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Erik of Hazelfield

Electric cars and the future of transportation

109 posts in this topic

I saw that this was discussed in the UK politics thread and rather than hijack that one, I decided to start a new one.

What do you think is the future of transportation? Electric cars? Autonomous cars? Will we own any cars at all or will we have other modes of transportation?

I firmly believe all future cars will be electric and that the scales are just about to tip. Manufacturing capacity and price are really the only two hurdles left to clear. Once cheap electric cars become available on the market no one will want anything else. They just have too many advantages - they're quiet, generate enormous torque, are environmentally friendly generally nice to drive - but the real killer feature is the charging. Only during long trips do you have to charge it at a station like a gas car - otherwise you just charge it at home every night like you do with your phone! The price of electricity is on the order of five times less expensive per mile than gasoline.

I do not believe in hydrogen for use in cars. Hydrogen cars have only one obvious advantage and that's that they're faster to refill. They also have smaller batteries and thus need less expensive elements like lithium, manganese and cobalt, but on the other hand they need some platinum so I'm not sure about the end result economically. They're also a vastly more complicated design and have less room for improvement regarding energy content vs range, but most importantly they cannot be charged at home and I think that disadvantage will mean they just never take off. They would have made sense 20 or even 10 years ago when they were up against gasoline cars and electric cars with lead-acid batteries, but now that we've all seen what an electric car can be, there's no reason to go for anything else.

 

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Still pissed we gave up on rocket backpacks.

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I've been really surprised at how often I see electric car charging stations all over the place.  Kohl's department stores always have a couple in their parking lots.  One of our local municipal offices redid their parking area and added in several electric car charge spots.  The library has recharge stations, several local attractions, etc. When I was looking for a new car a couple years ago, the only reason I didn't go for electric is due to the lack of easily available recharge stations away from home.  I imagine people seeing this charge spots all over the place might help entice more to buy electric which will in turn bring down the cost and help address manufacturing capacity.  

 

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Electric cars seem like a given in the next few decades. What with more people investing in ever-cheaper solar panels and things like the Tesla powerwall becoming commercially available, by the 2040s it might well be a normal, financially sensible option for your average household. Plus a lot of second hand cars will be available by then, of course.

Autonomous cars would be ace, but there's more than a few figurative roadblocks before they become the majority. In terms of quality, they're not really at a point where they're good enough - particularly in a place like the UK where fog is fairly common. Not that they aren't already safer than your average driver, but there's a much higher standard required obviously. The legality of it is another question. Whether or not people are comfortable with it - some will be, some won't.

I'd get one, though - if I had the money. 

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To me some of the interesting points don't actually have much to do with the cars themselves, but with the sudden explosion of the number of high capacity batteries increasing the amount of energy storage available. Done right they could be useful in smoothing out the high and low points in our daily energy consumption.

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How quickly electric cars are adopted depends not on the cars themselves, but on the charging infrastructure. The places where they make the most sense are dense cities, but in the ones I'm familiar with, many people (i.e. most of those who live in apartment buildings) either don't have garages and park their cars on their streets or park in shared garages where electricity is either unavailable or not connected in such a way that makes paying one's proper share possible. There are enough charging spots for enthusiasts, but for electric cars to become truly mainstream everywhere, a whole lot more will need to be built.

Hydrogen is a non-starter -- not only is it less efficient, but take a look at its chemical properties...

Automated cars seem fairly likely, but I think it will be some time before they can be fully autonomous simply because the legislation will need to be updated. For example, who is responsible for the insurance of an autonomous car? The manufacturer?

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I disagree with the notion that electric cars make the most sense in dense cities. I think they have a much bigger advantage in rural areas and smaller cities where you need to use your car all the time and where most people have their own charging point. That combination tilts the total economy in favour of electric cars.

In fact, I think cars have limited use in big cities, electric or not. Rapid transit, bike lanes (or preferably bike roads), buses and car-free zones combined with congestion charges for cars make for much nicer, quieter and more livable cities for everyone. Cars are great for many purposes but driving one man and his briefcase back and forth to work every day is not one of them. Wastes too much road space per person. 

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Posted (edited)

Electric cars (such as the Tesla model 3 which was just released) have a range of about 200-300 miles. For cars with not quite  that range, it can result in a bit of 'range anxiety' which is only exacerbated in rural areas. Think of a state like Montana for instance, which is primarily 'rural', even with conventional gas I think you have to plan your trips with great accuracy.

