vehicle to make it worthwhile, i.e. you’ve got to offer freedom from car parking, maintenance, insurance, etc. in conjunction with handing over the steering wheel.

    Security will also be paramount. I wonder if there would be, as David M suggests, a wide range of vehicle sizes. I guess most people would prefer either a private car, or one big enough to feel like a ‘public’ space. Not many people will want to get into, say, six or eight-person vehicles with strangers . . . .

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    If you want to get rid of the need for a private car, you have to figure out a way to deal with grocery shopping. Groceries have gotten much heavier over my lifetime. I wouldn't be surprised if the weight of a week's worth groceries for a family of four has doubled over my lifetime.

    When I was young, my mother bought powdered Tang at the grocery store. Tang was extremely light. That's why the astronauts took it to orbit. Then she bought condensed frozen orange juice. Then she bought cartons of fresh orange juice. I don't drink orange juice anymore but I imagine a lot of people now buy whole oranges and juice them themselves to have fresh squeezed.

    In the 1960s, nobody bought bottled water in disposable bottles. Now, it's a staple.

    This trend encourages people to get big vehicles and have driveways to park them in.

    There are various ways to deal with the Weight of Groceries problem, but I haven't seen much effort or even recognition of the issue.

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  89. @David M.
    I think with the advent of automated cars the number of cars would drastically decrease. Only the wealthy would need private cars. The rest would just use ride-share systems. So the car circling around the block issue wouldn't be a significant one. As far as the technological issues, it does seem pretty daunting.

    One easy and feasible way to actually use the Google car in the near future would be to build a private, narrow, fenced-in, one-lane road instead of the high speed rail line in California. At intervals along the road, there would be wide portions. The Google cars traveling in opposite directions would be tracking each other so that they can adjust their speeds to pass each on the wide stretches. Hundreds of vehicles of differing sizes could be running the road at the same time, meaning a much more flexible schedule than a rail line could have. Prices would be set by the size of the vehicle (plebs would ride the buses, rich people would get a private ride) and the number of stops.

    With only one small lane to build and maintain, this could be a much smoother surface as well, meaning the ride could be almost as comfortable as that of a rail line. A fleet of drones would be monitoring the roads, allowing human intelligence to deal with any unconventional situations, and for the removal of any obstructions. The Google cars would have the roads mapped down to the finest detail, and Google would be aware of any changes. Speeds could easily exceed 130mph in such a controlled environment.

    So it would be cheaper, more flexible, and easier than a high speed rail. Google has the cash and connections to make it work. Why haven't they already thought of this?

    The middle section of I-5 between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area in California’s Central Valley is a very straight 1970s divided superhighway, the West Side Freeway, that was built with lots of room for more lanes in the middle. (I don’t know about bridge abutments and the like, however). This isolated, boring stretch is maybe 225 miles long. Wikipedia says it was built with room to expand to 6 or even 8 lanes.

    It would seem like an ideal location for Google’s automated car/electronic highway. (I believe Heinlein’s 1940 short story about “The Roads Must Roll” involves roughly the same Central Valley location.)

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  90. @The Last Real Calvinist
    Great comments from CJ and David M. I agree that Steve's vision of private self-driving car may not solve enough problems to make the whole scenario plausible. You've got to let go of the private ownership of a particular vehicle to make it worthwhile, i.e. you've got to offer freedom from car parking, maintenance, insurance, etc. in conjunction with handing over the steering wheel.

    Security will also be paramount. I wonder if there would be, as David M suggests, a wide range of vehicle sizes. I guess most people would prefer either a private car, or one big enough to feel like a 'public' space. Not many people will want to get into, say, six or eight-person vehicles with strangers . . . .

    If you want to get rid of the need for a private car, you have to figure out a way to deal with grocery shopping. Groceries have gotten much heavier over my lifetime. I wouldn’t be surprised if the weight of a week’s worth groceries for a family of four has doubled over my lifetime.

    When I was young, my mother bought powdered Tang at the grocery store. Tang was extremely light. That’s why the astronauts took it to orbit. Then she bought condensed frozen orange juice. Then she bought cartons of fresh orange juice. I don’t drink orange juice anymore but I imagine a lot of people now buy whole oranges and juice them themselves to have fresh squeezed.

    In the 1960s, nobody bought bottled water in disposable bottles. Now, it’s a staple.

    This trend encourages people to get big vehicles and have driveways to park them in.

    There are various ways to deal with the Weight of Groceries problem, but I haven’t seen much effort or even recognition of the issue.

    Read More
    • Replies: @The Last Real Calvinist
    Groceries are indeed a problem.

    The very best way is to have a family member (or, in the case of many people here in HK, including the Calvinists, a domestic helper) go shopping for fresh stuff every working day.

    But that's not going to work for everyone, granted.

    Other possibilities, all of which we use from time to time:

    ***Deliveries of heavy staples. I even get my beer delivered by a guy who runs an import operation out of a small unit in a converted factory building. We've also got a dry cleaning guy who comes to our door both to pick up and deliver clothes.

    ***Making regular small purchases. For example, I buy muesli (and some other heavy stuff) from a cut-rate store something like a mini-Costco. There's one on my way from my office to the subway station I use for my commute, so I'll get one or two items once or twice a week so I don't have carry that much all the way home.

    ***Taxis every now and then. When you're not paying to run a car, a $15-20 taxi ride with a lot of heavy stuff doesn't seem excessive.

    ***Eating out a lot.

    ***This. Ours doesn't cost 14 thousand pounds, but we do carry along a fold-up shopping trolley if we know we're going to be doing some shopping on weekends.
    , @Jack D
    >Groceries have gotten much heavier over my lifetime.

    I'd be interested to see if there are any real numbers to back this up. In the old day, a lot of food was packaged in very heavy glass bottles, steel cans, etc. Nowadays there is all sorts of paper packaging, aluminum, plastic, etc. which is much lighter. Dry frozen peas in a plastic bag weigh a lot less than the same amount of peas swimming in liquid in a can.

    There have been various efforts at reviving grocery delivery but most seem to have flopped because when you do your own grocery shopping you are your own unpaid workforce whereas the delivery service has to hire people to pick the products and deliver them. Since people tend not to value their own time properly or the mileage on their cars, they see delivery as being more expensive and avoid it.
    , @Reg Cæsar

    Groceries have gotten much heavier over my lifetime.
     
    So have Americans!

    There are various ways to deal with the Weight of Groceries problem…
     
    Ours is take the city bus to Joe's or the co-op, load a week's worth in the cart, and call Lyft home. What's a $5 cyberjitney next to $150 of food? And it would've cost $25-40 more at the dinostore across the street.
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  91. “We currently have public jets, various forms of private jet sharing, and private jets. Rich guys, really, really like private jets. Why?”

    You would really really like private jets too if you had a 9, 10, or 11 figure net worth. Owning your own private jet is the ultimate symbol of wealth, even more so than owning a mansion because not everybody who owns a mansion can afford to purchase a private jet.

    Only people with wealth on steroids like Mark Cuban for example can afford to purchase a private jet. People like Cheech Marin who fall on the lower end of the rich people scale, can not afford to purchase a private jet.

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  92. @Steve Sailer
    If you want to get rid of the need for a private car, you have to figure out a way to deal with grocery shopping. Groceries have gotten much heavier over my lifetime. I wouldn't be surprised if the weight of a week's worth groceries for a family of four has doubled over my lifetime.

