Link to blog: http://neilsolomon.me/itp/tag/cloudcommuting
After reading chapters 3, 8, 9 of Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century, I think one of the main concerns I have regarding this proposed system is the idea of variably pricing roadway access, parking access, and electricity. My first concern is that the open road is the ultimate equalizer, no matter how expensive or inexpensive your vehicle, as the system stands today, most everyone can travel to the same places at the same rate (albeit with the same amount of traffic as one another) at the same time. This is where the idea of freedom by way of car comes from for those itching to get behind the wheel.
One might be “induced” (to use terminology from the reading) to take a slightly longer route if it is significantly cheaper. This has a potentially deleterious effect as MoD systems can choose to offer significantly faster routes for those who can afford it (or offer Uber-style “surge” pricing), leaving those who cannot forced to take the longest and slowest routes.
When one begins to implement variably priced optimal routes, equal access to America’s roadways becomes a thing of the past. People may be unable to compete with those able to afford to pay a premium for the optimal route, dividing the population among differently priced routes and leaving those unwilling or unable to pay up taking slower routes and becoming time-disadvantaged in comparison.
It brings to mind similar concerns of net neutrality. How do we regulate this system to allow equal and fair access to all places and routes for all people?
A large concern of mine is that the text does not discuss who owns the MoD system? What about competition? Is there opportunity to introduce luxury versions or budget versions that undercut or offer something different and create competition between MoD systems – much like airlines? Are there systems that will more aggressively price different routes? What will be the regulatory implications of these systems?
Additionally, on page 132, the text mentions variable pricing on electricity demands. There is currently no regulation in place to prevent people from taking advantage of electricity congestion during rush hours. We are currently seeing companies taking advantage of this, and reaping massive profits:
Congestion occurs when demand for electricity outstrips the immediate supply, sending prices higher as the grid strains to deliver power from distant and often more expensive locations to meet the demand. To help power companies and others offset the higher costs, regional grid operators, which manage the nation’s transmission lines and wholesale power markets, auction off congestion contracts, derivatives linked to thousands of locations on the grid. When electricity prices spike, contract holders collect the difference in prices between points from the grid operators. If the congestion moves in the opposite direction, holders pay the operators.
Traders Profit as Power Grid Is Overworked, New York Times, Aug. 14, 2014
Again, to bring the debate back to the terms of net neutrality, perhaps the roadways can be regulated as a utility to prevent abuse in pricing. However, I am highly skeptical that this will be more fair or even equally as fair of a system than what currently exists today.