But on the flip side, if pick up trucks were to be be made electric, then I can see them being used in rural areas a fair bit. There are cultural aspects to some rural folks not wanting to drive golf cart like cars. Again, Musk wants to break into the truck market in a state like Texas, say. Will be interesting if it actually happens.

Edited by IheartIheartTesla

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I have a 2014 Nissan Leaf for over three years now, 25,000 miles on it while living in an apartment. I love it, many people should own them because they are amazing.

electric cars are not the future given the trade offs involved in operating one.

the big advantage of gasoline cars is versatility, and adaptability, you don't have to have a parking spot with electricity access, or a job with parking and electricity access, you can go anywhere anytime and then length of the trip is determined only by the state of good repair of your car. It would probably take two months to cross the country in my car, and I imagine it would not even be feasible without towing some of the way.

if you don't live in my glorious climate, electric cars have pretty serious considerations as to your creature comforts

i live in Los Angeles, its relatively flat with some nearby mountains. The temperature is stable, requiring only light air conditioning or light heat to maintain a year round equilibrium in your drive. Gasoline cars are very good at providing you heat and ac while you drive without impinging terribly your cars driving capacity. If I had a sixty mile drive in front of me, I would seriously weigh whether or not to run the AC and I wouldnt run the heater, those are not luxuries you can afford in a  "long" trip in an electric car.

additionally, I have heard that electric cars basically have about half their capacity in cold climates,

batteries don't like the cold.

And I have heard that electric cars don't work as well in Arizona. 

batteries don't like the heat

Gasoline cars can be deployed anywhere in the world regardless of climate. As I said, adaptable.

if you don't live somewhere flat, you may not be able to make normal drives.

batteries don't like going up hills

(I have full power, it just uses it up shockingly fast to do so, thankfully I usually gain power coming down the same mountain, but it shocking to see that driving ten-fifteen miles up a mountain freeway at 70mph uses up thirty to forty miles of your remaining "range".)

so if you have no heat no cold and no hills, electric cars are amazing!

lifetime an electric cars battery capacity depletes with every charge, just like your laptop or cellphone battery. And the more D.C. Super fast charging you use, the faster your batteries overall capacity deteriorates. You may think you can just fast charge every time you charge, luxuriating in the extra time at the charge station to Facebook and text and candy crush , but you're damaging your battery the more you do it. And even fast charging is overblown as it will only charge up to about 80 % before gradually ramping down the power to a trickle to get you to 100%--that final twenty percent takes as long as the first 80%.

range has never been an issue for me, as the car was explicitly bought as a secondary car to be used for all my commuting and all local errands and trips. I've never ran out of power I've never ran out of gas either.

my car is rated for like 85 miles. Subtract fifteen percent for real world driving conditions and your realistic maximum range is seventy miles. I almost never let my car get below twenty percent without charging it, and I rarely forget to charge it. Ten percent remaining is the point where I start to get nervous about getting to my destination. So I almost never get done into the bottom ten to twenty percent meaning the range isn't really seventy miles, reAlistically I only drive it about 55-60 miles between charges. That's the actual range as far as I am concerned. 

Thats not terrible though, charging at homecosts me about $0.80 for those 60 miles, and we can do longer trips with regularity, today we did a 54 mile round trip up to into the mountains and back. Left with 90 % got home with about 22 % mostly freeway driving which means thirty mph for about half of the early trip and 70 mph for the return trip. I wasn't at 100% because I'd gone to the grocery store and the car wash and the bank earlier

but ask yourself when was the last time you added in minor regular errands to a longer stretch of driving and worried that your car wouldnt be able to do all of it? Too many errands and We reach a tipping point and take the gas car up to the mountains because we used up all our cushion on the electric car, there's no time to charge it (and remember you're also not supposed to charge it if you have over 80% left.)