    When I was young, my mother bought powdered Tang at the grocery store. Tang was extremely light. That's why the astronauts took it to orbit. Then she bought condensed frozen orange juice. Then she bought cartons of fresh orange juice. I don't drink orange juice anymore but I imagine a lot of people now buy whole oranges and juice them themselves to have fresh squeezed.

    In the 1960s, nobody bought bottled water in disposable bottles. Now, it's a staple.

    This trend encourages people to get big vehicles and have driveways to park them in.

    There are various ways to deal with the Weight of Groceries problem, but I haven't seen much effort or even recognition of the issue.

    Groceries are indeed a problem.

    The very best way is to have a family member (or, in the case of many people here in HK, including the Calvinists, a domestic helper) go shopping for fresh stuff every working day.

    But that’s not going to work for everyone, granted.

    Other possibilities, all of which we use from time to time:

    ***Deliveries of heavy staples. I even get my beer delivered by a guy who runs an import operation out of a small unit in a converted factory building. We’ve also got a dry cleaning guy who comes to our door both to pick up and deliver clothes.

    ***Making regular small purchases. For example, I buy muesli (and some other heavy stuff) from a cut-rate store something like a mini-Costco. There’s one on my way from my office to the subway station I use for my commute, so I’ll get one or two items once or twice a week so I don’t have carry that much all the way home.

    ***Taxis every now and then. When you’re not paying to run a car, a $15-20 taxi ride with a lot of heavy stuff doesn’t seem excessive.

    ***Eating out a lot.

    ***This. Ours doesn’t cost 14 thousand pounds, but we do carry along a fold-up shopping trolley if we know we’re going to be doing some shopping on weekends.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    In the 1960s we had milk and eggs delivered a couple of times per week by the milk and egg guy, but switched over to buying them at the store around 1969 or so. (I can vaguely recall the Helms Bakery truck making deliveries of bread and other baked goods on our street, although I'm not sure if we used them.)

    I think one reason for the change to buying milk at the grocery store was the development of lightweight milk cartons. When I was young in the 1960s, milk came in heavy glass bottles that the milkman took away when they were empty. Half gallon cardboard cartons of milk were lighter for my 110 pound mother to deal with and were cheap enough to throw away when empty.

    My parents only had one car during the first 12 years of marriage (1946-1958), then when they had me, always had two. It was probably not uncommon, however, for suburban families to have just one car at the beginning of the Sixties, so regular home delivery of milk, eggs, and baked goods was attractive. By the end of the 1960s, San Fernando Valley families tended to have two cars and wages were getting too high to make jobs like milkman make sense anymore.

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  93. @The Last Real Calvinist
    Groceries are indeed a problem.

    The very best way is to have a family member (or, in the case of many people here in HK, including the Calvinists, a domestic helper) go shopping for fresh stuff every working day.

    But that's not going to work for everyone, granted.

    Other possibilities, all of which we use from time to time:

    ***Deliveries of heavy staples. I even get my beer delivered by a guy who runs an import operation out of a small unit in a converted factory building. We've also got a dry cleaning guy who comes to our door both to pick up and deliver clothes.

    ***Making regular small purchases. For example, I buy muesli (and some other heavy stuff) from a cut-rate store something like a mini-Costco. There's one on my way from my office to the subway station I use for my commute, so I'll get one or two items once or twice a week so I don't have carry that much all the way home.

    ***Taxis every now and then. When you're not paying to run a car, a $15-20 taxi ride with a lot of heavy stuff doesn't seem excessive.

    ***Eating out a lot.

    ***This. Ours doesn't cost 14 thousand pounds, but we do carry along a fold-up shopping trolley if we know we're going to be doing some shopping on weekends.

    In the 1960s we had milk and eggs delivered a couple of times per week by the milk and egg guy, but switched over to buying them at the store around 1969 or so. (I can vaguely recall the Helms Bakery truck making deliveries of bread and other baked goods on our street, although I’m not sure if we used them.)

    I think one reason for the change to buying milk at the grocery store was the development of lightweight milk cartons. When I was young in the 1960s, milk came in heavy glass bottles that the milkman took away when they were empty. Half gallon cardboard cartons of milk were lighter for my 110 pound mother to deal with and were cheap enough to throw away when empty.

    My parents only had one car during the first 12 years of marriage (1946-1958), then when they had me, always had two. It was probably not uncommon, however, for suburban families to have just one car at the beginning of the Sixties, so regular home delivery of milk, eggs, and baked goods was attractive. By the end of the 1960s, San Fernando Valley families tended to have two cars and wages were getting too high to make jobs like milkman make sense anymore.

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  94. One other issue nobody here has really brought up: lots of men (and I suppose a few women) really, really love cars and driving, and will never want to give them up.

    I couldn’t care less; I find driving boring or stressful, and only rarely fun. But I grew up with a gearhead Dad, and plenty of friends who felt the same way, and they’re going to resist handing over the steering wheel to circuits and software with all they’ve got.

    Plus there’s all the glamour of squiring a hot chick in a hot car down the open road — and that isn’t exactly going to transfer to ordering up a people-pod via smartphone . . . there’s a whole lot of mythos out there to rewrite . . . .

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    If you are an Elon Musk-type and go back and forth between LA and Silicon Valley all the time, I suspect the best thing would be to have the 225 boring miles in the middle automated so you could get some work done, but drive the Grapevine and the like yourself.
    , @Jack D
    >Plus there’s all the glamour of squiring a hot chick in a hot car down the open road ...

    I'm unfamiliar with the sexual practice you call "squiring" but whatever it is, it would be easier to do if the car was driving itself and you could devote your full attention to it.
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  95. @The Last Real Calvinist
    One other issue nobody here has really brought up: lots of men (and I suppose a few women) really, really love cars and driving, and will never want to give them up.

    I couldn't care less; I find driving boring or stressful, and only rarely fun. But I grew up with a gearhead Dad, and plenty of friends who felt the same way, and they're going to resist handing over the steering wheel to circuits and software with all they've got.

    Plus there's all the glamour of squiring a hot chick in a hot car down the open road -- and that isn't exactly going to transfer to ordering up a people-pod via smartphone . . . there's a whole lot of mythos out there to rewrite . . . .

    If you are an Elon Musk-type and go back and forth between LA and Silicon Valley all the time, I suspect the best thing would be to have the 225 boring miles in the middle automated so you could get some work done, but drive the Grapevine and the like yourself.

    Read More
    • Replies: @The Last Real Calvinist
    Maybe that would work -- are you envisioning a kind of 'mixed-driver' roadway system in which you could just turn your 'autopilot' on or off, meaning there would be vehicles that were both human- and google-guided on the same roads? There'd have to be separate lanes for each then, no?

    Or would you just switch from google-guided zone to self-driving zone at some point along the road? If so, there'd better be some serious alarm clocks built into these new cars . . . .
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  96. @Steve Sailer
    If you are an Elon Musk-type and go back and forth between LA and Silicon Valley all the time, I suspect the best thing would be to have the 225 boring miles in the middle automated so you could get some work done, but drive the Grapevine and the like yourself.

    Maybe that would work — are you envisioning a kind of ‘mixed-driver’ roadway system in which you could just turn your ‘autopilot’ on or off, meaning there would be vehicles that were both human- and google-guided on the same roads? There’d have to be separate lanes for each then, no?

