Autopilot is here!  Once most cars have Autopilot installed, we’ll never have to think about taking public transit again.  We’ll just get in our Teslas and be driven—- right?


It’s true that there’s been a lot of excitement since the Tesla Model S was introduced to the marketplace. It’s like the future is here:  George Jetson, step aside. As the Tesla offers more and more features to their technology catalog, it would seem that they’ll be in significant demand over the next few years.  How will the convenience of such assisted driving affect the daily commute from the suburbs?  

Fewer people will ride on public transit. Or, at least that’s what Max Ufberg at Wired said when the Tesla Model S Autopilot was introduced. “As driving becomes less onerous and computer-controlled systems reduce traffic, some experts worry that will eliminate a powerful incentive—commuting sucks—for living near cities… autonomous vehicles could lead to urban sprawl.”

What do you think?  Does the Tesla Model S really pose a threat to public transit?  Will its Autopilot feature contribute to urban sprawl? Let’s do a comparison and see which mode of transportation, ultimately, wins out.

  •  Low stress: What, really, could be more relaxing than the confidence that comes with a computer-driven car?  The computer doesn’t get distracted by energetic kids in the backseat. Advertisements alongside the road. Controversies on talk radio.  Or a buzzing insect. Even the most luxurious Peter Pan bus with high-backed seats and internet access can’t rise to the level of a Tesla for stress reduction. Winner: Tesla Model S.
  • Time available to do paperwork, read, social media:  Both modes of transportation offer a chance for less hands-on driving experiences.  Public transportation does trump the Tesla Model S Autopilot, however, if a driver follows the guidelines set out by founder Elon Musk.  “Drivers are strongly recommended to keep their hands on the wheel at all times and stay alert to the need to take back control of their car from the software,” as reported by John Voelcker in GreenCarReports. Winner: A draw, as both offer increased leisure time.
  • Exercise: USA Today has reported that the average American spends 51 minutes a day getting to and from work. That adds up to 204 hours a year spent commuting. Those hours are an alarming statistic to scientists.  Research indicates that commuting can have a severe, negative impact on your mental and physical health. Public transportation does require walking to/ through terminals and often up and down stairs.  Then there’s the walking to your actual intended location once you arrive at the stop. Writer Kathleen Elkins of Business Insider notes that her daily 3.2-mile walk round trip to her office burns about 250 calories, amounting to roughly 5,000 extra calories per month and 60,000 per year. The Tesla whisks you where you want to go, so your activity level is about that of an orange.  Winner: Public Transit
  • Convenience: According to “The Pros and Cons of Public Transit,” having the ability to drive to work is “super convenient.” That may be, overall, the most persuasive reason why Tesla Model S vehicles may be preferable to public transportation. You have your privacy as you commute. You can talk on your Bluetooth. Pump up your favorite music. Sit back in famous Tesla luxury.  There’s no waiting for other passengers to embark or disembark.  Winner: Tesla Model S.
  • Certainty that you’ll get where you’re going:  We’re still waiting for a reliably ubiquitous charging infrastructure for EVs, the Tesla Model S included. EVs come with “range anxiety.” Sometimes late, often overcrowded, public transit generally gets you to your destination in an expected window of time. Winner: Public Transit.
  • Money saving: A Tesla Model S starts at $70,000.and boasts of 294 miles range. A 60 month car payment would be just under $1200 per month.  A pass for the Boston-area MBTA Outer Express bus, which includes Inner Express Bus, Local Bus, Subway, Inner Harbor Ferry, and Commuter Rail Zone, costs $168 month. It doesn’t require insurance, taxes, or upkeep. Winner: Public Transit.
  • Prestige:  Okay, not all things are equal. But the totality of these calculations speak about more than just car payments: we’re talking socioeconomic class here.  That’s what’s generally missing in the conversations about whether Tesla’s Autopilot will contribute to urban sprawl. The gal who’s driving a Tesla into the city just wouldn’t want to be standing on the wet morning platform, awaiting the commuter rail. She wants to be seen in her Tesla.  And, for the majority of us, becoming Tesla-poor just isn’t part of a full and healthy lifestyle.  Let’s just say it.

Winner? Public Transit.  Urban sprawl:  we’re going to do our best to keep you at bay.

Source: Wired

Image Source:  Foter