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Erik of Hazelfield

Electric cars and the future of transportation

109 posts in this topic

19 minutes ago, Kalbear said:

Okay, those are adorable. 

That's how they quietly sneak up on you on their electric wheels and take your job.

@Erik of Hazelfield, labour and fuel cost reduction (electricity still comes from somewhere and needs to be paid for, you can reduce the number drivers but someone is still going to be cleaning the bus, etc) is not such a massive part of your average public transport system that it will make all the difference. It's a question of urban structure (and political will.) Reduce transit operating costs as much as you like, you're not going to be able to come up with efficient, useful service for a low-density, sprawling suburb built for cars and rife with disgusting cul de sacs and no sidewalks and the like.

MOST cities have buses running every, maybe not five, but ten-twenty minutes until late at night, like right now, drivers and gasoline and all. That's fairly standard for usable service in an normal urban neighbourhood (much below that and it's too long a wait to have enough passengers, meaning demand might be too low to maintain the line.) Where the hell do you live?

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I live in the Swedish city of Västerås (funnily enough pronounced sort of like Westeros) which does have a pretty good bus service and no car queues to speak of. And I guess you're right about the buses.

You seem to know a lot about this subject. Is there anything that can save an urban sprawl neighbourhood or are American cities doomed to live with congestion and car dependence forever?

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Zombie hordes?

Nothing is entirely doomed, there's just no single, magic-bullet, transport solution of some new technology. Today's autonomous robot pod electric car thing is just yesterday's, look, ma, no stoplights highway overpass. Build better, think about transport when you do, don't build cul de sacs they're nasty, think about whether anyone wants to live next to a parking lot, make it so people can walk to some or most of the things they need, etc. The 'technical' term here is Transit-Oriented Development (https://www.itdp.org/tod-standard/ - just one example, it's a broad concept). It seems like a no-brainer, but the historical evolution of transport and land-use planning, funding, etc, under separate agencies in most places means that they're surprisingly difficult to integrate at the ground-zero level, and something is always playing catch-up. Also the fact that many places, alongside their residents and their cars already, you know, exist. But it is changing (slowly, in some places) and (some) places are seeing real improvements, there's no particular mystery here.

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2 hours ago, Datepalm said:

Reduce transit operating costs as much as you like, you're not going to be able to come up with efficient, useful service for a low-density, sprawling suburb built for cars and rife with disgusting cul de sacs and no sidewalks and the like.

How about one bus stop per suburb, with on-demand minibuses that transport people between the bus stop and any destination within the suburb? (Or between any two points within the suburb, for that matter.) Wouldn't that be much more efficient than every house in the suburb having a car or two of their own? With a massive increase in public transport usage, frequency of buses can be increased to make the service much better. And during low demand periods when the high-capacity buses aren't running, the minibuses can do longer trips.

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Posted (edited)

7 hours ago, felice said:

How about one bus stop per suburb, with on-demand minibuses that transport people between the bus stop and any destination within the suburb? (Or between any two points within the suburb, for that matter.) Wouldn't that be much more efficient than every house in the suburb having a car or two of their own? With a massive increase in public transport usage, frequency of buses can be increased to make the service much better. And during low demand periods when the high-capacity buses aren't running, the minibuses can do longer trips.

Maybe, but you're sort of describing a park-and-ride train station suburb. Its a way to reduce car traffic into the city, and being done in a lot of places. Whether within the suburb people are driving to the mass transit stop or there's some system of minibuses worked out is not ultimately very important in terms of vehicle-kilometers travelled, which is the important number in terms of sustainability, congestion, making the enviornments people live in not-insufferable, etc (and with those minibuses, it is all about the peak demand times - this system is basically going to be a school bus for commuters with an extra minibus or two tacked on the rest of the day. Which basically exists in plenty of places. Within that suburb, you could arguably right now live exactly this way: Uber (or just plain old taxis) lets you order a car on demand whenever you want...it's not making people massively give up their cars, at least not yet, and more crucially, there's early evidence it's actually putting more small vehicles with low fill rates on more roads for longer.