    Or would you just switch from google-guided zone to self-driving zone at some point along the road? If so, there’d better be some serious alarm clocks built into these new cars . . . .

    Read More
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    I-5 has about 225 miles of four lane divided superhighway in the remote west side of California's Central Valley. It was built 40 years ago with room for 4 more lanes. These could be automated car only lanes -- say 70 mph and 95 mph.

    There would definitely have to be wake-up tests before you get dumped off the automated control and told to navigate the winding Grapevine yourself. There would be plenty of empty room for a huge lot at each end where drivers who fail to respond correctly to wake-up messages are brought to a halt.

    , @Bill M
    These "mixed-driver" systems could end up being more difficult for ordinary people to manage than regular cars. Regular cars were developed in the mechanical age and designed to be physically intuitive - pedals, steering wheel, big windshields, mirrors, etc. These mixed-systems would require people to interpret the output from the car's computer and direct sense data from outside and integrate them properly. All while being distracted and not paying attention half the time and reading, napping, etc.

    If you read the transcript from the black box of that Air France crash into the Atlantic a few years ago, there was this very problem. The chief pilot had gone to the cabin to nap. The co-pilots got into a storm and turbulence. There was a problem with one of the computerized sensors that measured some important feature of the external environment and it was giving incorrect or strange data to the pilots. The pilots became confused and started doubting the other data from the computer as well. At the same time, they were looking outside trying to figure out what exactly was going on and how the plane was flying. The chief pilot woke up from his nap and rushed to the cockpit, but was unable to figure out what was happening in time and save the plane.
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  97. @The Last Real Calvinist
    Maybe that would work -- are you envisioning a kind of 'mixed-driver' roadway system in which you could just turn your 'autopilot' on or off, meaning there would be vehicles that were both human- and google-guided on the same roads? There'd have to be separate lanes for each then, no?

    Or would you just switch from google-guided zone to self-driving zone at some point along the road? If so, there'd better be some serious alarm clocks built into these new cars . . . .

    I-5 has about 225 miles of four lane divided superhighway in the remote west side of California’s Central Valley. It was built 40 years ago with room for 4 more lanes. These could be automated car only lanes — say 70 mph and 95 mph.

    There would definitely have to be wake-up tests before you get dumped off the automated control and told to navigate the winding Grapevine yourself. There would be plenty of empty room for a huge lot at each end where drivers who fail to respond correctly to wake-up messages are brought to a halt.

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    • Replies: @The Last Real Calvinist
    You've convinced me. It does sound like a good place to experiment with this kind of transport.

    And if it could eventually be applied to I-405, I-10, etc., within the LA area, my future visits might be a whole lot more pleasant. Lord knows those roads have enough lanes to convent a few of them to a faster flow of traffic . . . !

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  98. @Steve Sailer
    I-5 has about 225 miles of four lane divided superhighway in the remote west side of California's Central Valley. It was built 40 years ago with room for 4 more lanes. These could be automated car only lanes -- say 70 mph and 95 mph.

    There would definitely have to be wake-up tests before you get dumped off the automated control and told to navigate the winding Grapevine yourself. There would be plenty of empty room for a huge lot at each end where drivers who fail to respond correctly to wake-up messages are brought to a halt.

    You’ve convinced me. It does sound like a good place to experiment with this kind of transport.

    And if it could eventually be applied to I-405, I-10, etc., within the LA area, my future visits might be a whole lot more pleasant. Lord knows those roads have enough lanes to convent a few of them to a faster flow of traffic . . . !

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  99. Groceries – in London we order our groceries on the Internet, and the supermarkets deliver them, often for free depending on the demand level.. You don’t have that in American cities? Takes a bit of planning ahead, but is basically brilliant. Stuff tends t0 be cheaper online than in-store, too. I don’t like going out on a Saturday night (too scary) so Saturday evening is a great time for a free supermarket delivery. Early morning works too. I haven’t had to go into a full-size supermarket for well over a year.

    Edit: Oh, I have milk delivered 3 times/week in 2 1-pint glass bottles from the local Dairy. Costs three times as much as the underpriced supermarket milk which I also get & comes in 4-pint plastic bottles, but worth it for convenience.

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  100. I don’t know that mothers would be eager to put their kids into driverless cars for the rounds of sports and enrichment activities that mark current MC and UMC strivers, especially the ones who’d have to send each kid off separately due to scheduling variances.

    People resettling the old rail towns in a serious way (fixing up some of the rail lines for local use, having jitneys in ye olde downtowns, etc.) would be easier than the driverless car for families.

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  101. @Steve

    “We currently have public jets, various forms of private jet sharing, and private jets. Rich guys, really, really like private jets. Why?”

    I worked for a guy with a private jet. He had a full time pilot, but most of the time he actually flew it himself.

    On those occasions when I traveled with him, the main appeal to me was the time and hassle saved getting on and off the plane. We would show up at a small regional airport, hop on the plane, and take off. Then we would land at another small airport, and they would have the rental car pulled up next to the plane. There were no security checks, no hassles, no nothing except for a plate of free chocolate chip cookies in the terminal. Just get on the plane and fly.

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  102. @David M.
    I think with the advent of automated cars the number of cars would drastically decrease. Only the wealthy would need private cars. The rest would just use ride-share systems. So the car circling around the block issue wouldn't be a significant one. As far as the technological issues, it does seem pretty daunting.

    One easy and feasible way to actually use the Google car in the near future would be to build a private, narrow, fenced-in, one-lane road instead of the high speed rail line in California. At intervals along the road, there would be wide portions. The Google cars traveling in opposite directions would be tracking each other so that they can adjust their speeds to pass each on the wide stretches. Hundreds of vehicles of differing sizes could be running the road at the same time, meaning a much more flexible schedule than a rail line could have. Prices would be set by the size of the vehicle (plebs would ride the buses, rich people would get a private ride) and the number of stops.

    With only one small lane to build and maintain, this could be a much smoother surface as well, meaning the ride could be almost as comfortable as that of a rail line. A fleet of drones would be monitoring the roads, allowing human intelligence to deal with any unconventional situations, and for the removal of any obstructions. The Google cars would have the roads mapped down to the finest detail, and Google would be aware of any changes. Speeds could easily exceed 130mph in such a controlled environment.

    So it would be cheaper, more flexible, and easier than a high speed rail. Google has the cash and connections to make it work. Why haven't they already thought of this?

    With only one small lane to build and maintain, this could be a much smoother surface as well….

    But how can “only one small lane” be maintained, and driven on, at the same time?

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  103. @Corn
    "I think that part of the millennial desire to live in city centers and not drive is due to the fact that most millennials spent a semester in Barcelona or Paris and realized, as their repatriating plane was landing in O’Hare or La Guardia, that America is not only goddam ugly"

    Most millenials spent a semester overseas??

    Hahahaha

    Someone is projecting.

    In any one year, only about 1% of college students study abroad.

    http://www.nafsa.org/Explore_International_Education/Advocacy_And_Public_Policy/Study_Abroad/Trends_in_U_S__Study_Abroad/

    Also, for all of those who think that the upper class Manhattan dwellers will move to the suburbs when they want to have children: They will skip on children before they skip on living in Manhattan. Look up the fertility rate of Ivy League educated women to see that they are not going to move to the suburbs.

