From Vox, by way of Doug Clarke:

(There is) a growing concern among urbanists that AVs will, by making personal-vehicle travel so much more convenient, induce more of it. They worry that AVs will increase vehicle miles traveled (VMT), further clogging America’s already congested city streets. … There are reasons to believe that any private autonomous vehicle industry will not just increase VMT, but will pursue more VMT aggressively.

… a new company called Vugo… has contracts with about 3,500 Uber and Lyft drivers in New York City to install video screens in their vehicles. The screens will display video advertising and, at least initially, cannot be turned off or completely muted. … The money the drivers receive from Uber and Lyft, from direct fees charged to passengers, is barely getting them by. They need supplemental income. Thus, advertising.

If shared fleets of autonomous vehicles come to be funded primarily by advertising, we will end up with an auto industry even more committed to auto supremacy than the current one — at best a reluctant partner in any effort to make cities denser and more livable, at worst a committed foe. …

Transportation is going to become more like an app, and we know how most apps are funded

One thing transportation experts have come to agree on is that transportation is evolving into more of a service than a commodity. Rather than buying cars, consumers will buy miles.

Three trends are converging in transportation: electrification, autonomy, and sharing. Anyone who claims to know exactly how that will play out, the timing of those changes, is probably selling something. But the logic of all three trends leans toward transportation as a service (TaaS). …

Barring the unlikely event that cities take ownership of these fleets and begin offering transportation as a public service (TaaPS?) funded by taxes, private industry is going run this process. Competition will be relentless, and with it the drive to reduce subscription or per-mile prices charged to customers. …

Eventually, someone will think to offer upfront charges of $0. Transportation as a free service (TaaFS)! …

So we have to at least consider the possibility that the future of transportation could be dominated by large fleets of shared, electric, autonomous vehicles funded by revenue from advertising — that our smart vehicles could become our next smartphones, tools to deliver our attention to advertisers. …

The only way to spend time with a car is to drive somewhere in it. Insofar as they get revenue from advertising, owners of shared vehicle fleets will want more people to go more places in cars. Their revenue will rise with VMT, so they will strive to maximize VMT.

Hitching ad revenue to VMT would put the industry squarely in opposition to other, non-car modes of transit and make it an enemy of good urban planning. It would strengthen short-term gratification and weaken long-term foresight — and foresight is already difficult enough to come by in transportation planning.