What the driverless car means for Batavia

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Elon Musk made some waves announcing that Tesla will add an autopilot mode to their cars this summer. Granted, this isn't for city driving, but it does mean that freeway driving is about to get a whole lot easier. Having grown up in Batavia NY, we Batavians have a unique view of the region. Buffalo and Rochester are just a "short" 35-40 minute drive away down the I90 or maybe 490. Get on, engage cruise control, and soon you're enjoying the niceties of a major metropolitan area without having to live there. In fact, it's something the Chamber or Commerce and other people will readily point out as Batavia's greatest benefit or even part of its identity. The words "close proximity to Buffalo and Rochester" appear on nearly every travel packet out there.

I think that this proximity is far from our best quality, but it is a convenience. Batavia is a great, and relatively cheap, place to live. The fact that one can live here, but also sample the flavors of two different cities after a short drive, is pretty cool. Personally, I prefer the sushi in Buffalo and the pubs in Rochester. :)

Still, for people who don't grow up here, this drive can be a little too much. When I talk to friends in either city, they act as if driving 35 minutes away is equivalent to driving across the country. The driverless car could change this completely. Given that our city has its own thruway gate, and is at the intersection of other major roadways, the majority of any drive could be driverless. Who knows what the legalities will be yet, but you could potentially spend the time taking a nap, texting your friends, or eating a snack. The possibilities are endless and transform a potentially boring drive into productive or playful free time.

For people looking at Batavia as a possible place to live, this means that a commute from Batavia to Buffalo or Rochester is as easy as a commute from within the city, possibly even easier given the parking situation. For businesses in Batavia, this means that you're now on equal footing with some big-city businesses. I long for the day I can hop in my car, call ahead for my table, and review the menu while my car drives me to my destination.

A driverless vehicle potentially redefines how we view local.

Now, where's my flying driverless car?