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  104. @Uptown Resident
    "Metro areas are enjoyable to visit from time to time but the second I’m back in my car driving home I am grateful to live 90 minutes from all the Vibrant Diversity and Cosmopolitans; they really are the worst."

    But there are Really Nice neighborhoods in most cities that are majority white. In Seattle, for instance, many zip codes are over 90 per cent white. And I think that trend is only going to continue, as minorities are pushed out to the suburbs and young affluent and middle class whites move to the city centers. I was born in '81, and all my college-educated friends are living in cities. The suburbs are considered gross and lame.

    Also, if you don't have a crack problem and aren't in a gang, your chances of getting hurt in the city are pretty low--much lower than getting in a traffic accident. I live in one of the more diverse neighborhoods on the North Side of Chi-town, am female, and am very aware of the crime because I obsessively read the crime blogs. And don't get me wrong the diversity sucks. But not as much as the suburbs do.

    Middle class whites are not living in urban centers. Please point out the DC or Baltimore neighborhood where middle class whites. The rents are too high for safe housing, the middle class cannot afford private schools, and a middle class white is competing with minorities for jobs in such situations. Do you really think middle class white teachers want to teach in the public schools in DC, BAltimore, etc or want to work for municipal government?

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  105. @The Last Real Calvinist
    One other issue nobody here has really brought up: lots of men (and I suppose a few women) really, really love cars and driving, and will never want to give them up.

    I couldn't care less; I find driving boring or stressful, and only rarely fun. But I grew up with a gearhead Dad, and plenty of friends who felt the same way, and they're going to resist handing over the steering wheel to circuits and software with all they've got.

    Plus there's all the glamour of squiring a hot chick in a hot car down the open road -- and that isn't exactly going to transfer to ordering up a people-pod via smartphone . . . there's a whole lot of mythos out there to rewrite . . . .

    >Plus there’s all the glamour of squiring a hot chick in a hot car down the open road …

    I’m unfamiliar with the sexual practice you call “squiring” but whatever it is, it would be easier to do if the car was driving itself and you could devote your full attention to it.

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  106. “Google car, drive to the nearest homosexual.”

    “ARRIVED AT DESTINATION.”

    “But we haven’t gone anywhere!”

    “CORRECT. AS YOU ARE DRIVING A GOOGLE CAR, YOU WOULD BE THE NEAREST HOMOSEXUAL. HAH HAH HAH!”

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  107. @Steve Sailer
    If you want to get rid of the need for a private car, you have to figure out a way to deal with grocery shopping. Groceries have gotten much heavier over my lifetime. I wouldn't be surprised if the weight of a week's worth groceries for a family of four has doubled over my lifetime.

    When I was young, my mother bought powdered Tang at the grocery store. Tang was extremely light. That's why the astronauts took it to orbit. Then she bought condensed frozen orange juice. Then she bought cartons of fresh orange juice. I don't drink orange juice anymore but I imagine a lot of people now buy whole oranges and juice them themselves to have fresh squeezed.

    In the 1960s, nobody bought bottled water in disposable bottles. Now, it's a staple.

    This trend encourages people to get big vehicles and have driveways to park them in.

    There are various ways to deal with the Weight of Groceries problem, but I haven't seen much effort or even recognition of the issue.

    >Groceries have gotten much heavier over my lifetime.

    I’d be interested to see if there are any real numbers to back this up. In the old day, a lot of food was packaged in very heavy glass bottles, steel cans, etc. Nowadays there is all sorts of paper packaging, aluminum, plastic, etc. which is much lighter. Dry frozen peas in a plastic bag weigh a lot less than the same amount of peas swimming in liquid in a can.

    There have been various efforts at reviving grocery delivery but most seem to have flopped because when you do your own grocery shopping you are your own unpaid workforce whereas the delivery service has to hire people to pick the products and deliver them. Since people tend not to value their own time properly or the mileage on their cars, they see delivery as being more expensive and avoid it.

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    • Replies: @The Unreal Woman
    The aging of the population and (possibly, but probably too early to tell) the immigration of middle class+ ethnicities who expect delivery has led Wal-mart to give it a whirl. They are piloting delivery right now with cheap fees and full selection.

    Amazon tried to do something similar with Amazon Fresh, but they lacked sufficient infrastructure and revamped as an upmarket delivery service, which allowed them to use the higher margins to expand service (but only in metros, not exurbs).

    Also, Safeway will deliver just about anywhere they have a store, but the selection is not great and the fees are a bit on the high side.

    As a SAHM with more kids than replacement rates, I am very eager for delivery to return as part of normal life.

    It exists, but the options aren't great and the low population density combined with much huger population in a given exurban area makes delivering perishables regularly a challenge. Now that would be a place for tiny electric driverless deliverymobiles to shine, starting from a pool of rural and exurban hubs (ye olde downtown is less than ten miles away for a lot of rural/exurban dwellers).
    , @The Unreal Woman
    The aging of the population and (possibly, but probably too early to tell) the immigration of middle class+ ethnicities who expect delivery has led Wal-mart to give it a whirl. They are piloting delivery right now with cheap fees and full selection.

    Amazon tried to do something similar with Amazon Fresh, but they lacked sufficient infrastructure and revamped as an upmarket delivery service, which allowed them to use the higher margins to expand service (but only in metros, not exurbs).

    Also, Safeway will deliver just about anywhere they have a store, but the selection is not great and the fees are a bit on the high side.

    As a SAHM with more kids than replacement rate, I am very eager for delivery to return as part of normal life.

    It exists, but the options aren't great and the low population density combined with much huger population in a given exurban area makes delivering perishables regularly a challenge. Now that would be a place for tiny electric driverless deliverymobiles to shine, starting from a pool of rural and exurban hubs (ye olde downtown is less than ten miles away for a lot of rural/exurban dwellers).
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  108. Any automated car needs to be able to handle a Reginald Denny situation. Anyone praising light rail needs to see how Atlanta’s MARTA spent $11million on urine detectors in elevators, because the locals cant interpret a map to the restroom, talk about opportunity cost. http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/marta-installs-urine-detection-systems-elevator/ncPGJ/

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  109. @Bill M
    Europe in general is whiter than the US. And in general, European suburbs and rural areas are much whtier than European cities. Immigrant enclaves tend to be in urban areas.

    In France, the word for suburb (banlieue) has the same meaning as “ghetto” does in English.

    The European idea is that the closer you are to the center of town, the more valuable the real estate is. So low value people live in low value areas distant from the city center. Post-war America turned this upside down because American families wanted to live in single family houses with a yard and a pool and there is no room to put these in the middle of town. America is gradually coming around to the European pattern. As hipsters gentrify the downtown, displaced blacks end up in formerly white suburbs like Ferguson.

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  110. I find it funny that in “Total Recall” for example, Mankind was smart enough to create technology that makes it possible Human Beings to live on planet Mars. But not smart enough to create self driving cars. Total Recall takes place in the year 2084, yet people still have to drive their own cars in the year 2084. Humans can permanently reside on Mars, but the technology for self driving cars still does not exist, lol.

