Without considering the consequences of such an arrangement, many people in the United States are claiming that driverless cars are the future. Many see the option as on-demand transit, similar to some of the rideshare companies that currently exist but without the responsibility of paying an actual person. What so many people forget is that mostly marginalized people participate in the rideshare phenomenon, meaning that people are forced to use their own cars which require maintenance just to afford the cost of living in their homes. No one chooses to sacrifice control of their assets and spare time because of the inability to earn a sufficient living. With driverless cars, the wealthy are once again attacking people who might have finally found a way to afford their prices.
Next, consider the “on-demand” aspect of the driverless car. Will everyone be able to afford this? Will it prioritize the thousands of people who use public transit because they are unable or unwilling to afford a car? Numbers and previous practices say that driverless cars with “on-demand service” will be another method of socioeconomic segregation. Public transportation has already begun to disappear from communities that the local governments are pressured into ignoring, and there has been very little talk of self-driving buses on the horizon. Advantaged populations have the money for taxis and rideshares, marginalized people do not, but everyone has the responsibility to get from place to place.
The reality is that to reduce inequity, people with means are going to have to engage with people who live with reality forced on them. If disadvantaged people are unable to fulfill their basic needs, upperclass people are going to have to recognize that making certain policy decisions and ignoring the effects is morally irresponsible. Everyone likes the “new, cool toy,” but not everyone can afford it, and forcing everyone to afford it means that local governments are losing the capacity to effectively function. All the people who live in an area deserve access to the places that give them the things they need.