This idea of flexibility of public transport is just not adding much to solutions to the actual problems we have, in my opinion. It will let us add a nice extra layer of public transport efficiency if its a little more demand responsivee, to operate off-peak times and the like that bit better. Great. But going all the way into some kind of push-button-get-private-car-at-door...er, we call that a taxi. Or a car-share system. Or just owning a car. That you won't have to own it 24/7 is not that important in trerms of distances travelled and road space occupied. The backbone of any urban mobility solution is still mass transit at the urban level + walkability at the neighbourhood level. If you live in a big sprawling suburb where its five miles to the nearest place to buy a packet of cigarettes - own a car. You probably genuinely need one. I would if I lived there. Just don't bring it into the city, and vote for people who'll re-zone the place.

We can do videos now, right?

Edited by Datepalm

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13 hours ago, Kalbear said:

Natural language processing is not a simpler problem than autonomous driving. Especially for an AI. Same with virtual assistants. Figuring out how to make a computer do something like interact with humans in a natural way is hard, as we don't understand humans all that well. Figuring out how to use radar, lidar and sonar to detect objects and calculate speeds is by comparison a vastly more understood problem. It's kind of like saying that because computers have a hard time recognizing birds that they'll have a hard time playing chess; the two problems aren't really related in any way, and certainly not in development.

This raises an interesting question, is it enough to merely have a car that can drive autonomously? Or will natural language processing be a necessary part of the package? 

Mere autonomous driving is fine if you are going from A to B i guess, or any other route along pre-determined locations. But for real-life situations such which demand snap-changes in plans the system will need to understand the passenger quickly for the best experience. I am thinking of situations like, oh pull over that store seems interesting, oh let's stop at the supermarket on the way, etc etc. 

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Quote

 

half of U.S. demand in 2027 would add up to 9.1 million electric vehicles, based on Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates. If those all ran on 60 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery packs—reportedly the standard package for the Model 3—it would require enough manufacturing capacity to produce 546 gigawatt-hours’ worth of battery packs annually. And that's just for the United States market.

To put that into context, worldwide EV battery production stands at only 90 gigawatt-hour today, and there's only 270 gigawatt-hours in the planning or construction phases, according to BNEF. 

 

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608331/teslas-model-3-is-a-long-way-from-elon-musks-grand-goal/

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14 hours ago, Datepalm said:

Finland is supposed to get a self-driving bus this year, and it's been trundling around - supposedly on its lonesome - at a stately, sedate pace for a few months now, if I understand correctly.

https://www.curbed.com/2017/6/15/15810912/driverless-self-driving-bus-finland-helsinki-transportation

The future is here! Or at least in a cute little robot-bus in suburban Helsinki.

I know it's already been discussed, but these cute buses just make me sad thinking about the drivers who could now be out of work.  Will the monitors who are there for the testing continue to stay on during actual live transport?  Maybe that could offset the massive job losses.

Technology, always screwing the lowest paid out of their jobs. 

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Driverless public transport is going to have serious problems with vandalism and crime. You could turn the driver into some sort of conductor, guard, whatever, but there is no way you could run busses, subway trains, etc autonomously without human supervision. That kind of thing might work in small, sheltered places but not in a big city.

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6 hours ago, Loge said:

Driverless public transport is going to have serious problems with vandalism and crime. You could turn the driver into some sort of conductor, guard, whatever, but there is no way you could run busses, subway trains, etc autonomously without human supervision. That kind of thing might work in small, sheltered places but not in a big city.

Doesn't seem that big an issue in most subway systems I've ever used. Or in the local tramline, where the driver is never visible either.

 

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On ‎8‎/‎4‎/‎2017 at 1:34 PM, Datepalm said:

Reduce transit operating costs as much as you like, you're not going to be able to come up with efficient, useful service for a low-density, sprawling suburb built for cars and rife with disgusting cul de sacs and no sidewalks and the like.