    You must have forgotten the “Johnny Cabs” in the film, then:

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  111. @Steve Sailer
    Right. I didn't mention napping in your Google Car because I can't nap, but a lot of people can. In Pat Buchanan's new book about being Nixon's aide on his 1968 comeback, Pat mentions that when Nixon sat down on an airplane, he immediately fell asleep for 30 minutes, then woke up, pulled out his yellow legal pad and got to work.

    Why can’t you nap?

    Napping is a supreme pleasure of life…seriously.

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  112. @Taco
    "But a lot of what truckdrivers bring to the table is the beginnings and ends of their runs when they back up across four lanes of traffic."

    This is a lot like aviation already is. Commercial pilots earn their paychecks in the takeoffs and the landings. As AirFrance flight 447 demonstrated, at this point pilots are so specialized to takeoffs and landings that even relatively minor mechanical hiccups in the cruise portion of flight are beyond their capability to comprehend. But for now, we still need an expensively trained human operator for the terminal portions of air travel.

    Not true about the pilots. A few pilots are unqualified and poorly trained, and a few airlines. you won’t see me flying Korean Air. It takes a lot of skill to navigate a plane cross country and be prepared for any emergencies.

    It will take decades to implement self driving cars. There are more unplanned events on the road than a computer can handle, particularly in Cali with an infinite number of illegal drivers staggering around.

    I also think that the 1%’s efforts and urban planning and social engineering will fail. We only pay the price with poorly designed transportation systems. e.g. clogged freeways and underused expensive light rail.

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    PS I am a private pilot.
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  113. @Retired
    Not true about the pilots. A few pilots are unqualified and poorly trained, and a few airlines. you won't see me flying Korean Air. It takes a lot of skill to navigate a plane cross country and be prepared for any emergencies.

    It will take decades to implement self driving cars. There are more unplanned events on the road than a computer can handle, particularly in Cali with an infinite number of illegal drivers staggering around.

    I also think that the 1%'s efforts and urban planning and social engineering will fail. We only pay the price with poorly designed transportation systems. e.g. clogged freeways and underused expensive light rail.

    PS I am a private pilot.

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  114. @a boy and his dog
    Maybe. But it will certainly make life more difficult for the 3.5+ million professional drivers who will be left unemployed once trucking, taxi service, etc., becomes automated.

    Since virtually no driving jobs begin and end on the freeway I think you’re missing the point of the posting.

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  115. @Uptown Resident
    Those who didn't live in cities lived in rural villages that were, for our purposes, the same as cities in that they were supported by local resources. They weren't living in sprawling suburbs and driving to Walmart and McDonalds for food.

    It's true that most contemporary cities have expanded far beyond traditional urbanism and need to contract. But they are far more efficient, per capita, than suburbia. If everybody in the cities sprawled out into suburbia, it would be an ecological catastrophe.

    Even if you don't believe in environmental consequences of running agriculture on cheap oil, there's the moral problem of doing really unnatural, even evil things to tens of billions of sentient, intelligent animals in order to feed our sprawling, obese population.

    I agree with JHK that traditional urbanism (small towns mainly supported by local agriculture) would be much better than both our current mega-cities and suburbia. Obviously a huge population contraction is necessary for traditional urbanism to work at its historical scale.

    I promote urban living mainly because I think it has always offered a superior lifestyle to living in the country. And it also happens to be better for nonhuman species who are competing with us, and losing miserably, for habitat.

    I promote urban living mainly because I think it has always offered a superior lifestyle to living in the country. And it also happens to be better for nonhuman species who are competing with us, and losing miserably, for habitat.

    Ha, ha, ha, ah that is rich. Have you ever looked down from a plane? Have you ever hiked cross country, not along paths and old logging roads? Species losing miserably for habitat is a third world phenomenon. In case you missed it the West is actually lowering its birthrates. If not for illegal aliens and immigrants the US would be losing population. And Cities are a ‘First World’ issue. The question is will some farmland become suburban or will our cities continue to be population sinks with people stacked on top of each other like ants in a hive.

    How the hell can anyone live in a city? Tried it once and kept meeting people I didn’t know and couldn’t trust or were actually trying to harm me. Try living in a small town or rural area, you’ll never look back.

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  116. @CJ
    Self-driving vehicles are going to happen. Long-distance trucking along interstates will come first (along with unmanned ships, but that's another story). Next they will come to the cities, which will have networks of sensors to guide vehicles along and keep them from colliding. Roadways will be much more efficient because cars will merge into lanes automatically and tailgate constantly without accidents. Taxis will disappear, but cars will be available for very short-term rental, even shorter than Zipcars et cetera are now.

    It will be the era of personal transportation, and it will mean the end of mass transit. Many people will not own cars, but simply hire an automatic self-driving vehicle whenever they need to go somewhere. Just as people pick up a golf cart whenever they want to play 18 holes, or grab a shopping cart outside the store and put it back after shopping, they'll text for an autocar when they want to go to work or the hospital or shopping or whatever. Their credit card accounts will be automatically debited. This won't happen tomorrow, but it will start the day after tomorrow and it will be an ongoing huge change. No I am not a technodweeb; I don't believe in solar or wind power or globull warming, I don't wear Google Glass, and I'm not looking for a prosthetic girlfriend.

    Here is a great interview/talk show on this topic with Syd Mead, a designer who worked on movies like Blade Runner. The discussion on the near future of cars starts around 10:00. It may seem a little esoteric at first, but this show has grown on me. I've listened through it three times, and each time it makes even more sense.

    “The Real Blade Runner: A Conversation with Futurist Syd Mead”

    BTW, when I get to ride in a self-driving car, unlike Steve I'm going to nap, but like Steve I think it will promote long commutes.

    Wouldn’t this be more like personalized mass transit, rather than genuine personalized transportation? All the vehicles and roads would be integrated into a network, like a mass transit system.

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  117. @David M.
    @JerseyGuy

    "By the way, most Europeans travel using budget airlines as they are much cheaper than high speed rail (even after including all of the subsidies)."

    Depends on the length of the journey and speed of the rail connection. If its doable in a few hours by rail, then usually the low cost airlines will not even try to compete. Check out Brussels to Paris for instance here:

    http://www.whichairline.com/search/#/Brussels,%20Belgium/Paris,%20France/2014-10-31/

    See - no direct flight. Flying is far more unpleasant and difficult (think check in and security) than rail, so you really have to save some time and money to make it a better option. Try Berlin to Madrid and of course you’ll get a ton of low cost flights.

    @RegCaesar
    "Paris is said to vote to the right of the rest of France. Where l’enfer else does that happen?"

    This is not uncommon in Europe.

    Paris is closer to Brussels than NYC is to DC. Most people travel by train, bus, or car between NYC and DC.

    Low cost airlines have become quite popular in Europe recently and taken a lot of business away from the trains, despite the high subsidies of the rail system.

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  118. @The Last Real Calvinist
    Maybe that would work -- are you envisioning a kind of 'mixed-driver' roadway system in which you could just turn your 'autopilot' on or off, meaning there would be vehicles that were both human- and google-guided on the same roads? There'd have to be separate lanes for each then, no?

    Or would you just switch from google-guided zone to self-driving zone at some point along the road? If so, there'd better be some serious alarm clocks built into these new cars . . . .

    These “mixed-driver” systems could end up being more difficult for ordinary people to manage than regular cars. Regular cars were developed in the mechanical age and designed to be physically intuitive – pedals, steering wheel, big windshields, mirrors, etc. These mixed-systems would require people to interpret the output from the car’s computer and direct sense data from outside and integrate them properly. All while being distracted and not paying attention half the time and reading, napping, etc.

