Johnny Cab Comes to Austin

  • Lyft has introduced autonomous ride share to Austin.
  • It will start with two chaperones in the cars but they will be removed in the near future.
  • Overall, this technological advance should be good for Texas.

I read an article in the ABJ this morning that inspired this blog post. And while it is not exactly about commercial real estate, it was too interesting to just ignore.

According to the article, Lyft has introduced autonomous ride sharing cars to Austin. The future is here – and on earth. Obviously this is big news and has a lot of ramifications for the future of how our society will behave. But what does it mean now for Austin? And what could those changes be? That’s what we are talking about this week.

Autonomous Ride Share Options


As I wrote above, according to the ABJ, Lyft has introduced autonomous driving ride share cars to Central Texas. Currently, the cars will apparently have two chaperones that will ride in the cars. Eventually, however, those chaperones will stop riding and you and the car will be on your own. This is, apparently, already happening in San Francisco.

After I read this article this morning, I went to my Lyft app to see if I could order an autonomous ride. I could not. It is not clear to me, therefore, how you order one. I hope to figure that out by the time you are reading this article. I look forward to taking my first ride.

A little over a year ago, Lyft announced a partnership with Ford and Argo AI to build autonomous cars for ride sharing. The goal of the partnership is to commercialize ride sharing on a large scale. And this is clearly the next big step in that process. Besides Austin, this is happening in San Francisco and Miami also.

Future of Texas Travel


There is little doubt that autonomous car travel is going to grow. And it is definitely the future of ride sharing. But what are the ramifications of that?

First, I do not want to ignore a potential short term negative consequence. Uber and Lyft employee a lot of people in the US. And they provide flexible work schedules. Obviously this will eventually eliminate a lot of those jobs. Though that will clearly take a while to happen.

This is, unfortunately, a real and legitimate concern with all technological innovation. It often eliminates jobs in the short term. And people can get left behind. We need to be aware of that and ready to support where needed. Because overall, technological advances are great for society and create far more jobs than they eliminate. But short term, it can be an issue.

Second, on the other hand, autonomous car travel should be safer than travel with human drivers. Basically the autonomous cars can eliminate human error. As a result, most – if not all – of the car accidents that are caused by human error will be eliminated. The flip side of that is, apparently, sometimes humans can adjust and avoid accidents or make them not as harmful. The AI may not be able to do that as well as human drivers.

Finally, autonomous cars should improve traffic. Similar to the cars being safer, autonomous cars can eliminate human irrational decisions. And, of course, eliminate some accidents. As a result, traffic should flow better when there are a lot of autonomous cars on the road. It should eliminate a lot of traffic jams. And in a city like Austin – where traffic is one of the biggest issues we face – that could be a huge benefit.

Obviously there are a lot of issues that come with autonomous cars. For example, as a lawyer, I’m really curious about liability when there is an accident. But this is not a technology blog. It’s a commercial real estate blog. So I am not going to get into all of the details. But the future is autonomous cars. And the future is here.

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