30 Otis Site

While angling for an extra 200 feet in height last year, Gould Evans, on behalf of Align Real Estate, has just submitted the official application to San Francisco’s Planning Department for a 250-foot tower and adjacent 85-foot podium building to rise at 30 Otis Street, at the intersection of Otis, South Van Ness Avenue and 12th Street.

30 Otis Rendering

The proposed Market Street Hub project includes 418 apartments over an 18,000 square-foot ballet school (a replacement for the existing City Ballet School on the site to be razed); a “transit-first parking and bicycle strategy” (which originally included 89 parking spaces); 4,000 square feet of ground floor retail space; and a public plaza on the corner.

30 Otis Plaza

That being said, if the City’s Market Street Hub Project is approved, the corner parcel could be upzoned from 250 to 320 feet in height, but the additional would require an increase in the percentage of “affordable” housing units to be built on the parcel.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Dave

    So happy this site will be kept at its original 250 height maximum. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come and the alternate plan which would allow these lots to be built higher will not see the light of day.

    • Posted by Oh Dear

      agreed! The four corners hold that height well, provided the street height podiums are held at 85′ too. The designers have to really sharpen their designs to reduce street level winds. No possible use of green space given the winds at the hub.

      • Posted by Dave

        I wonder why the developers did not follow through on their desire to get a 200 foot upzoning?

        My guesses are they realized there would be a backlash and the BOS would block it. Also market issues may have been a factor.

        I doubt the Planning department will go through with the higer option plan for the Hub because of a potential backlash from voters.

      • Posted by Jon @ SFBARF

        I really doubt with all the construction going in in this area that the wind conditions will remain the same.

        • Posted by hgh

          Do you have any studies for this site to indicate they could get better rather than worse?

    • Posted by Tony

      Why would you want less housing in this city? Because it makes you money?

      • Posted by Sabbie

        Because the transportation infrastructure can’t handle it, I already feel trapped inside my house on a sunny weekend, or at least limited to as far as I can walk.

        • Posted by tm

          perhaps you should move if you feel so trapped.

        • Posted by Dave

          I agree about the change in the last years. 5 – 10 I would say. I live West of Twin Peaks and we are really feeling it.

          That said, I believe you are an RE investor, think about investing in a place you may want to move to at some point. When you can.

          We cannot move now, but will the moment we can and we have a Washington home, currently rented out, waiting. No state income tax. We love Portland but its an Oakland/SFbridge drive away. As in very southern Washington.

        • Posted by j_blu

          BIKE!

  2. Posted by too-short

    This is the first of many much taller towers in the area. This is going to look too short real soon. Too bad that the first developer has the bear the brunt of all the opposition, and also gets a smaller building out of the deal.

    • Posted by Futurist

      Seriously? not tall enough for you? then what is? Truly amazed at the insane obsession with “everything” taller.

      In fact this is a great new project, appropriate height and initial design concepts look promising.

      • Posted by woolie

        600′ would be a good start.

        • Posted by Futurist

          Of course it wouldn’t and you have no logical or urban planning or functional reason for saying that.

          In fact, there are many on SS who simply throw out height increase numbers to stir up trouble, and perhaps really show their deep insecurities about San Francisco.

          Just like the many comments about Trumps hands being small, which implies among other things, insecurity and weakness, you see lower scaled buildings as the same sign of weakness.

          Utter bs when a 250 foot building is not enough.

          • Posted by woolie

            1000′ is also good.

          • Posted by Orland

            I don’t all that much care what the heights there are just as long as they are variable and everybody doesn’t uniformly build to set limit (e.g., 400′).

          • Posted by Futurist

            I mostly agree with you Orland, but the critical point in good urban planning is that the heights are not all the same, and not higher just for higher sakes, but for sound, logical reasoning.

            At least now I know I can dismiss woolie for just trolling.

          • Posted by Julliurt

            Logic: San Francisco is in a housing crisis, and while building more units may not SOLVE the problem, it is a move in the right direction.

            Urban planning: If we build a lot of density near our high-capacity transit, we don’t have to densify legacy/heritage neighborhoods.

