They are going to be autonomous taxis. Is this a good idea?
According to Ryan Felton of Jalopnik, Google's mass-purchase of Chrysler Pacifica hybrids could mean $465 million in federal tax credits. Now this TreeHugger has nothing against the Pacifica; our own Sami Grover owns one and raves about its fuel efficiency. And the tax credits are a good thing too; as they note on Quartz, "its all in the name of progress... if it wasn't getting that credit, Waymo would have been less inclined to commit to such a large purchase of vehicles, which it intends to use as part of a self-driving taxi service."
Waymo has not said whether or not it is going to ask for the credit on its order of 62,000 Pacificas, but one has to wonder, what else could be done with it that would have a greater effect on decarbonizing transportation? One could buy half a million electric bikes; one could build 3,675 miles of separated bike lanes.
It all seems to be such a misplaced allocation of resources, putting all this money into self-driving Pacifica vans. It's not like they take up any less space on the road, it's not like they are even totally electric cars, being plug-in hybrids. As planner Brent Toderian notes, they "don’t solve the fundamental challenge of mobility — space. But depending on the details, they may very well lead to more “driving” (with or without actual people), & less space for everyone."
Tax credit or not, this is an idea whose time has passed. As I have said before, we don't need electric cars, we need to get rid of cars.