Yes there is no maintenance other than adding wiper fluid, but you do have to pay the dealership an annual maintenance fee of about three hundred dollars to maintain the warranty on your battery, so they do extract their rent.

yes there are many charging stations all around, they are maddening, you need a company (like ChargePoint) key fob to use it, you don't know which company it is til you get there. They might charge you by the electricity you use charging or they might charge you by the time you are connected to the charger they might charge by a complicated combination of the two. And you don't know any of that until you've parked exited your car and squint st hopefully a placard (as the LCD will likely be very poorly visible in the outdoors). You can't pay by debit card or by cash. And the price you pay is going to vary wildly by location. Some might charge you 2$ per kilowatt or $6 per hour of charging. You will be charged for time spent connected when you were not charging as you had already reached 100%. You are going to miss those big signs at gasoline stations that announce the price, that the price of gas varies only in a narrow range between different gas stations, and that all of them use the same system of charging by volume of product purchased.

This all may sound terrible, but I really do love the car, it is a perfect fit to my needs and it is the most fun to drive of anything i test drove in the 25,000-35,000 range of cars I wanted to buy. Nine months after buying it, We used the 7,500 tax refund to pay off four credit cards, which was very nice.

most of the drawbacks are drawbacks of the leafs now very poor capacity, I would strongly recommend the bolt as it is rated at 220, so if you use my rule of thumb of subtract fifteen percent then subtract 15 percent of that number then you have a real driving range of 150 miles, nearly triple my 55-60 range. With that kind of cushion you can probably run it as comfortably as I run my leaf even if it is hot or cold or hilly where you live.

But it working out logistically for busses or trains, or semi trucks or heavy equipment? I don't think even capacity is going to help.

as for autonomous cars, the question is not if they take over.

the question is it MORAL to let the robots eliminate over one hundred million global jobs that require drivers?

nothing in the near future has the potential to wildly exacerbate inequality as self driving tech.

Self driving tech is a looming humanitarian crisis, but we will implement it anyway because a dozen tech barons getting to profit and pocket all the wages of a hundred million laborer drivers will mint the worlds first trillionaires, and isn't that a super cool and totally worth it thing, a trillion dollars?!

i mean losing a hundred million jobs there is no downside to that, morally speaking, right? 

Of course there isn't ! Not when the upside is being able to drink more and then have a robot drive me home! 

 

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How long until we can expect self-driving electric cars?  Cars that both recharge themselves when idle and arrive on time to take you to your destination?

This is my first attempt at a post so sorry if it comes out kind of ragged...

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On 7/29/2017 at 2:12 PM, James Arryn said:

Still pissed we gave up on rocket backpacks.

Speak for yourself.  I'm sure tesla is working on an electrice version as we speak.

 

I'm curious now about how the infrastructure for all these public charging stations is being managed.  It seems to me to be potentially problematic to be investing significant money into charging infrastructure that is likely to rapidly evolve your investment into obsolescence, but I'm sure someone has figured out how to mitigate this.

 

 

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14 hours ago, Lee Chapman said:

How long until we can expect self-driving electric cars?  Cars that both recharge themselves when idle and arrive on time to take you to your destination?

This is my first attempt at a post so sorry if it comes out kind of ragged...

Probably about 3 years. The Tesla 3 has the ability to order a package for fully autonomous driving to be implemented completely at a later date. The reason it's a package is that it requires a number of sensors built into the car itself. Later on they'll simply upgrade the software to make it all work. 

Electric cars are significantly easier to do autonomously due to the fewer moving parts and built-in electronic control systems and lack of reliance on outdated technology. They also tend to be for early adopters, and autonomous cars are going to appeal to that crowd.

On a sidenote, I also own a Leaf. It's my second car but it is utterly awesome for driving in the Seattle area, where there are an abundance of cheap charging stations all over - including subsidized ones at my work and free ones at Seattle Children's hospital. It's a fun car, it's absurdly cheap to operate, and it's super convenient. I live about 10 miles away from a city center, so I'm part of that urban/rural cross - but it's great for us. I can't wait to get an electric motorcycle, and I'm very envious of the Model 3. 

 

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Posted (edited)

46 minutes ago, Swordfish said:

Speak for yourself.  I'm sure tesla is working on an electrice version as we speak.

 

I'm curious now about how the infrastructure for all these public charging stations is being managed.  It seems to me to be potentially problematic to be investing significant money into charging infrastructure that is likely to rapidly evolve your investment into obsolescence, but I'm sure someone has figured out how to mitigate this.