            Functional: It is much easier to make buildings taller than it is to build more buildings.

          • Posted by Futurist

            The real logic: We don’t have a “housing crisis”. We have a City where a LOT of people want and demand to live here, despite the fact they cannot AFFORD. But feel genuinely entitled to get what they don’t have, nor can afford.

            The mere fact of more high rise buildings will not, in itself, make housing more affordable. It’s a myth. It will simply create more upscale housing for those who CAN afford it.

          • Posted by sfcommie

            That’s one of the worst nonsense I’ve ever heard on this site, Futurist. For a moment, I thought Trump was impersonating Campos and couldn’t make up his mind which one he is.

          • Posted by Futurist

            So, explain to us, or me, sfcommie how exactly that one particular high rise building is going to solve the “housing crisis”. Here’s why I don’t think it will: As The City continues to push for more affordable housing, developers will have to increase the rents or sales costs of for sale units to OFFSET the costs of more affordable units.

            I don’t believe there will ever be “enough” affordable units to meet demand. There is more demand AND higher income people moving into SF (or already living here) who will be happy to pay for this market rate unit, and more will wait for the next building to be built.

            The reality is that the money for developers is not in affordable units, but in market rate. I don’t really have a clear solution to help ALL the people who want and choose to live here who are not able to afford the increasing costs of housing.

            EXCEPT to force a tax (somehow) on all of the well to do, higher income people (including myself) to help pay for subsidized housing. Try that on all the well paid Facebook, Google, Apple, Linkdin, etc. employees and see what they say.

          • Posted by sfcommie

            I agree that bmrs raise the market rate housing costs. That does not mean that we can’t help people who “need” to be in the city, the oft cited “teachers and firemen”, as well as the long time residents who are being forced out by gentrification. There is nothing wrong with taxing the rich in the form of bmr during the boom time because the developers will still build as much as they can, and those who want to move to the city are welcome to pay the resultant exorbitant market rate.

          • Posted by sfcommie

            Oh, and as for your claim that more housing will not solve the housing problem because there will always be people who want to move to the city, that is a nonsense because, well, more housing solves the housing problem at hand. True, at some point there may be no more room even for high rises. But that should be the threshhold, not some artificial nimby arguments who want to build a wall for themselves.

      • Posted by too-short

        I just visited Chicago and it has a gorgeous downtown. Hopefully one day we will be so lucky as to have architecture that is world renowned. Plus then we can house all the people and get our rents back to normal.

  3. Posted by SocketSite

    As since added above, if the City’s Market Street Hub Project is approved, the corner parcel could still be upzoned from 250 to 320 feet in height, but the additional would require an increase in the percentage of “affordable” housing units to be built on the site.

    • Posted by Jon @ SFBARF

      the likely reason they aren’t going to wait is that the hub upzone project will still need an EIR, which is going to take 2 years + of community input. Then, it will still have years of wrangling, with SOMCAN and the Mission moratoriumists ahead of it. It’s too bad, we could have used that extra affordable housing.

  4. Posted by Louis

    It’s a hi rise site, seems beyond question. Interesting and good looking design from an architect who has no experience at hi rise structure. Surprising. Advise to just get out of the system asap whether it’s 250 or 320 because approvals just going to get worse.

  5. Posted by Dave

    Didn’t the nearby neighborhood agree to an up-zoning – reluctantly? Hasn’t the City disrespected that by proposing a further up-zoning?

    What is to stop 250 foot towers from eventually marching south into the Mission from here?

    Our next mayor (hopefully) Peskinn. But that is another story.

    The rendering is eye-catching for sure but note that some of it is due to the upper floors “looking different” from the lower ones.

    On closer look it seems like the upper 7/8 stories all have their shades open and the lower 20 don’t. A bit mis-leading IMO. To improve the rendering. But that is to be expected I guess. I may be wrong on this but it seems to me that is what they have done..

    Still, by SF standards, not a bad design. Transplanting one of the Golden Gateway 25 story condo towers to this site would have worked just as well. IMO.

    • Posted by Elitist Pig

      You want the guy who ran on a populist pro-affordable housing platform and promptly proposed a pro-housing poison pill to run the city?

