Atrios describes one of the hidden, but very important costs of parking, especially in cities–parking:
I think self-driving cars are going to be here some time after flying cars, my jetpack, and Glenn Reynolds’ sexbots, but this little thought experiment is useful for highlighting that while we talk about highways and roads and whatnot, the biggest problem with cars generally is parking. They take up space. Lots of it. That space reduces density most places, and reduces the benefits of density in places where it exists.
A hidden gem in the Boston area is the MIT Museum (kinda like Disneyland for the technophilic). Many of the exhibits focus on ongoing research including the CityCar, which uses minicars to reduce traffic-related ills:
The CityCar is a stackable electric two-passenger city vehicle. The one-way sharable user model is designed to be used in dense urban areas. Vehicle Stacks will be placed throughout the city to create an urban transportation network that takes advantage of existing infrastructure such as subway and bus lines. By placing stacks in urban spaces and key points of convergence, the vehicle allows the citizens the flexibility to combine mass transit effectively with individualized mobility. The stack receives incoming vehicles and electrically charges them. Similar to luggage carts at the airport, users simply take the first fully charged vehicle at the front of the stack. The City car is NOT a replacement for personal vehicles, taxis, buses, or trucks; it is a NEW vehicle type that promotes a socially responsible and more effective means of urban mobility.
The CityCar utilizes fully integrated in-wheel electric motors and suspension systems called, “Wheel Robots.” The wheel robots eliminate the need traditional drive train configurations like engine blocks, gear boxes, and differentials because they are self-contained, digitally controlled, and reconfigurable. Additionally, the wheel robot provides all wheel power and steering capable of 360 degrees of movement, thus allowing for Omni-directional movement. The vehicle can maneuver in tight urban spaces and park by sideways translation. This technology is patented-pending and under design development at the MIT Media Lab.
If you go the museum, there’s actually a CityCar driving simulator which is fun. For your perusal, a video (it’s worth watching, if for no other reason than to learn that there is someone really named “Polychronis Ypodimatopolous”–which sounds like a tropical aquarium fish or something; and “Retro Poblano” is kinda neato too):