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"Only a Sith deals in absolutes." - Obi Wan Kenobi
Wow, that statement reeks of absolutism!
Reminds me of a conversation I had with a student about a dozen years ago. GPS was all shiny and new in the civilian world, and he was an ex Army Ranger. I thought he'd be really gung-ho about GPS, but he said he preferred a paper map. When I asked him his reasons, he said "A GPS unit with a bullet hole through it is a door stop. A map with a bullet hole through it is still a map."
Ever since then I've operated in the belief that robust technologies trump cool technologies.
Pilots have a joke about the cockpit of the future. It will have an experienced pilot, manual override controls, and a German shepherd. The pilot is there to take the controls if necessary, and the dog is trained to bite the pilot if s/he reaches for the controls, thus ensuring that the pilot will only reach for the controls in a real emergency. In a pinch, you could replace the dog with high voltage running through the controls, eliminating the need for walkies.
I was answering to your comment, which seemed to imply that they are never point-to-point, when the system as a whole often are. And for the on-demand thing: If it leaves every 10 minutes or so, that's close enough.
I'm not trying to imply anything, I want to proclaim it boldly! Trains are not point-to-point. They don't go from your door to a destination, and don't generally provide direct routes. They don't depart at your convenience, and in the US, at least, they don't depart every ten minutes. In fact, there is virtually no reliable subway/tram/train service throughout the US except for a relatively small number of cities - more on why below.
Even where trains are available, it's not what I meant by point-to-point. When I lived in Boston, I took the subways/trams everywhere. However, the system is laid out as spokes, and to go to some destinations I'd have to ride all the way in to city center and then out another spoke. It made what would have been a 10 minute trip by autonomous vehicle into an hour to hour-and-a-half trip (depending on how the trains were running that day) with transfers. I chose to commute to a summer job by bicycle, 20 minutes each way, rather than lose 3-4 hours out of each day by having to ride the spoke system, transfer to buses, and then still hike a kilometer from the nearest bus stop to the job. However, biking wouldn't have been viable in the winter, nor would it be viable now that I'm older and missing the cartilage and half the ligaments from one knee. But part of my argument here is that the public transport solution wouldn't be viable for me now either - hiking a kilometer on ice and snow both ways daily would now be both painful and dangerous for me.
But shure, if you live out on the contryside, it gets harder, especially during the night. However it's funny that you mention airports, as they are often quite well served by public transport. I have myself several times taken the airport express train or bus to catch an early flight.
The fact that one end of the system is tethered to high-volume points of interest doesn't help people who live nowhere near any of the routes that go there.
The US is very large compared to Europe, and most folks here don't have access to transport systems comparable to those in Europe. Building the infrastructure isn't viable for most of the country because we have much lower population density. For better or worse, these are the reasons why the US has a more car-oriented society. I think autonomous vehicles can potentially have a huge impact here via pooled usage, reducing the need for individual ownership while still providing the point-to-point and on-demand benefits that are currently only available with privately owned cars.
As CrimsonAvenger points out, not everybody lives near a train depot.
You've also completely ignored the "on-demand" part of the statement. Trains don't depart on your schedule. A train won't pick you up at your front door at 3AM because you have a 6AM flight and the nearest airport is in a city 100km away. A subscription or rental service for autonomous cars should be able to handle that with no sweat.
So if you don't bring it in for service like ever and the brakes fail or you haven't patched the car's software in 10 years, is it still their fault? If you want Google to own that liability, you can also expect Google to set demands.
I have no problem with that. It's an autonomous vehicle, it can drive itself to the nearest link for software updates or over to the repair depot at night. If repairs are going to take more than my normal downtime or a nighttime emergency comes up, a taxi should be able to come and get me.
I actually anticipate a day when most people don't own their own cars, they subscribe to an on-demand point-to-point transport service instead.