Just when Kansas City is finally about to see the return of streetcars to the city 57 years after buses led to their demise, the back to the future mass transit move may face a new threat.
Google is poised this fall to start testing its 200-vehicle fleet of driverless cars. The California Department of Motor Vehicles has even drafted regulations to allow the self-driven cars to hit the road some time next year.
Add an app to smartphones to summon Google smart cars for consumers’ transportation needs, and it will be easy to see how streetcars with superexpensive fixed rail systems will sink back into the ooze of obsolescence from which they tried to emerge in Kansas City. Mass transit systems in other cities also could go the way of dinosaurs if self-driven Google cars become a big hit.
Also, seniors who hang on to their cars like Charlton Heston promised to never let go of his gun, could finally loosen their grip on steering wheels because self-driven cars would give them the freedom, independence and safety of continuing to be able to get around. Young people who have no means of transportation would be able to get where they want to go with self-driven vehicles.
The Google innovation could create more independence for everyone. Add fuel efficiency of 100 miles per gallon, and they’re bound to be winners.