    If you read the transcript from the black box of that Air France crash into the Atlantic a few years ago, there was this very problem. The chief pilot had gone to the cabin to nap. The co-pilots got into a storm and turbulence. There was a problem with one of the computerized sensors that measured some important feature of the external environment and it was giving incorrect or strange data to the pilots. The pilots became confused and started doubting the other data from the computer as well. At the same time, they were looking outside trying to figure out what exactly was going on and how the plane was flying. The chief pilot woke up from his nap and rushed to the cockpit, but was unable to figure out what was happening in time and save the plane.

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    • Replies: @The Last Real Calvinist
    Yes, good points. This brings up the interesting paradox of the comparative safety of flying vs driving.

    We all know that commercial flying is far safer than driving your own car, yet people freak out disproportionately in response to air crashes. Of course, this doesn't stop people from flying, but I wonder how many people would still fly if deaths via plane crash were as common, proportionately, as deaths in highway accidents . . . .

    So what if Google-Drive turns out to be, say, only 50% safer than self-driving? There would still be plenty of accidents in GD cars, but fewer proportionately than if those cars, in aggregate, were driven by humans. Would the general public still be willing to trust it, or would the desire to be in seeming control of one's vehicle, and hence one's fate, override a somewhat-safer but 'out of control' alternative?

    And would the responses be very different in different cultures? For example, there are plenty of horrific accidents involving buses, ferries, and other forms of mass transit in Asian countries; yet such services don't seem to lack passengers. Would Asians, or even Europeans, also be more willing than private car-devoted Americans to give a still-imperfect Google Drive system a go?

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  119. There are still some individualists who do not like this kind of idea.

    They will fight this idea tooth and nail. How I won’t say, but it will not be pretty. Unlike the half-literate luddites they do know how to mobilize via sns, etc.

    Google may be powerful but they will not be able to cover all the damage these autopilot motors will cause.

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  120. @Steve Sailer
    If you want to get rid of the need for a private car, you have to figure out a way to deal with grocery shopping. Groceries have gotten much heavier over my lifetime. I wouldn't be surprised if the weight of a week's worth groceries for a family of four has doubled over my lifetime.

    When I was young, my mother bought powdered Tang at the grocery store. Tang was extremely light. That's why the astronauts took it to orbit. Then she bought condensed frozen orange juice. Then she bought cartons of fresh orange juice. I don't drink orange juice anymore but I imagine a lot of people now buy whole oranges and juice them themselves to have fresh squeezed.

    In the 1960s, nobody bought bottled water in disposable bottles. Now, it's a staple.

    This trend encourages people to get big vehicles and have driveways to park them in.

    There are various ways to deal with the Weight of Groceries problem, but I haven't seen much effort or even recognition of the issue.

    Groceries have gotten much heavier over my lifetime.

    So have Americans!

    There are various ways to deal with the Weight of Groceries problem…

    Ours is take the city bus to Joe’s or the co-op, load a week’s worth in the cart, and call Lyft home. What’s a $5 cyberjitney next to $150 of food? And it would’ve cost $25-40 more at the dinostore across the street.

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  121. @Robinson
    Have faith in the singularity. Put sensors on the shocks of the car to detect a pot hole and tag it instantly before it gets significant. All cars will be notified of its presence. It will be treated as a hazard and on a multilane road traffic will be shifted over. A road crew (or Roadbot) will be dispatched to repair it. On single lane roads, traffic will be slowed until a road crew is dispatched and the traffic will then be rerouted. Roadbots could be roaming during pothole season. Planned road work would need a permit requiring its location being sent to the map database. Emergency work could be barricaded by stanchions that emit signals to the map database. You could even have more advanced "explorer" cars constantly roaming during the night to detect conflicts in the database. Actually, the Google car could result in better roads.

    “A road crew (or Roadbot) will be dispatched to repair it. On single lane roads, traffic will be slowed until a road crew is dispatched and the traffic will then be rerouted. Roadbots could be roaming during pothole season.”

    Nice idea, but it assumes public institutions both better-funded and more efficient than the ones we have now. Somehow, that doesn’t seem a likely prospect for the glorious diverse future America. Already today, the streets and highways in my part of California are in bad shape, and it’s not for any failure, on the part of the authorities, to know about the existence and location of potholes. And as for the efficient piece, look at the ineptitude with which infrastructure projects are done (if ever) now, compared to the early 20th Century.

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    • Replies: @International Jew
    Further to the issue of public institution having-it-togetherhood: how successful will the future California Highway Patrol be at keeping unsafely-loaded Mexican-owned pickup trucks off the highways? I don't see that the CHP is very effective at that now?

    Say your autonomous car is driving down the highway when something rolls off the back of some yard service truck. Will the car's software do a good job deciding if it's safer to drive over the object, or veer away?
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  122. @Jack D
    >Groceries have gotten much heavier over my lifetime.

    I'd be interested to see if there are any real numbers to back this up. In the old day, a lot of food was packaged in very heavy glass bottles, steel cans, etc. Nowadays there is all sorts of paper packaging, aluminum, plastic, etc. which is much lighter. Dry frozen peas in a plastic bag weigh a lot less than the same amount of peas swimming in liquid in a can.

    There have been various efforts at reviving grocery delivery but most seem to have flopped because when you do your own grocery shopping you are your own unpaid workforce whereas the delivery service has to hire people to pick the products and deliver them. Since people tend not to value their own time properly or the mileage on their cars, they see delivery as being more expensive and avoid it.

    The aging of the population and (possibly, but probably too early to tell) the immigration of middle class+ ethnicities who expect delivery has led Wal-mart to give it a whirl. They are piloting delivery right now with cheap fees and full selection.

    Amazon tried to do something similar with Amazon Fresh, but they lacked sufficient infrastructure and revamped as an upmarket delivery service, which allowed them to use the higher margins to expand service (but only in metros, not exurbs).

    Also, Safeway will deliver just about anywhere they have a store, but the selection is not great and the fees are a bit on the high side.

    As a SAHM with more kids than replacement rates, I am very eager for delivery to return as part of normal life.

    It exists, but the options aren’t great and the low population density combined with much huger population in a given exurban area makes delivering perishables regularly a challenge. Now that would be a place for tiny electric driverless deliverymobiles to shine, starting from a pool of rural and exurban hubs (ye olde downtown is less than ten miles away for a lot of rural/exurban dwellers).

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  123. @Jack D
    >Groceries have gotten much heavier over my lifetime.

    I'd be interested to see if there are any real numbers to back this up. In the old day, a lot of food was packaged in very heavy glass bottles, steel cans, etc. Nowadays there is all sorts of paper packaging, aluminum, plastic, etc. which is much lighter. Dry frozen peas in a plastic bag weigh a lot less than the same amount of peas swimming in liquid in a can.

    There have been various efforts at reviving grocery delivery but most seem to have flopped because when you do your own grocery shopping you are your own unpaid workforce whereas the delivery service has to hire people to pick the products and deliver them. Since people tend not to value their own time properly or the mileage on their cars, they see delivery as being more expensive and avoid it.

    The aging of the population and (possibly, but probably too early to tell) the immigration of middle class+ ethnicities who expect delivery has led Wal-mart to give it a whirl. They are piloting delivery right now with cheap fees and full selection.

