Nuggets of Wisdom

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Open Thread Thursday: Self-Driving Cars And Infrastructure

Like most of you, I thought knew 2016 sucked, and I’m expecting better from 2017. What better way to help us all become more optimistic about the future year than to generate optimism about the future in general? After all, we are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I will spend the rest of our lives.

Joking aside, I always loved future predictions and speculations, especially about scientific and technological advancements. For the next few weeks, I want to create open threads to promote discussion on emerging future technology and developments, and the best political/economic policies (specifically, libertarian) by which to help bring them about.

Let’s start off this discussion series with self-driving cars:

What were once considered science fiction are quickly becoming reality. Companies like Tesla and Uber are currently developing their own autonomous vehicles, with Google set to release its own Waymo model as soon as this year. As many as 10 million self-driving cars are speculated to be on the road by 2020. In fact, self-driving cars are expected to become so commonplace that human driving may be prohibited!

But while self-driving cars are awesome, they’re only as good as the roads they’ll be driving themselves on. Sadly, our crumbling roads are not in the best shape. The American Society of Civil Engineers graded American roads with a D+, and the Global Competitiveness Report ranked America 16th in the world for overall quality of infrastructure. Most Americans, ranging from business to labor, agree that our roads need to be fixed. The question remains: “How?”

Politicians from Barack Obama to Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have suggested increasing infrastructure spending (potentially through a gas tax hike) to help fund construction projects. However, conservatives and libertarians have pointed out that most government infrastructure spending tends to be grossly inefficient, and many so called “shovel ready jobs” are revealed to be corporate boondoggles. As Steve Chapman from Reason Magazine explained: “Pouring funds into highways, bridges, airports, dams and other projects is easy. Spending money wisely is hard.”

So the question still remains: who will build the roads? Should the public sector invest in increased infrastructure spending, or is there a better, more efficient solution to be found through the private sector? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.