Will Self-Driving Cars Ruin New York?

By Lindsey Patterson November 28, 2016

Believe it or not, the self-driving car is coming. Not only is it coming, but it is coming soon. Self-driving cars have the potential to completely reshape our transportation system, but the big question for New Yorkers is how they will affect the transportation scene in the Big Apple. While these self-driving cars may be able to handle situations on the highway and in medium-sized cities, the concern is whether they will be able to handle the notoriously difficult driving conditions in New York City.

Self-Driving Vehicles Are Illegal in NYC Under Current Law

While self-driving cars have been successfully tested in many cities around the country, they are currently illegal under legislation that was passed in 1971 that requires drivers in New York to keep at least one hand on the wheel at all times. This law is a major roadblock for companies like Google that want to test self-driving cars in the ultimate proving ground of New York City.

The Many Concerns About the Effects of Self-Driving Vehicles in the City

In addition to the law requiring drivers to keep one hand on the wheel, there are many other issues that need to be addressed before self-driving cars are allowed to operate in New York City. The driving conditions in the city are much more complex than anywhere else in the country. For example, these self-driving cars would have to know how to handle navigating around horse-drawn carriages.

There is also the concern about how self-driving vehicles would affect the hard-working cab drivers in the city. There are more than 30,000 cab drivers in New York City, and there are also 36,000 drivers working for Uber in the city. With tens of thousands of jobs on the line, you can bet there will be a difficult battle to pass legislation that legalizes self-driving vehicles in New York.

One of the biggest concerns regarding self-driving autos in the city is their potential to increase the city’s already bad traffic congestion. Because parking is so hard to find and expensive in New York City, people who own self-driving vehicles in the city might just decide to let their vehicles drive around on their own when they are not using them. It would be cheaper for them to let their vehicles go around on their own rather than paying for parking. This process is known as “ghosting.” If ghosting became a popular trend in NYC, it could greatly increase the traffic in the city.

In addition to worsening the traffic congestion, ghosting would also deprive the city of a valuable revenue stream. People who practice ghosting with their self-driving autos would never have to worry about getting parking tickets. In 2015, the city pulled in $565 million in parking fines. The city would also lose out on traffic ticket revenue since self-driving vehicles would not violate traffic laws. You can bet that there is no way that the city is going to let that money disappear without a fight.

There is also the question of how the auto insurance industry will handle self-driving cars. The auto insurance coverage rates in New York would have to be adjusted to account for self-driving vehicles, and that could be a tricky proposition.

Rest of the Country Moving Forward

With all of these concerns to address, it does not seem likely that New York City will be welcoming self-driving autos anytime soon. That means that the city may get stuck in the past as other cities are moving into the future. Already, cities like Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Austin and Denver have been embracing the move towards self-driving vehicles, allowing prototypes to be tested on their cities’ streets.

Even the federal government has accepted that self-driving vehicles are here to stay. They recently released a series of regulations governing self-driving autos that they hope states will adopt.

Self-driving cars are no longer confined to the realm of science fiction. They are here to stay, and cities around the country will need to accept that. While there may be lots of issues to sort out in the Big Apple, city and state officials need to work to accept them or risk falling behind the rest of the country.




Edited by Alicia Young

Contributing Writer

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