 

 

Difference in kind. I don't know the Teslas supercharger works (and they're tesla, they'll probably just replace batteries no questions asked) but there is a big difference in charging with 110/220 AC current (done with a standard charging port) and the D.C. "Quick charger" with a chademo port. There are very few such  Chargers available outside of installations at dealerships to help them claim "you can always use a quick charger!" 

I haven't used a quick charger in the last two years. 6.6 220 chargers are more than enough ( my home one tops out at about 5 though.

the gradual decay of battery capacity over time is something the industry is still figuring out. On a tesla with a 300+ mile range a dip down of a percent or two of range still leaves you with hundreds of miles of range. But on the Nissan Leaf or the BMW or the fiat or the Kia with ranges that measure in the tens (not the hundreds) of miles a reduction of a few percent hurts more. 

On the other hand I lost my first little notch in my gauge about seven months ago around 18,000 miles and have yet to notice any decay in capacity to correspond to the change in the display readout so maybe it's performing above expectations.

What I'm hoping is that some entrepreneurs will figure out a way to sell me an aftermarket battery in a few years that significantly ups the range of the LEAF and also will sell me a housing / mounting hardware to repurpose the original battery into home power storage. Because even if it is no good for driving in ten years, the battery would still be awesome for home use.

 

Edited by lokisnow

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6 minutes ago, Kalbear said:

 

On a sidenote, I also own a Leaf. It's my second car but it is utterly awesome for driving in the Seattle area, where there are an abundance of cheap charging stations all over - including subsidized ones at my work and free ones at Seattle Children's hospital. It's a fun car, it's absurdly cheap to operate, and it's super convenient. I live about 10 miles away from a city center, so I'm part of that urban/rural cross - but it's great for us. I can't wait to get an electric motorcycle, and I'm very envious of the Model 3. 

 

The subsidized charging at work is amazing, I had 3 hours free charging @6.6 220 every day subsidized by one job and for the first year and a half almost never charged at home unless we were driving a lot on weekends. It cost basically nothing to operate the car then.

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On 7/30/2017 at 2:01 AM, Erik of Hazelfield said:

I disagree with the notion that electric cars make the most sense in dense cities. I think they have a much bigger advantage in rural areas and smaller cities where you need to use your car all the time and where most people have their own charging point. That combination tilts the total economy in favour of electric cars.

Yes, they have an advantage in such areas for precisely the reason you mention... but a large and increasing fraction of the population is urban and the people who can afford an electric car are disproportionately urban.

On 7/30/2017 at 2:01 AM, Erik of Hazelfield said:

In fact, I think cars have limited use in big cities, electric or not. Rapid transit, bike lanes (or preferably bike roads), buses and car-free zones combined with congestion charges for cars make for much nicer, quieter and more livable cities for everyone. Cars are great for many purposes but driving one man and his briefcase back and forth to work every day is not one of them. Wastes too much road space per person.

This was discussed (I believe Datepalm spoke at length about it) in other threads: you might be able to get away with not having a car if you live near the center of a city, but it's not pleasant to do so on the outer (and generally more populous parts) of most metro areas and this needs significant investment to change. By the way, the car is not necessarily for driving to work -- most mass transit systems are at their best when getting people from the outskirts where they live to the center where they work -- it's for everything else.

17 hours ago, lokisnow said:

I have a 2014 Nissan Leaf for over three years now, 25,000 miles on it while living in an apartment. I love it, many people should own them because they are amazing.

electric cars are not the future given the trade offs involved in operating one.

But as you point out, most of the trade offs are due to the low battery capacity of your Leaf. A 2017 Model 3 goes either 220 or 310 miles depending on how much you're willing to pay for one and the Chevy Bolt is likewise around 240 miles. Even adjusting for the fact that the Leaf is cheaper, the available battery capacity at the same price point has more than doubled in the past 3 years. If it keeps going at this rate (and given the economies of scale, it looks like it might), in 5 years or so this won't be a problem.

18 hours ago, lokisnow said:

yes there are many charging stations all around, they are maddening, you need a company (like ChargePoint) key fob to use it, you don't know which company it is til you get there. They might charge you by the electricity you use charging or they might charge you by the time you are connected to the charger they might charge by a complicated combination of the two. And you don't know any of that until you've parked exited your car and squint st hopefully a placard (as the LCD will likely be very poorly visible in the outdoors). You can't pay by debit card or by cash. And the price you pay is going to vary wildly by location. Some might charge you 2$ per kilowatt or $6 per hour of charging. You will be charged for time spent connected when you were not charging as you had already reached 100%. You are going to miss those big signs at gasoline stations that announce the price, that the price of gas varies only in a narrow range between different gas stations, and that all of them use the same system of charging by volume of product purchased.

