Public Transit On-Demand? Los Angeles Mayor Says It's Possible.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, speaking yesterday at an urban solutions summit, shared visions of various tech transit projects he'd like to see instituted in his city before 2020.

Would Los Angeles residents ever give up their autonomy over the roads? Mayor Eric Garcetti thinks so, and that it may happen sooner than you'd expect. 


Garcetti spoke yesterday at the CityLab 2014 summit in downtown L.A. The topic was "Urban Solutions to Global Problems." CityLab's John Metcalfe has the scoop:

"It's no secret that Eric Garcetti has a thing for autonomous vehicles. At a conference last winter, L.A.'s self-proclaimed 'tech mayor' shared his dream of having an entire neighborhood devoted to whirring, driverless machines... Today he doubled down on that vision, saying that L.A. 'could be the first place really in an urban center where we have autonomous vehicles that are able to be ordered up [like] a car service, right away in a real neighborhood, not just in a protected area.'"

The future-minded Garcetti believes there's a possibility autonomous vehicles will take over within the next two decades and make car ownership an obsolete and archaic concept. His dream of a sort of on-demand, Uber-meets-Transit service sounds far-fetched but Metcalfe explains the city is already working with a team at UCLA to create a neighborhood for driverless vehicles. Garcetti's also set up a project with Xerox that, although most of the details are still under wraps, appears to be the development of a strategy for running an autonomous vehicle network.

Garcetti's hope is that, someday soon, commuters would be able to take care of all their transit needs over their personal devices:

"And you never have to stress out anymore about how you're going to get some place. You know you have the options.... And maybe the city makes a small transaction fee off of that, or MTA, so it's actually in our interest to build that and then share that open-source again with the rest of the world."

Whether Angelenos will really buy-in remains to be seen. It should be remembered that ever since it allowed the auto companies to disassemble its world-class transit system in the late '40s, Los Angeles has had a long run of embarrassing failures while trying to catch up with the rest of the world. For example, you can't take a metro train to the airport without having to transfer to a bus (and sit in traffic for a mile). The "subway to the sea" currently lets out 5 miles from the water. And even though over 1 million Angelenos commute every day via bus, they're susceptible to the same gridlock as every other vehicle. 

The vision of a city-wide fleet of autonomous MTA vehicles may seem cool as a hypothetical, but L.A. commuters don't have much reason to believe in the transit pipe-dreams of local politicians.

Read more at CityLab

Photo credit: photo.ua / Shutterstock

For more on autonomous cars, here's software guru and Big Think expert Brad Templeton:

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