A reader joins the conversation:
I’m starting to think that the first thing that self-driving cars replace won’t be cars. It will be buses. There is already self-driving public transportation on rails, like the Docklands Light Railway in London, so self-driving public transportation on rubber tyres can’t be that far away. The capital cost of a bus is already substantial, so adding the cost of an automated driver will be a much smaller percentage increase than on a regular private car, but bus drivers are usually reasonably well-paid for manual labor, so there are significant cost savings from automating them away.
The first city to decide to replace all their bus drivers with automation will probably be a failure, but the third or fourth will save a fortune by no longer employing drivers, which will allow for the bus service to be cheaper and available for much more of the evening. Jitneys (mini-buses with semi-flexible routings, like a cross between a bus and a taxi) are very restricted by the expense of drivers, and could be widely available in low-density areas, like exurbs and farming regions, perhaps offering much more travel freedom to teens and others who can’t drive themselves around.