  6. Posted by A. Vandelay

    How is this 250′ while [the Tower Car Wash project] is only 120′? With this project possibly allowed an extra 200′. What a waste on the other development. This is why planning is wasting time, money and opportunity.

  7. Posted by 94116

    With reports the rental market is a little sluggish, it is possible the developer is reading the tea leaves. I do hope they get their height extension and as pointed out, the Market street hub program may allow it to go higher. It is a perfect area for more dense development.

  8. Posted by Sutro_Tower

    Will be interesting if this project even gets built in this cycle. Wouldn’t be surprised if they get it entitled and shop it to a potential buyer a year or two down the road once HUB rezoning is finalized.

    • Posted by Louis

      Will not be build this cycle. Very unlikely. Would buy options against if could!

      May be hoping to approve and sell but if there’s no market to build that’s doa.

  9. Posted by Orland

    Is the proposed “plaza” along the curtilage of the building fronting the sidewalk or to be built on that triangle of land bordering S Van Ness and 12th Street?

  10. Posted by Some Guy

    Sexy, rakish, evocative, at once organic, like a shelled sea creature, and thoroughly modern. Complicated!

    • Posted by hgh

      It looks like an 80’s Marriott hotel post earthquake shuffle, tarped on one side, and awaiting razing.

  11. Posted by anon2

    I’m pretty excited about what this ‘Hub’ neighborhood, will be like in 10 years. South Van Ness, between Market and 101. With all these new buildings, residents, and retail, should be pretty nice.

  12. Posted by sfcommie

    I’d concur this is *the* location for the height. Besides the density and hub arguments, it’ll balance out the skykline nicely with two peaks. If some buildings punch through the 400 ft limit, that is.

  13. Posted by Jeremy Borns

    This area can support numerous 500+ ft buildings. I was just in Singapire, which takes full advantage of space to build amazing buildings. All of SoMa should be rezoned to support much larger buildings. 4-6 story buildings are a complete waste of space. Anyone who doesn’t see this as the reality is not appreciating true urban growth. San Francisco can still keep its character in the smaller neighborhoods, but SoMa must be developed to the sky if we want to keep up with demand for housing.

    • Posted by Jake

      Singapore has about the same population density as San Francisco. They have been able to buildup a dense urban area because they built a grade separated mass transit rail system.

      This area is dominated by vehicle transit. Now if we want to remove the Central Freeway and replace it with a subway connected to subway lines under Van Ness and Folsom and Geary and 16th and all connected to BART and the Central Subway, then sure go ahead and build to the seismic limits, but otherwise, no this area and SoMa cannot support your skyhigh fantasy.

      • Posted by Jon @ SFBARF

        Sure it can. Van Ness BRT and additional busses on Mission would be more than enough. An additional Mission Street line that went from the Embarcadero , crossed market, and then went down Haight or Fell would create a whole new east-west route that would take pressure off Market street bus lines 21, 6, 7 (Market Street is the only street in SF that is running anywhere close to maximum capacity for transit.

        SoMa has one of the most generous street grids in the world for its height and urban location. We haven’t even started to scratch the surface of what we can do with transpo there. Think about it–the wait for the Mission Street bus is absurdly long. Density will actually make the transportation viable at higher frequencies.

        • Posted by Futurist

          Have you see how insanely backed up traffic is now around Mission and Chavez with those stupid red bus lines? Insane.

          The busses still run slowly. More traffic congestion. I say drivers take back the lane. Make Muni remove the red lanes.

          • Posted by Orland

            More regressive thought from misnomered “Futurist.”

          • Posted by Futurist

            Neither regressive or progressive. Pointing out that this so called “transit first” idea on Mission is not doing so well. Many drivers, in fact, are ignoring the red lanes.

            Why is that?

          • Posted by Orland

            Ordering transportation priorities for the convenience of automobile drivers (especially solo drivers) is most definitely a thing of the past.

            The cost you currently pay for driving in the City is delay and frustration though there will likely come monetary costs such as zone tolls and increased parking fees. Get used to it.