How about one bus stop per suburb, with on-demand minibuses that transport people between the bus stop and any destination within the suburb? (Or between any two points within the suburb, for that matter.) Wouldn't that be much more efficient than every house in the suburb having a car or two of their own? With a massive increase in public transport usage, frequency of buses can be increased to make the service much better. And during low demand periods when the high-capacity buses aren't running, the minibuses can do longer trips.

Long ago, I spent a couple years driving for a 'van service' hereabouts - essentially a fifty mile long, five to fifteen mile wide sprawl of rural, semi-rural, and suburban subdivisions with stores, clinics, schools, offices, machine shops and government buildings dropped in.  We did door to door passenger service.  Yet...

...something like half the stops were at the same fifteen or twenty places.  And there were places in each subdivision that would have worked as bus stops without that much of a walk (quarter mile, maybe.)

Indeed, the original conception for the van service was to have five or six vans running regular routes with fixed stops at fixed times.  Quite a few of the riders wanted this.  However, the people in charge always said 'No, that would make us public transportation.'  The van service still runs, and that 'No, we are not public transportation' mentality is still deeply entrenched at the top.

 

(Did I mention this is a heavily conservative area?)

 

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Some (almost all) places there is regulation over what can and can't constitute public transport (like having fixed stops and a schedule, or being not on-demand) and once you're that you run into all sorts of regulation...basically, you were running a form of paratransit. To become formal, probably there's a tender and licensing process by the regulator (local transit authority...in the US I think that's usually the county) which, in this instance, it wasn't willing to do. That's also a political choice, of course, but its not in the hands of the operator per se, which seems to be the dedcision-point you're describing. .

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Posted (edited)

14 hours ago, Loge said:

Driverless public transport is going to have serious problems with vandalism and crime. You could turn the driver into some sort of conductor, guard, whatever, but there is no way you could run busses, subway trains, etc autonomously without human supervision. That kind of thing might work in small, sheltered places but not in a big city.

The Skytrain in Vancouver has been driverless since the 80's. (IE when it was built) Indeed it's the longest automated system in the world. There's no problem with crime or vandalism on the trains with no supervision.

Edited by TrueMetis

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43 minutes ago, Datepalm said:

Current summary presentation on the topic from the Berkeley Transport Research Center, might of interest to some. (note point on slide 1: Don't believe what you hear in the media.)

http://www.path.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/my_folder_76/Pre_03.2017_RoadVehicle.pdf

Thank your for your informative posts Datepalm.

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One of my collection of part time jobs involves putting together an overview of current research and policy in vehicle automation at the moment. :dunno: This constitutes a break. ;)

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As long gasoline remains  relatively cheep and until they can substailly increase the range of electric car batteries and lower the overall costs of the electric car so more people can afford them, the Internal combustion engine is here to stay.

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A new huge bike parking facility is opening in Utrecht in the Netherlands, but that won't be enough. Apparently the city planning and building speed is slow enough that demographic changes and commuting preferences overtake them.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/07/worlds-biggest-bike-parking-garage-utrecht-netherlands?CMP=share_btn_tw

Quote

Yet such is the intensity of the Dutch love affair with the bike, authorities in the Netherlands are being accused of complacency, rather than praised for their foresight. The 12,500 places at Utrecht station are all very well, critics say, but with 43% of journeys under 7.5km (4.6 miles) being taken by cycle in Utrecht – creeping up from 40% five years ago – they simply aren’t enough, said Martijn van Es, spokesman for the Dutch cycling organisation Fietsersbond.

...

“It goes up every year in Netherlands. I look at a lot of cities in the Netherlands and they are just talking about building the infrastructure, but at the same time the figures are still rising. I am from Utrecht. They have been talking about updating the city since 1989. The infrastructure hasn’t changed enough. And there are a lot more cyclists today than there were, [and much of the infrastructure] was built in the 1980s.”

Which of course also holds for cars, but there even more so. So even there electric or even self-driving cars can only be part of the mobility infrastructure.

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