If proponents of autonomous vehicle adoption are correct, we might see an adoption pattern similar to the adoption of next-generation mobile platforms. That is to say, the latest platform (5G, for example) will happen first in the dense urban areas, with older platforms continuing to exist in less-dense areas.

“Ridesharing is just the first phase of the movement to end car ownership,” argues John Zimmer, Lyft co-founder.

“At first, fully autonomous cars will have a long list of restrictions,” he says. “They will only travel at low speeds, they will avoid certain weather conditions, and there will be specific intersections and roads that they will need to navigate around.”

That fits the urban-first deployment model for a next-generation mobile network.

“As technology improves, these cars will be able to drive themselves in more and more situations,” says Zimmer. That corresponds to the continued deployment of a new mobile network in small towns and cities.

“Hypothetically, Lyft could initially have a fleet of autonomous cars that completes rides under 25 miles per hour on flat, dry roads,” he says.  “Then, we could upgrade the fleet to handle rides under those same conditions, but at 35 miles per hour.”

Phased deployment, in other words, will make sense. Eventually, every kind of trip can be completed by an autonomous car. That is like the final phase of initial construction, when a new mobile network is built in rural areas.