"Tel Aviv Metro is an anachronistic solution"

Shai Agassi

Shai Agassi argues that autonomous car fleets will soon replace public and private transport in the world's cities.

In the next five years, people worldwide and in Israel will travel in fleets of autonomous cars. In contrast with other driving technologies, their entry into the market will be swift. A car that collects you outside your door and brings you to your desired destination, is the service that will replace both private and public transport with the service equivalent of a personal chauffer. During the journey there will be little chance of an accident, which is a 'man made virus,' which kills more people than any other product ever invented.

The service will rapidly catch on because there will be no need to buy such a car. There will be no need to commit to major expenditure for the family when the new alternative service won't involve purchasing a car and its maintenance and fuel. And that's before we talk about the problem of parking in big cities. The service will be put into operation by cities. A city that operates an autonomous transport service can price its use as a resource that until now it has provided for free - its roads. Every service that operates in Tel Aviv will pay a tax per kilometer for every journey in the city regardless of where the passenger lives.

In this way Tel Aviv will profit from people coming into and going out of the city each morning and evening. Even after paying tax per kilometer the service will be cheaper than having to find and pay for parking. This type of project will be operated in large cities and expand throughout the surrounding metropolitan areas.

Some might immediately argue that the roads won't be able to contain the congestion of hundreds of thousands of autonomous vehicles. But remember that every car standing in traffic jams on Israel's roads was designed to carry five people and three suitcases. The fleets of autonomous vehicles will be of various sizes for one person, two, a family or connected groups.

The way that autonomous transport fleets will use roads will be more akin to buses but faster and as we have said, without accidents.

So with such a service on the highways, why do we need to start digging beneath them? The answer of course is that we don't need to. An infrastructure project with huge expenditure like the Tel Aviv Metro will bring to Israel the 20th century innovation of the underground train, which is not only anachronistic but also an awful waste of the state's resources.

There are those who say that setting up an autonomous fleet within five years is not likely. They will argue that I am being too optimistic. Find me someone who is ready to bet that digging dozens of kilometers of tunnels under Israel's cities will begin, not finish, in five years. Any person that thinks that is detached from reality.

An autonomous fleet is one of the most relevant projects of our age. It will allow private travel at any hour for adults and children regardless of their socio-economic status and will remedy the injustice of car ownership, mainly by the wealthier in society. When we all travel by autonomous vehicle, nobody will be "rich" or from the "social periphery." If the state wants to ensure that the fleets reach outlying regions, it can subsidize the entry of the service with a 'negative tax' per kilometer for long distances. That would be significantly cheaper than building hundreds of kilometers of railways.

We live in a country that is blessed with a company that has developed autonomous vehicle technology. Based in Jerusalem, Mobileye is the leader of the global revolution! It is appropriate that Israel not only approve (much too late) the conditions for operating an autonomous fleet, but also redirect resources being wasted on other projects in order to speed up the entry of autonomous cars into cities. It is about time that instead of digging up the ground of the past, we take off and lead the future.

The author is an entrepreneur and founder of Better Place.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 28, 2020

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020

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