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The Head Of LADOT Is Pretty Excited About Self-Driving Cars

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Big changes are in store for how Angelenos get around the city. The Purple Line's westward extension got a shot in the arm from the federal government today, and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation is gearing up for a future of self-driving cars. Seleta Reynolds, the general manager of LADOT, took the time this morning to answer a few questions—some serious, some amusing—about autonomous mobility, '90s R&B, and more, in a brief Reddit Ask Me Anything session.

Here are the highlights from Reynolds' AMA:

On the future of public transportation with self-driving vehicles:

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Public transit - how we think about it, define it, and deploy it - will have to evolve, particularly surface transit like buses. On high-demand routes, like the Wilshire Rapid Line and the Orange Line here in LA, dedicated bus lines are still a cost-effective, quick way to move lots of people. However, late night lines and low-density lines will likely need to be served by smaller vehicles that run on demand. I doubt sincerely that robots will ever make transit operators obsolete. They serve a critical role in giving people directions, assisting people with disabilities, providing a measure of personal security, and helping people navigate the system.

What she fears would be the downside of self-driving vehicles:

My biggest concern is that they exacerbate current negative trends - sprawl, long commutes, and more vehicle miles traveled. This outcome is actually more likely than a utopian version. Cities have to act to get the outcome that matches our vision of the future.

On the ethical dilemma self-driving vehicles face when it comes to potentially hitting pedestrians:

[T]his ethical dilemma only exists if the cars (or whatever we end up calling them) still speed. In cities, I would argue that they will only be allowed to travel at speeds that can't kill people - slower than 25MPH. I think this is a great jumping off point to contemplate why we accept high levels of fatalities from the current system. We should be asking that question rather than this one.
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On the expansion of zero emissions vehicles in Los Angeles:

We just inked our contract to put 200 on-street charging stations and 100 EV carsharing vehicles into the neighborhood around MacArthur Park. We've also exceeded our goal of 1,000 publicly-available charging stations citywide, more than any other city in the country. Last, LADOT Transit will start rolling out EV buses soon. You can expect more of this in line with the Sustainable City pLAn (lamayor.org/plan).

On the roundabout coming to Cypress Park

We'll see how people adjust - we're planning a big educational push and expect a learning curve. I don't think there are any more on the immediate horizon. We should get a lot of insight from this one for where they might work in the future.

The accomplishments she's most proud of:

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Partnering with Metro to launch bikeshare in Downtown LA, launching Vision Zero, building the city's first protected bikeways (and bike signals), getting the contract done to launch EV carsharing, and expanding LA ExpressPark. This year, we're getting ready to start expansion of our DASH bus service.

On a remake of Speed with self-driving vehicles:

First of all, Keanu won't have a driver's license anymore, so he'll have to travel by robot. Second, because the citywide speed limit will be 30MPH (robots don't break the law), the chase scenes will take waaaay longer. Speed 4: SLOW DOWN ROBOTS probably won't make the best Hollywood pitch. Personally, I'd love to see a reboot of the overlooked Nicole Kidman classic BMX Bandits, set in Lincoln Heights!

On her favorite fiction set in Los Angeles:

My favorite recent read was All Involved by Ryan Gattis - it's a grittier take on LA's great Noir tradition set in the 90s.
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She also showed a little love to Janet Jackson:

JANET and VELVET ROPE FTW.

Indeed.