This can't last though -- eventually, they will standardize both the connectors and the pricing schemes and the people who refuse to join the common scheme will go out of business.

18 hours ago, lokisnow said:

the question is it MORAL to let the robots eliminate over one hundred million global jobs that require drivers?

It's going to be a while before self-driving cars are competitive with humans globally: in poorer countries, drivers are cheap and the self-driving cars will initially be quite expensive. However, your question is not one that has ever been seriously asked regarding technology by the people who make decisions. The Luddites lost and they wouldn't have gotten even as far as they did today. Robots are eliminating jobs everywhere -- why should this industry be any different?

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Posted (edited)

13 hours ago, Altherion said:

Yes, they have an advantage in such areas for precisely the reason you mention... but a large and increasing fraction of the population is urban and the people who can afford an electric car are disproportionately urban.

This was discussed (I believe Datepalm spoke at length about it) in other threads: you might be able to get away with not having a car if you live near the center of a city, but it's not pleasant to do so on the outer (and generally more populous parts) of most metro areas and this needs significant investment to change. By the way, the car is not necessarily for driving to work -- most mass transit systems are at their best when getting people from the outskirts where they live to the center where they work -- it's for everything else.

But as you point out, most of the trade offs are due to the low battery capacity of your Leaf. A 2017 Model 3 goes either 220 or 310 miles depending on how much you're willing to pay for one and the Chevy Bolt is likewise around 240 miles. Even adjusting for the fact that the Leaf is cheaper, the available battery capacity at the same price point has more than doubled in the past 3 years. If it keeps going at this rate (and given the economies of scale, it looks like it might), in 5 years or so this won't be a problem.

This can't last though -- eventually, they will standardize both the connectors and the pricing schemes and the people who refuse to join the common scheme will go out of business.

It's going to be a while before self-driving cars are competitive with humans globally: in poorer countries, drivers are cheap and the self-driving cars will initially be quite expensive. However, your question is not one that has ever been seriously asked regarding technology by the people who make decisions. The Luddites lost and they wouldn't have gotten even as far as they did today. Robots are eliminating jobs everywhere -- why should this industry be any different?

certainly tech has its advantages, and many of the jobs lost to globalization have been a net positive for the world (even if it devastated monoculture american communities that lost jobs), but driving jobs tend to be hyper local affairs, there is no international competitive advantage to be gained by consumers at large in sacrficing their local driving jobs on the alter of technology. China, India, the world, is still going to want to sell products to springfield missouri and any innumerable other cities in America if they have to pay human labor costs of transit. Sure they would want to sell stuff if they did not have to pay those human labor costs as well, but why should we help them destroy local labor? I don't really care about their labor costs, they'll still want to dobusiness, and the cost of labor is part of the cost of doing business, they'll pay it.

Using technology to eliminate the cost of labor hurts labor and benefits capital. If we want to fight inequality, it means we have to defend labor, particularly labor like driving jobs, from capital. @sologdin

As I said, is capital eliminating 100,000,000+ global driving jobs moral?  I think it is is immoral, but on the other hand, there are a lot of human deaths caused by those jobs, deaths that would be mostly eliminated by capital destroying those jobs with tech. 

There is a solution, Labor can demand rent-extraction from capital.  Use the Airline pilot model: Create a regulatory environment that requires a highly trained (preferably union) driver be behind the wheel of every autonomous vehicle ready to take control if need be. 

Rather than eliminate the jobs because of tech, use tech as an excuse to UPGRADE the jobs in prestige and pay. Capital requires that goods MUST be transported, Labor needs to focus on extracting rent from that requirement and preserve the jobs.

Edited by lokisnow

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That's an option I guess. Not a very good one IMO because it leave most of the control in the hands of corporations. Capitalism seems to be rendering itself obsolete.

