Economist Clifford Winston of the Brookings Institution outlines the surface transportation system of the future in a Wall Street Journal commentary, "Paving the Way for Diverless Cars." Winston notes "a much better technological solution is on the horizon" than high speed rail "as an effective way to reduce highway congestion" as the Obama administration in Washington and the Brown administration in Sacramento contend. Indeed, not even the voluminous planning documentation used to justify high speed rail provides evidence that the 21st century edition of an early 19th century technology can materially reduce traffic congestion.
Already Google has conducted experiments with the automated car that have been so successful that they are now permitted in Nevada. Winston suggests that by automating cars, it will be necessary to separate automobile traffic from truck traffic, which will make it possible to provide additional traffic lanes within the existing road footprint. Non-automated cars and trucks would continue to operate in conventional, wider lanes on the same right-of-way. Another advantage would be that with the automated control, more cars could be accommodated in each lane. The need for highway expansion would be largely displaced by substantially improving capacity by upgrading highways with 21st century technology.