Millennial roundtable: Will millennials use driverless cars? Public transit?

Jul 16, 2019, 11:28 AM

driverless cars...

A gallery assistant sits inside the "Sedric" Volkswagen driverless car during the press launch of the new exhibition; "The Future Starts Here" at Victoria and Albert Museum on May 9, 2018 in London, England. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

(Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Whether you believe autonomous vehicles, aka driverless cars, are right around the corner or years away, they are coming. The dynamics of transportation around cities like Seattle will dramatically change for future generations, most likely starting with millennials on down. But will the average millennial use them?

This edition of millennial roundtable, hosted by Saul Spady, focused on transportation, with sides drawn around driverless cars and more. It’s not just scooters that millennials will need to consider (for the record, Andrea is against them, Daron loves them, despite the inevitable accidents they will cause).

“I don’t want to give my autonomy or ability to control a situation over to an automated vehicle,” said Andrea, one millennial who works in the KTTH Radio building. “I don’t see good things happening (with driverless cars) and I think I will feel very, very uncomfortable.”

Enter Saul Spady Show Producer Daron Casey, a millennial of a different mind. While it might be a difficult shift for people to make, he argues that the benefits will win over passengers — fewer traffic deaths, congestion, and more efficient travel times.

“I think cars are a part of our culture and I think it is going to be very difficult to convince everybody to get into automated cars,” he said. “I think that’s where the success of an automated car system lies, with everybody using it. However, I want it … it is something I am interested in supporting.”

What would Seattle look like with autonomous cars?

Transportation habits around large communities like Western Washington are evolving. Uber and Lyft have added rideshare to the mix. Lime has added bikeshare. Lime has also joined Car2Go and Reach Now in the carshare market.

But cars and roads remain at the center of transportation and driverless cars are said to be revving over the horizon. Even GM’s vice chairman has said we are entering the “end of the automotive era.” Some experts argue that an autonomous vehicle economy is coming as soon as 2030, when most consumers will ditch car ownership in favor of driverless rideshare services. Others say that driverless trucks hauling trailers will come first, perhaps as soon as 2030 or 2040. Washington state transportation officials are already discussing how to convert I-5 to primarily serve driverless cars.

Spady points to shifts in behavior when passengers become truly hands-free.

“You can be working on the radio show on your way into the office,” Spady said. “When I’m in an Uber, I actually do work in the back of the car.”

Public transportation

Of course, in the Seattle metro area, there is a big push for residents to use mass transit — buses and light rail. Spady prefers a form of public transportation — sort of. He primarily uses carshare.

Carshare — or just having a mix of options — is likely the mode millennials prefer. Andrea has lived in Seattle for months, but has yet to hop on a bus. She doesn’t plan to any time soon.

“Options are the way to go,” she said. “There are different needs. Not every single bus can take you where you need to go. Sometimes people don’t like the idea of Uber, or have the resources to use it … I personally walk or use my vehicle.”

E-scooters are coming to Seattle

On the other hand, Producer Daron points to specific reasons he prefers some form of car over mass transit.

“I can’t believe that real life adults think the best way to encourage us to use their transportation is to charge more money for the other,” he said. “The way to encourage us to use the bus or the light rail is to make the bus cleaner, safer and more convenient, which they are not doing.”

“I think it’s perfectly reasonable to avoid our public transit,” Daron said. “Like going from a Mariners game from Greenwood, every time I’ve ridden the bus, it’s been a miserable experience. I’ve hated it. I hate standing on the bus. I hate being around people I’m afraid of being around. I hate that my wife feels especially frightened. I hate how dirty it is. I hate waiting for the bus, I hate how long it takes. I hate all the stops. I hate everything about it. I like my car. I want to drive my car.”

Listen to the Saul Spady Show weekday mornings from 6-9 a.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Millennial roundtable: Will millennials use driverless cars? Public transit?