Autonomous vehicles will increase traffic chaos, not solve it

On a popular video, Youtuber GCP Gray claims that autonomous vehicles (AVs) will solve traffic jams. While the basic logic underlying his claim is accurate, it couldn’t be further from the truth because it totally ignores externalities. just like that ridiculously inaccurate article 2016 that states that we will only need 15-25% of our current number of cars once AV technology is widely adopted.

GCP Gray’s claim is essentially that AVs can react faster than humans and communicate with each other, and therefore can travel on roads more efficiently. This is true, but there are some problems with this that it ignores, some are described in a answer video by Youtuber Adam Algo. There is one important issue in particular that GCP Gray and many others who predict the future of AVs do not consider: the Jevon Paradox.

What is Jevons paradox?

The Jevons Paradox is a phenomenon that was initially described by the economist William Jevons in the mid-19th century, while studying coal consumption in England. Essentially, it states that when the efficiency of resource consumption increases, so does the overall resource usage.

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This initially seems counter-intuitive to most people, but it actually follows the laws of supply and demand, which makes it a true paradox (something that seems false, but is nonetheless true). In the case of Jevons, he found that as technologies that used coal as a fuel increased fuel efficiency, the demand for coal increased; so much so that overall coal consumption continued to increase despite technologies continually improving the amount of useful work that could be generated from the same coal input.