    Amazon tried to do something similar with Amazon Fresh, but they lacked sufficient infrastructure and revamped as an upmarket delivery service, which allowed them to use the higher margins to expand service (but only in metros, not exurbs).

    Also, Safeway will deliver just about anywhere they have a store, but the selection is not great and the fees are a bit on the high side.

    As a SAHM with more kids than replacement rate, I am very eager for delivery to return as part of normal life.

    It exists, but the options aren’t great and the low population density combined with much huger population in a given exurban area makes delivering perishables regularly a challenge. Now that would be a place for tiny electric driverless deliverymobiles to shine, starting from a pool of rural and exurban hubs (ye olde downtown is less than ten miles away for a lot of rural/exurban dwellers).

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  124. Glurm, double-post!

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  125. @Scott Locklin

    While they’re still marketed as “assists” they really do take over in the intended functions (speed, braking, staying in the lane) and mean you can read/text/etc. on the go.
     
    Obviously, you do not own such an Audi, because if you tried that, you'd be dead, rather than typing your opinion here.

    Lee is actually too nice to the Google car. Useful autonomous vehicles are very, very far into the future, and there will be a huge backlash against the idea once people realize how badly they've been had by Google's preposterous marketing hype.

    A very simple driving problem that people do naturally: read street signs. Even illiterates can do it. Only in the last few years, and only in very limited circumstances (centered photos of nothing but the sign) can deep learning algorithms do it. FWIIW, DL algos as they stand don't run in anything approaching real time like you'd need for a car. Don't believe me? Do real time classification on this data set, which is a standard for machine learning researchers:

    http://benchmark.ini.rub.de/

    “Useful autonomous vehicles are very, very far into the future, and there will be a huge backlash against the idea once people realize how badly they’ve been had by Google’s preposterous marketing hype.”

    Yep. People who haven’t been behind the scenes of a software sausage factory need to know a few basic facts.

    1. Humans are superb pattern recognizers. Computers are better than humans at some things, but pattern recognition (and interpretation) is the last area they’ll catch up to us in — if they ever do.

    2. Big software systems are inherently buggy. And the bigger they get, the harder it is to add features without
    introducing new bugs. A working robot car’s software would be big, and constantly growing too (as code is
    added to deal with special cases earlier overlooked).

    That, and one specific observation about autonomous cars: as the software improves (to the extent it ever really can, subject to #2 above), they become *more* dangerous. That’s because early on, when you know
    the car can’t be trusted, you (the human) pay close attention, ready to take over the controls at any time. But the better the software gets, the less alert you become. You allow yourself a 2-second glance at your phone, then 5, then 30 seconds. So when the near-perfect car makes that inevitable mistake, you’re probably not looking: bam!!

    And back to what you call Google’s hype: I’m not so impressed by the claimed 700,000 miles of accident-free driving. What I want to know, is what’s the average distance traveled between incidents when the human has to take over? They don’t tell us that (though from the accounts of thrilled journalists, I guesstimate the answer is about 20 miles).

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  126. @International Jew
    "A road crew (or Roadbot) will be dispatched to repair it. On single lane roads, traffic will be slowed until a road crew is dispatched and the traffic will then be rerouted. Roadbots could be roaming during pothole season."

    Nice idea, but it assumes public institutions both better-funded and more efficient than the ones we have now. Somehow, that doesn't seem a likely prospect for the glorious diverse future America. Already today, the streets and highways in my part of California are in bad shape, and it's not for any failure, on the part of the authorities, to know about the existence and location of potholes. And as for the efficient piece, look at the ineptitude with which infrastructure projects are done (if ever) now, compared to the early 20th Century.

    Further to the issue of public institution having-it-togetherhood: how successful will the future California Highway Patrol be at keeping unsafely-loaded Mexican-owned pickup trucks off the highways? I don’t see that the CHP is very effective at that now?

    Say your autonomous car is driving down the highway when something rolls off the back of some yard service truck. Will the car’s software do a good job deciding if it’s safer to drive over the object, or veer away?

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  127. Well, a good rule of thumb when examining predictions about the future: People nearly always overestimate what can be accomplished in the short term, and they nearly always underestimate what can be accomplished over the long term.

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  128. @Steve Sailer
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helen_Shiller

    When you talk about "walkability," Alderwoman Shiller devoted her 24 years in office to preventing women pushing baby carriages from daring to walk across her district by keeping as many young thugs around as possible.

    Again – terrorism!

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  129. @Bill M
    These "mixed-driver" systems could end up being more difficult for ordinary people to manage than regular cars. Regular cars were developed in the mechanical age and designed to be physically intuitive - pedals, steering wheel, big windshields, mirrors, etc. These mixed-systems would require people to interpret the output from the car's computer and direct sense data from outside and integrate them properly. All while being distracted and not paying attention half the time and reading, napping, etc.

    If you read the transcript from the black box of that Air France crash into the Atlantic a few years ago, there was this very problem. The chief pilot had gone to the cabin to nap. The co-pilots got into a storm and turbulence. There was a problem with one of the computerized sensors that measured some important feature of the external environment and it was giving incorrect or strange data to the pilots. The pilots became confused and started doubting the other data from the computer as well. At the same time, they were looking outside trying to figure out what exactly was going on and how the plane was flying. The chief pilot woke up from his nap and rushed to the cockpit, but was unable to figure out what was happening in time and save the plane.

    Yes, good points. This brings up the interesting paradox of the comparative safety of flying vs driving.

    We all know that commercial flying is far safer than driving your own car, yet people freak out disproportionately in response to air crashes. Of course, this doesn’t stop people from flying, but I wonder how many people would still fly if deaths via plane crash were as common, proportionately, as deaths in highway accidents . . . .

    So what if Google-Drive turns out to be, say, only 50% safer than self-driving? There would still be plenty of accidents in GD cars, but fewer proportionately than if those cars, in aggregate, were driven by humans. Would the general public still be willing to trust it, or would the desire to be in seeming control of one’s vehicle, and hence one’s fate, override a somewhat-safer but ‘out of control’ alternative?

    And would the responses be very different in different cultures? For example, there are plenty of horrific accidents involving buses, ferries, and other forms of mass transit in Asian countries; yet such services don’t seem to lack passengers. Would Asians, or even Europeans, also be more willing than private car-devoted Americans to give a still-imperfect Google Drive system a go?

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    • Replies: @Lurker
    The air travel lobby like to portray it as safer in terms of deaths per passenger mile. But other measures can be used that don't paint such a good picture, whether measured in hours or journeys:

    http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/risks_of_travel.htm

    If that's correct then buses and trains are the way to travel and whatever you do, stay away from motorcyles!
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  130. “It is not true that affluent people have always lived in cities, that would have surprised the real life analogs of Mr. Darcy, for example, who decidedly did NOT live in a city. ”

    Mr Darcy had a place in the city in addition to his country estate, and many of the rural gentry in Austen novels do as well. Sometimes the novels feature a trip to London for a ball and some socializing ( S&S) and extended stays in London are described off-stage in most of the others.

    “You have a house in town, I conclude?”

    Mr. Darcy bowed.


    “The country,” said Darcy, “can in general supply but a few subjects for
    such a study. In a country neighbourhood you move in a very confined and
    unvarying society.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Parliament met in summer, typically, which coincided with The Season of debutante balls in London. The English aristocracy tended to take the fall off because that was prime hunting season.