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17 hours ago, lokisnow said:

Difference in kind. I don't know the Teslas supercharger works (and they're tesla, they'll probably just replace batteries no questions asked) but there is a big difference in charging with 110/220 AC current (done with a standard charging port) and the D.C. "Quick charger" with a chademo port. There are very few such  Chargers available outside of installations at dealerships to help them claim "you can always use a quick charger!" 

I haven't used a quick charger in the last two years. 6.6 220 chargers are more than enough ( my home one tops out at about 5 though.

the gradual decay of battery capacity over time is something the industry is still figuring out. On a tesla with a 300+ mile range a dip down of a percent or two of range still leaves you with hundreds of miles of range. But on the Nissan Leaf or the BMW or the fiat or the Kia with ranges that measure in the tens (not the hundreds) of miles a reduction of a few percent hurts more. 

On the other hand I lost my first little notch in my gauge about seven months ago around 18,000 miles and have yet to notice any decay in capacity to correspond to the change in the display readout so maybe it's performing above expectations.

What I'm hoping is that some entrepreneurs will figure out a way to sell me an aftermarket battery in a few years that significantly ups the range of the LEAF and also will sell me a housing / mounting hardware to repurpose the original battery into home power storage. Because even if it is no good for driving in ten years, the battery would still be awesome for home use.

 

I'm really more curious about the public charging infrastructure.(Stations, ports, etc...)

What happens to all that infrastructure when someone say, figures out a safe and efficient cordless charger for cars?  (Or insert whatever other innovation makes sense).  Owning and operating these public charging stations seems to be a fairly high risk endeavor at this point since the technology is still relatively immature, and highly likely to evolve, and to do so quickly.

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3 hours ago, lokisnow said:

certainly tech has its advantages, and many of the jobs lost to globalization have been a net positive for the world (even if it devastated monoculture american communities that lost jobs), but driving jobs tend to be hyper local affairs, there is no international competitive advantage to be gained by consumers at large in sacrficing their local driving jobs on the alter of technology. China, India, the world, is still going to want to sell products to springfield missouri and any innumerable other cities in America if they have to pay human labor costs of transit. Sure they would want to sell stuff if they did not have to pay those human labor costs as well, but why should we help them destroy local labor? I don't really care about their labor costs, they'll still want to dobusiness, and the cost of labor is part of the cost of doing business, they'll pay it.

Using technology to eliminate the cost of labor hurts labor and benefits capital. If we want to fight inequality, it means we have to defend labor, particularly labor like driving jobs, from capital. @sologdin

As I said, is capital eliminating 100,000,000+ global driving jobs moral?  I think it is is immoral, but on the other hand, there are a lot of human deaths caused by those jobs, deaths that would be mostly eliminated by capital destroying those jobs with tech. 

There is a solution, Labor can demand rent-extraction from capital.  Use the Airline pilot model: Create a regulatory environment that requires a highly trained (preferably union) driver be behind the wheel of every autonomous vehicle ready to take control if need be. 

Rather than eliminate the jobs because of tech, use tech as an excuse to UPGRADE the jobs in prestige and pay. Capital requires that goods MUST be transported, Labor needs to focus on extracting rent from that requirement and preserve the jobs.

To what end? And I'm coming from an explicitly labour-syndicalist point of view here (since Solo is awol I guess someone has to :-( ... besides, this is also kind of my thing - like, my PhD proposal is on labour economics of atomized transit systems) but artificially preserving economic functions with little to no added value for the sake of balancing the share of labour to capital...? It's not only environmentally and economically unsustainable, but, to my mind, a caricaturish corruption of the labour-left tradition. We have to defend workers from exploitation by capits, not jobs. There's plenty of labour issues in driving as it is - take a look at the research finally coming out on uber drivers, which follows what I've seen in starvation-wage informalized driving jobs in Congo, ffs, to the dot.

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Yes, keeping drivers around even though the cars can drive themselves seems a bit similar to digging holes and then filling them up again. Won't happen and I don't think it's even desirable. But I think we might need to look at some kind of basic income system, because unemployment will skyrocket and this time the jobs won't be coming back.

Regarding electric cars and their shortcomings, I agree on most accounts. Today's electric cars just don't cut it - they're either too short on range, look strange, can't be fast charged, or are ridiculously expensive. The Tesla Model 3 might be a game changer, but it will take a while before it ships in sufficient numbers to make any difference.

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