            I hope every driver illegally using the transit-only lanes receives a stiff fine including by photo-enforcement cameras mounted on buses.

          • Posted by Futurist

            Seems to me that “balancing” transportation needs of public transit and driving is what is needed.

            1. The busses on Mission STILL run slowly.
            2. Drivers NOW who want or need to continue down Mission north of Chavez now are forced to turn right onto Chavez and THEN a left turn onto S. Vanness back to 26th and then right to Mission. How is that solving anything? More car traffic now backing up to turn left and more car traffic now onto 26th which used to be relatively quiet.

            This is not balanced.

          • Posted by Orland

            It is indeed “balanced” in that it facilitates (therefore encourages) public transit while still allowing free passage (albeit impeded) for private vehicles. In other words, balanced.

            The 14R is competitive with BART for getting from the Outer Mission to lower Downtown and actually better than driving when you factor in having to park.

          • Posted by moto mayhem

            they are going to remove the red lanes there. they realize that they made a big mistake.

          • Posted by Orland

            No way, possibly some minor tweaks (such as permitting northbound traffic to cross CC to 24th before having to turn right), but the priority shown the numerous bus lines through there is going to (and should) stay.

      • Posted by Jake

        Sadly no, your “generous” assurance that Muni buses “would be more than enough” to satisfy the growth in SoMa is just further evidence of the ineptitude of SFBARFantasy.

        Hundreds of thousands of people commute to work by car through SoMa. They go in both directions between SF and neighboring counties. Additional job creation in SF and SM counties will surely increase that traffic. And we are planning for more job growth, else we wouldn’t need to build nearly so many new housing units.

        The “generous” SoMa street grid was made more generous decades ago to accommodate those cars getting to and from the freeways. The Hub in particular got made into what is little more than a multi-block intersection when South Van Ness and Gough were cut through. And then it got topped off by the Central Fwy. And the teardown of the raised freeways along Folsom and north of Market near Van Ness diverted hundreds of thousands of cars onto the SoMa surface streets. That was Caltrans forecast before the teardowns and has been measured since.

        More and/or faster MUNI buses on Van Ness and Mission won’t affect those cars. And whatever local car trips your extra buses do displace merely makes room for more of this commute-by-car traffic. BTW, that is the same thing that happened with the increase in bike-to-work in SF. The SFers that switched from driving to biking were replace at better than 100% by new car commuters from neighboring counties. The very “generous” parking existing in the SF CBD can handle more cars than the “generous” road grid can pass in the commute. That’s why the commute peak is about an hour longer than it was ~20 years ago and is headed for being another hour longer when the planned development you advocate happens.

        If you want to solve our congestion problems, then you need to understand the real problems and not just SFBARFantasies. Your ‘MUNI bus as savoir’ is good for a laugh, though not for a viable solution. About half the cars in the SF CBD commute park for free. Raise the cost to park downtown and build subways to and through SF. Forecast conservatively (surely not “generously”), but wield a big stick and pay for a big carrot.

  14. Posted by Jeremy Birns

    ….and this building here should be 20 stories higher or it will be considered small in 10 yrs.

  15. Posted by Dave

    IMO the Hub won’t get build in this cycle, but will move forward in he next one. Several years down the road.

    By then there will be a new regime at City Hall – possibly/likely less pro hyper-development than the current one.

    The next cycle will not necessarily be a repeat of this past one. With huge expansion in Silicon Valley that spilled over some to SF. It might be that next time there is a relatively larger jobs expansion outside the Bay Area. In other less expensive metro areas.

    Will jobs in SF experience a significant uptick next cycle as they did this cycle? Recent indications are the job expansion in SF has slowed and actually may be backing off. Will the population rise significantly in the next cycle? No ones knows, but the 1 million population prediction for 2035 is not written in stone..

    All this will/could impact how the Hub eventually gets built out. The grand plans for another up-zoning , Hub 2.0 – might give way to a more modest vision a la this 27 story tower. Remember, the Otis developer was contemplating a 47 story tower here not that long ago.