    It's a little backwards from cultures, probably due to the mildness of the climate in England. For example, the young Vladimir Nabokov spent his summers on his family's country estate but his winters in St. Petersburg.

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  131. @Boomstick
    "It is not true that affluent people have always lived in cities, that would have surprised the real life analogs of Mr. Darcy, for example, who decidedly did NOT live in a city. "

    Mr Darcy had a place in the city in addition to his country estate, and many of the rural gentry in Austen novels do as well. Sometimes the novels feature a trip to London for a ball and some socializing ( S&S) and extended stays in London are described off-stage in most of the others.

    "You have a house in town, I conclude?"

    Mr. Darcy bowed.


    ...
    "The country," said Darcy, "can in general supply but a few subjects for
    such a study. In a country neighbourhood you move in a very confined and
    unvarying society.
    "

    Parliament met in summer, typically, which coincided with The Season of debutante balls in London. The English aristocracy tended to take the fall off because that was prime hunting season.

    It’s a little backwards from cultures, probably due to the mildness of the climate in England. For example, the young Vladimir Nabokov spent his summers on his family’s country estate but his winters in St. Petersburg.

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  132. @The Last Real Calvinist
    Yes, good points. This brings up the interesting paradox of the comparative safety of flying vs driving.

    We all know that commercial flying is far safer than driving your own car, yet people freak out disproportionately in response to air crashes. Of course, this doesn't stop people from flying, but I wonder how many people would still fly if deaths via plane crash were as common, proportionately, as deaths in highway accidents . . . .

    So what if Google-Drive turns out to be, say, only 50% safer than self-driving? There would still be plenty of accidents in GD cars, but fewer proportionately than if those cars, in aggregate, were driven by humans. Would the general public still be willing to trust it, or would the desire to be in seeming control of one's vehicle, and hence one's fate, override a somewhat-safer but 'out of control' alternative?

    And would the responses be very different in different cultures? For example, there are plenty of horrific accidents involving buses, ferries, and other forms of mass transit in Asian countries; yet such services don't seem to lack passengers. Would Asians, or even Europeans, also be more willing than private car-devoted Americans to give a still-imperfect Google Drive system a go?

    The air travel lobby like to portray it as safer in terms of deaths per passenger mile. But other measures can be used that don’t paint such a good picture, whether measured in hours or journeys:

    http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/risks_of_travel.htm

    If that’s correct then buses and trains are the way to travel and whatever you do, stay away from motorcyles!

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    • Replies: @The Last Real Calvinist
    Those are very interesting numbers, Lurker; I've never seen them broken down that way before.

    Agreed about motorcycles: wow. Also notable: how dangerous non-motorized biking is as well.
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  133. @Lurker
    The air travel lobby like to portray it as safer in terms of deaths per passenger mile. But other measures can be used that don't paint such a good picture, whether measured in hours or journeys:

    http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/risks_of_travel.htm

    If that's correct then buses and trains are the way to travel and whatever you do, stay away from motorcyles!

    Those are very interesting numbers, Lurker; I’ve never seen them broken down that way before.

    Agreed about motorcycles: wow. Also notable: how dangerous non-motorized biking is as well.

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  134. @Downward Slope

    “But how can “only one small lane” be maintained, and driven on, at the same time?”

    You would still need gravel shoulders and the actual lanes would still need to be about double the width of the vehicles. With automated cars not easily distracted or interested in rubbernecking, it would be safe for the construction workers to share the road. If they need to work on the whole width of the road, the cars would slow down and pass them on the shoulders.

    In cases where more serious construction is needed and even the shoulders are unavailable, you would have to either divert traffic to an adjacent normal roadway, or build a temporary bypass, perhaps using something similar to what the U.S. Army already uses for its mobile bridges, which can be put together in about an hour depending on the length of the crossing.

    “Nice idea, but it assumes public institutions both better-funded and more efficient than the ones we have now. Somehow, that doesn’t seem a likely prospect for the glorious diverse future America.”

    It would definitely need to be a mostly private enterprise. But there is not only money to be made in ticket sales, but in real estate, so I see the profit incentives there. Imagine cheaply buying up some land in one of the mountain ranges in between L.A. and the San Joaquin valley, connecting it via spur to the main line, and then allowing people to live in this idyllic village while still being connected to downtown L.A. in twenty minutes.

    It’s a feasible way to overcome the limitations of the technology, and goes back to Steve’s original point about the potential for exurbanization.

    The biggest hurdle I can think of is construction within the urban centers. Sure, I-5 has unused right of way, but with all the interchanges and other complications, especially political, it would be difficult to build another lane. Houston has added lanes pretty successfully though, in rather difficult situations. But Houston generally has its act together more than L.A.

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  135. The traditional commuter rail upscale suburbs in the northeast and Chicago are thriving. Young people buying 1 br and studio condos in the core cities don’t compete with that, they complement it. The fact is that none of those cities has the ability, nor really any desire, to add to their amenity-rich neighborhoods meaningful quantities of 3- and 4-bedroom housing, sports facilities and academically-suitable classroom seats which a family making under mid-six-figures can afford with any comfort.

    A couple we’re friends with makes $250k total in cool media and arts jobs and struggles to live on the UWS of Manhattan … and by “struggle” I mean runs balances on their credit cards, skips their 401k contributions, and their youngest of three kids sleeps in the closet-size windowless “maid’s room” of their 2 bedroom apartment. Half a dozen at least of their and our mutual friends with kids, with similar incomes, have moved to the burbs in the past few years. Not New Canaan or Scarsdale (which they can’t afford), nor 4,000 square foot houses on 2 acres (ditto), but towns with good schools and 40 minute train rides and lots of lovely pre-war housing stock. Those towns too are on the verge of up affordability for the NYC version of the upper middle class — could get interesting in a few years.

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  136. Forget rail of any sort for humans. It is silly, hopelessly expensive, and simply not doable in the US today, regardless of resources. The future of mass transit is Bus Rapid Transit. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bus_rapid_transit

    Rubber tires beat steel wheels any time for human transport. The DC Metro has them. The idea of Bus Rapid Transport is that the infrastructure … roads … exist. And it is similar to modern mass transportation. It has electronic tickets, boarding level platforms, and dedicated lanes. In Bogota, they have it. And privately owned busses can jump on the system.

    You get on for a fast, painless ride from point A to point B on relatively popular routes. You get to hang out in your leather clad guy room, with a great sound system and the internet for work and pornography. &c. And then you do a few blocks of driving to your final destination.

    Can’t be done? The real model is farming. Yes farming. Tractors already have GPS automation to very accurately work the fields. They can prevent gaps or over overlaps between rows. They still require, in theory, a human driver or passenger. For liability reasons if nothing else. Within a few years, the idea of human drivers will be like firemen and brake men on diesel trains.

    The bane of interstates is Trucks. I hate them. Freight belongs on rail, humans on freeways. Trucks do all the road damage and are freeloaders. The idea of dedicated, one way lanes would make it simple. The amount of computing power to run the entire system is available on a cheap cell phone. You can also get huge density, which cars packed bumper to bumper ..

    This vision is not the least bit sexy. The mere idea is a let down. We wanted to live like the Jetsons and we have this?

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