Guest Opinions

Boise should start planning for a ‘driverless’ 2025

I read with interest the report in the Idaho Statesman of the mayor’s presentation to the Boise Downtown Association and his thoughts for the future of transportation in Boise.

In a short nine years we will be a quarter century through the 21st. Yet there will be more changes to transportation needs in those nine years than there have been in the last 65. So it is time to chart the future for the needs of 2025 and stop the backward-looking view framed by the 20th century.

By 2025, autonomous, driverless vehicles will dominate the highways and byways of the world. Boise will not escape this movement. Google and Apple, Mercedes and Tesla already have self-driving cars on the road.

Like the Internet revolution in the 1990s, the self-driving vehicle revolution will play out in front of us over the next decade. And self-driving cars, trucks, taxis, and public transportation will bring major disruption to highway and street needs in the immediate future. Light rail and other forms of fixed transportation, as we know it, will be made obsolete. We can see this coming as clearly as we could see the Internet revolution in 1992.

How do we cope with this massive change? By proper planning. The future will require fewer, not more, downtown parking spaces. Yes there will still be strong activity in the community at large and the inner city in particular, but public transport in the form of Uber- and Lyft-like services will nullify most of the need for services provided by fixed-route buses and light rail. Door-to-door services will quickly replace much of the large scale, fixed point services. Uber is already looking at its own fleet of driverless cars.

And, as a result, we will need fewer, not more, inner-city parking lots, since more people will be traveling in autonomous cars designed and programmed to efficiently utilize available roads and space.

The world is changing. Let’s make Boise a true 21st century model city by embracing and utilizing change, not modeling our future on the past.

James Redfield is a Boise scientist and entrepreneur who has studied, lived and worked around the world. He has been a senior manager of several Silicon Valley high-tech and medical startups.