    • Posted by Orland

      Dave, the desire to live in San Francisco means that, not only will the effects of any general downturn be mitigated locally, the rebound will be magnified as always. The projected change with growth is inexorable.

      • Posted by Dave

        The desire to live in SF will be a factor sure but if job growth stalls and levels here that will put downward pressure on growth.

        There are many young techies living here today because they work in the City. Sharing apartments with several co-workers. Living as they did while in college. There are techies who work in MV living here too – crazy IMO with the commute but it is what it is.

        I personally think hi-tech will shift out of the Bay Area over time. Not leave it – just that the concentration of such jobs here, relative to other metro areas, will continue to drop. And of course other metro areas have shrubs so that will make a big difference too.

        Bottom lines, if the jobs stall or leave, a segment of the current 850K population will go away.

        SF had 800K plus residents post WW2. It fell to 650K in the 70s/80s – BTW, housing was much more affordable in that period, only to climb again to 850K today.

        So a cycle down in population is not unheard of and could happen. Or a leveling out.

        • Posted by Orland

          A comparison between now and post-WWII America is so utterly inapposite as to defy response. Why do you continue to insist upon measuring feet in centimeters to bolster your hopeless obsession with hating on SF?

          • Posted by Dave

            Its about wanting to see SF retain its charm and uniqueness – not hating on it.

            Part of that is supporting reasonable development that includes infrastructure/transportation improvements concurrent with that development. Something that is not happening right now.

        • Posted by anona

          The post-WWII peak was 775k in the 1950 census. We’re at almost 100k more than that peak now, with a substantially higher percentage being adults. Why do you keep lying?

      • Posted by hgh

        “Built it” activists get pretty excited at any sign the market is softening. The market always rebounds, but you’re using the last collapse cycle as a model, which is a mistake.

        • Posted by Dave

          Exactly. I don’t think the Bay Area gets a disproportionate share of new jobs in the next rebound. As it did in the last. Past performance is no guarantee as they say.

          When Google and UCSF are having to build housing to entice workers here the writing is on the wall. IMO. When young SV engineers with a family who want a SFH have to go to Dublin to be able to afford one. Its like where does it end?

          Silicon Valley will remain the tech center IMO – just not so disproportionately so. That would significantly impact SF, and of course otherBbay Area cities which have indirectly benefited from the huge growth of the Silicon Valley over these years.

          As a RE investor this is what I am betting on. The signs are out there. To me anyway. But I could be wrong on this. No one can say for sure.

          • Posted by Futurist

            I don’t think there’s any shortage of so called SV “engineers” who can afford a SFH here in SF. Just this past month 2 homes on my block here in Noe sold within 15 days to young families; both sold for just under $3m. And there were multiple bids.

            They don’t have to go to Dublin to find that home. Plenty of them find it right here.

          • Posted by anona

            The tech “industry” continues to grow as a share of the country’s and world’s economy, and will continue to do so. Even if the Bay Area drops by half of the worldwide percentage, it’s likely to continue to grow in sheer numbers.

          • Posted by Sabbie

            Tech is deflationary. Every new tech breakthrough increases productivity, reducing the input of labor needed. One example is self driving cars. This alone would instantly push unemployment well above the range that is considered very high (8-10%) and sorry but these driver jobs will not be replaced with software engineer jobs, in fact that job will become more automated in itself as they build better programs that can code. And Dave is correct, the great quality of life that employers count on to attract workers to the Bay Area is being cannibalized by those same workers, it’s too crowded and too expensive here now, these companies will have to move at least their lower paying jobs to second tier cities. I am happy with the investments I’ve made here but will definitely be investing in other more scalable cities moving forward.

          • Posted by anona

            Agreed with all that you said. Tech is slowly eating other jobs, thus expanding its footprint of the total number of jobs. Even if SF shrinks by half of the total tech employment percentage over the next few decades, there are likely to be more total jobs in SF. The areas that will shrink in total jobs will be places like the upper midwest that have very little to offer.

          • Posted by Jake

            The only thing self-driving car tech can make happen “instantly” is an avalanche of naively optimistic forecasts. Even Chris Urmson, longtime head of Google’s self-driving cars project, recently said it could take 30 years and “this technology is almost certainly going to come out incrementally.” 30 years is a lot of Friedman Units, incremental or otherwise. Wonder if google will even exist then.

