A good look at the possibilities from New Geography.
The Golden State has historically led the United States and the world in technology, quality of life, social innovation, entertainment, and public policy. But in recent decades its lead has ebbed. The reasons for this are various. But there is one area of decay whose story is a parable for California’s other plights—that area is infrastructure.
California’s infrastructure, like California, has had a golden past full of larger-than-life personalities and heroic deeds. But in recent decades the state has lost its innovative edge, resting on the laurels of its past successes without adequately preparing for any such bold endeavors in the future. California’s infrastructure imperative, then, is this: to accomplish bold, ambitious projects that promise a transformed and vibrant future for California, yet are still practical and sensible, and have proven viability.
Should California manage to get its act together and embark upon a course of infrastructure renewal, it will be taking one of several steps necessary to transform itself into an opportunity society again. Systemic reforms beyond infrastructure will be necessary to renew Californian society and lower the cost of living, raise the quality of life, and create opportunities for entrepreneurs and middle-class families. But infrastructure is a fantastic place to start.
Aside from basic infrastructure renewal like fixing up roads and bridges, expanding our water storage capacity, and reforming public policy and internet regulation to provide a world-class infostructure, there are three main physical infrastructure projects California should be focusing on to bring the state forward into the 21st Century. These are driverless car networks, a new nuclear energy grid, and an archipelago of desalination plants.
The current strategy for the future of California’s transportation system is wildly unrealistic. Passenger rail is simply too ineffective to justify building an expensive new High Speed Rail system that wouldn’t even be able to pay for itself. Commuter rail usage rates have been on the decline. A better way forward would be to embrace the power of computerization in the transport sector, and put our population on a path towards using self-driving cars.
The benefits of a driverless car network are numerous. They include greater safety, optimized traffic flow, reduced congestion, higher productivity, and cheaper, more effective travel for those unable to afford a car. The possibilities are endless. Already a test range at the University of Michigan is exploring what a driverless car system would look like. One could expect such a system to seriously reduce traffic congestion, improve transport speeds, conserve energy, nearly eliminate accidents, increase worker productivity, and generally revolutionize driving.
So how could California go about transitioning to a driverless car system? In the short run, there wouldn’t be much in the way of new construction to worry about. It’s mostly a question of technological investment and regulatory reform.
First, the state of California should partner with major universities and tech firms currently working on driverless car systems, and fund research and innovation projects geared towards enhancing the vehicles.
Once driverless cars are tested, California should work to lower the barriers to their deployment. This might include reforming insurance and licensing laws, to make it easier for people to purchase one. It would also help to offer incentives for middle-class individuals to purchase these new vehicles, too, such as tax deductions.
Retrieved May 1, 2015 from http://www.newgeography.com/content/004911-building-a-new-california