I like your thoughts.
I am a big believer that autonomous cars will be hugely beneficial to mass transit. Reasoning:
1) As you mentioned, the first/last mile conundrum will be completely solved. My question is who will own the autonomous cars in this scenario? Will transit agencies be allowed to own fleets of personal autonomous cars to accommodate its passengers, or will that duty be assigned to private taxi firms, requiring passengers to pay transit fares and taxi fares as well?
What will be the dividing line between a taxi and mass transit?
2) Supposing people continue to own their own cars... which I think is likely, as people will still consider the car their 'personal space,' and want it to be always ready in their garage, rather than ready to pick them up via app... So, supposing people own these cars, they will only need to own one
car. Autonomous cars will be more expensive to purchase than non-autonomous ones (not counting insurance), but one autonomous car will be cheaper than two non-autonomous. So, instead of the family provider driving to work and letting the car sit in a parking lot all day, instead he goes to work and then sends the car back home for the rest of the family to use. But what if his/her work is really far away? Then the car takes him to the transit stop, drops him/her off, then goes back for the family (taking kids to school and running errands and the like).
3) - and this one is the biggest of all: No more Parking lots in dense urban areas! None! We won't need them, as cars will drop off their passengers and then go find parking away from the urban core, or go back home altogether (with distance-based pricing, I wouldn't bet so much on returning home). This means urban cores can get very
dense, which translates almost directly to very walkable
, which is exactly the conditions in which transit operates the best.
Autonomous cars are still cars, after all, and all cars, no matter what they are, come with capacity issues. Make them smaller, make them able to travel in platoons, make them able to operate without lanes, ect - they are still cars. They will increase the capacity of freeways and roads dramatically, but in urban areas they will still eventually reach their limit and have traffic jams.
Transit isn't going anywhere - in fact, I believe it's about to get a huge boost in ridership and utility.
As far as news goes...
More squabbling over legal regulation of autonomous cars in California:
This is actually extremely important; the rules that California adopts will likely be the basis for regulation in all other states - and potentially the basis for other countries to adopt as well. Delays and fighting here mean delays for the whole future of autonomous cars.