            Funny how the closer we get to self-driving cars, the more obvious it becomes how far we are from them. Warning: Objectives May Be Further than They Appear …

            The below was written in 1991, during a recession in Silicon Valley which was three SV recessions ago:

            “Silicon Valley will be affected by this recession in another way.

            When Apple decided to expand its customer service and support operation, it did so in Austin, Texas, not the bay area. When it needed more manufacturing capacity, Apple headed to Colorado and Ireland. Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Applied Materials also have expanded elsewhere.

            The message is clear: Profit-starved computer companies can no longer afford the high price of operating in the bay area. They’ll keep their corporate headquarters here, and probably their research and development, to take advantage of local universities. But manufacturing, service and support jobs are flying out of California.

            But the valley has been shaken. There will be no more business as usual.”

          • Posted by Orland

            @Jake Hard to believe that it could actually take up to 30 years before auto-driving vehicles are a substantial factor in surface transportation.

            Then again, I well remember the night of July 20, 1969 watching the Armstrong/Aldrin initial lunar EVA believing with the conviction of assumption that I would one day traverse the same terrain as a visiting tourist. Had absolutely no doubt in my mind.

            Not gonna happen and I remain amazed at how little progress has been made in that field. It has now been more years since the Apollo 11 landing than transpired between Lindbergh’s transatlantic hop and Man on the Moon ( 47 vs 42 years). How can that possibly be?

          • Posted by moto mayhem

            orland. look at the example of how long it has taken hybrids to dent the market. despite a lot of prius’s in SF, the % of true hybrid cars, and full electric is very very low. and in the rest of country, still not making a real mark. IN 10 yrs, i would predict that <5% cars are self-driving. Most people LOVE their own cars

          • Posted by Orland

            Then, they’re just going to have to get over it. There is just too much good (and so much bad alleviated) with autonomous transport.

          • Posted by Futurist

            Oh please, nobody has to “get over” anything. I’m waiting for these self-driving car companies to truthfully tell me WHY I need a self-driving car and WHY I should want one and how it will make my life better. I call bs.

            So a self driving car is going to allow me to do what? Oh, I know: maybe spend more time staring at my smartphone and uploading more crap to Facebook.

            Humans like driving, period.

          • Posted by Sabbie

            Futurist hit the nail on the head. Why does Google want self driving cars, why does Facebook want to bring the internet to Africa and India? Because their product is your time. Less time driving, more time playing with your phone.

          • Posted by Jimmy The House Flipper

            Are you guys seriously telling me that you would rather spend your time stopping and go-ing in traffic 1 hour each way to work and back, or just set the car’s destination, swivel your seat 180 degrees and watch TV or catch up on some sleep while the car drives you home? Seriously? “stuck in traffic” is your preferred option?

            We’re not talking about a day at the race track here… typical driving is congested, chaotic and a huge waste of time.

          • Posted by Futurist

            Sorry, Jimmy, but you pretty much showed us exactly what so called self-driving cars will NOT solve:

            1. they won’t solve congestion.
            2. they won’t solve “chaotic’ whatever that means.
            3. And they won’t give you more “time”.

            I submit they are part of the dumbing down of humans: but like I said before they WILL allow you to spend more time doing more lazy, unintelligent and useless tasks, like, for example, logging on to the internet and FB; spending time googling about puppies, or porn or products.

            The future looks bright.

          • Posted by anon

            Absolutely what Jimmy said.

            When self driving cars work and are economical, they will be hugely desirable for many reasons. Comfort, use by the young and elderly, reduction of congestion.

            But I do think it’s going to be a long long road before they are practical, and economical.

            One little known fact it that Google pre-computes much of the data necessary for the cars to drive in mountain view. A nice hack for small scale deployment, but not representative of in the wild full scale deployment.

            Great to see the work being done on these cars, but I’m not holding my breath for them taking over the market.

          • Posted by Orland

            Really, Futurist? Elimination of 30K+ untimely deaths annually (in the US alone) isn’t enough in itself!

          • Posted by Futurist

            Yea, really. Pure speculation.

          • Posted by Orland

            Poppy cock!

          • Posted by Jake

            Self-driving features have been encroaching on the freedoms of the motoring public for many decades. My car can even change gears without my consultation. Magical hydraulic unicorns, according to the owners manual. Fortunately, as they do wear out and fail with age, spare parts are stocked in Hayward.

            Deaths per 100 million miles are one-fifth what they were in the 1960s. There are many available technologies to make us even safer without requiring unwarranted trust in the infallibility of the auto industry.

            Smarter roads with better signalling and sensors will probably be necessary for driverless cars in the urban multi-modalities. Ever drive on a repaved multilane road awaiting restripping with nothing but duct taped sticky notes to mark the ROW? Almost as dangerous as ground fog or black ice. Remove the paint (a visible signal) from the roads and it won’t just be Futurist crossing the unseeable lines.

            Anyone interested in this subject should read a recent study by the Rand Corp. (namelink). It explains the amount of testing it would take to establish the safety of driverless cars, including that to determine they would reduce vehicular fatalities by 20% could require 5 billion miles of road testing. Google has done less than 2 million miles of road testing.

            Automated safety systems are almost always a tradeoff between being better than manual in most situations while being worse in some situations. Probably for the best that the most recent landing of Flight 1549 was under the guidance of a man, Captain Sullenberger, instead of the autopilot.

          • Posted by anon

            I have no doubt that much testing and work needs to be done.

            But also remember that pilots are highly trained, sober and have to pass medical tests. While some drivers may be all three of the above, there are many many terrible and/or impaired drivers.

            A self driving car need not be better than the best driver in order to reduce fatalities. Simply by being better than the types of drivers that cause many accidents will have a huge effect.

            Computer chess programs could beat an average human long before they could beat the best human.

          • Posted by Jake

            “better than” and “reduce” are to be determined (TBD) from experience. Experience which we do not have (TBDed TBD) and which it would be foolish and even childish to claim to know until we do, not that anyone would dare to make such claims for a lifesafety system that seeks to displace an existing lifesafety system with which we have more than 100 years of experience and have spent trillions of $ to perfect.

            I’ve never built a computer chess program, but I have built some lifesafety systems, including transportation systems. And I’ve debugged some critical code that was more wobbly than most drunks. And I’ve diagnosed and replaced out-of-spec hardware that was misbehaving as badly as any (non-software) driver I’ve ever encountered on the roadways of many continents.

            This is the kind of thinking that gets people killed: “Simply by being better than the types of drivers that cause many accidents will have a huge effect.”

            There is an unhappy middle case of “being better than the types of drivers that cause many accidents” while being worse than the types of drivers that cause few accidents. The Goldilocks effect is not a good way to bet millions of lives, even though it may be good enough to beat an average chess player.

            “much testing and work needs to be done” is constant for any system in use, especially a lifesafety system. And there are drunk or otherwise impaired pilots flying every moment of every day.

          • Posted by Futurist

            All you people who are in love with self-driving cars are attempting to do is just throw out tons of data and metrics to (weakly) convince us they make sense; and that they are the future.

            Your little Pac-men on wheels will not enhance my life, nor make me happier, richer or safer. There is no other feeling when I’m on a road trip to Tahoe and sitting behind the wheel winding thru the mountain passes and FEELING the road; or wandering down a dirt road in the Mojave desert bouncing and vibrating to the washboard gravel. Nothing like it.

            And I, for one, don’t want some little toy car that look like it dropped out of a gumball machine to take away those experiences.

          • Posted by anon

            No one is sawing off your steering wheels anytime soon.
            The point is that in the midst of all sorts of bubble nonsense being worked on in SV self-driving cars are actually one of the technologies that has serious potential. Though I do think it will be decades before they fully come to fruition.

          • Posted by Jimmy The House Flipper

            You do realize that Tesla, which is a serious car — the fastest (0-60 2.8s) 7-passenger sedan ever built, has already logged 100 MILLION MILES on Autopilot? Self driving cars are a lot more real than anyone on here seems to realize. And the accident rate for those 100 million miles? Zero.

          • Posted by Jake

            Jimmy, yes I am aware of that stat and I realize it doesn’t tell us whether or how much safer a Tesla is with autopilot engaged than not engaged. That is a “serious” issue for “serious” people interested in a “serious” car. Unless and until Tesla releases their data for independent analysis we won’t know what conditions obtained or how they correlate with outcomes under similar conditions without autopilot. Until then you are just adding more pebbles to the avalanche of naively optimistic forecasts.

            Lies, damn lies, and auto industry self-serving stats.

            And Futurist can rest assured that the DMV will rescind his drivers license due to the infirmities of a hopefully very long life well before he can “just set the car’s destination, swivel your seat 180 degrees and watch TV or catch up on some sleep while the car drives you home.”

          • Posted by Futurist

            Oh please, anon. Serious potential? Ok, keep drinking the kool-aid.

            And yes, Jake, I agree with you. but when I get to where I can’t drive my rugged German SUV thru the dusty roads of Joshua Tree or Mojave, then I’ll just have to let my driver do it.

          • Posted by Jimmy The House Flipper

            I think we’re going to have to put you in the “late adopter” category. That’s fine. A few erratic die-hards on the road will not be a major problem when the whole world is running on Autopilot. Heck I still drive a stick shift sedan with no GPS or computer screens anywhere in sight. Or even a sunroof. (It does have traction control and A/C though). But I dutifully put down my deposit for the new Tesla Model 3 because I can see the winds of change on the horizon and they are coming faster than you think.

          • Posted by anon

            Firstly, I’d call the Tesla autopilot a semi-autonomous car, not fully autonomous. Secondly, while I’m happy to see the technology being developed, I am concerned about the level of testing being done before it’s released publicly.

            But, yes, seeing what Telsa and Google already have working indicates to me serious potential. And well before fully autonomous cars are practical, I expect that pieces of the tech will be deployed as driver-assist or safety backup systems.

          • Posted by Futurist

            Ok, fair enough. But why are we seeing/hearing more from companies such as BMW, Mercedes, Volks and Volvo talking about “self-driving” vehicles? Maybe they are, but haven’t heard much.

            And what serious BMW owner would ever want to give up the “ultimate DRIVING machine” for a toy?

          • Posted by Jimmy The House Flipper

            Mercedes has a version of automatic lane-keeping and braking in it’s cars but I would never buy a Benz because I am not a 65 year old Asian man. I truly believe that Tesla is far and away the market leader in this since they are accumulating vastly more real-life data than all other manufacturers combined and they have that can-do ethos and culture that is the kind of thinking that changes the world. The old-line automakers are just stuck in reverse, playing catch-up.

            Elon Musk has stated that he will freely share data and technology with other automakers — but clearly they don’t even know what to do with it.

          • Posted by Jake

            Jimmy, Musk/Tesla only offered to share data with the US DOT. He said he would consider sharing with competitors, but he hasn’t actually offered them data. This was widely reported in the past few days, but clearly some readers don’t even know what to do with it.

            As for “freely share” technology, well, Tesla offered to let others use their patents, but they did not offer to freely share all of their technology, of which the patents are a very small part. Many of us would be very interested to read their source code. BTW, Tesla uses open source software written by others in their cars. Probably use it in their cloud too.

    • Posted by moto mayhem

      the current administration is pretty anti-development.

  16. Posted by alberto rossi

    “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

  17. Posted by alberto rossi

    A tip of the hat to Jake for “Friedman Unit”. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a reference to that metric.

  18. Posted by Alex

    Hopefully they build up. This is simple economics, supply and demand. There is a demand for housing so we have to supply it in order to get prices back to normal. We need to build higher.

    • Posted by Futurist

      Wait wait wait!!!

      Prices back to “normal”??

      What is normal? what has ever been “normal”?

    • Posted by Jimmy The House Flipper

      So… you would look forward to a future in which current buyers suffer potentially large financial losses so that you can feel better about the price of housing in San Francisco? That’s a nice sentiment. Way to go.

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