ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ Herman's blog

The future of self-driving

Modern self-driving technology still has a way to go before it becomes generally safe, and useful enough for broader adoption. While I do believe that at some point in my lifetime I'll be able to hail an eTaxi, it'll really depend on where I am, the road infrastructure, and the local laws and regulations.

Fully independent autonomous vehicles have a few other shortcomings (assuming we get the tech right). The first is that traffic will not be a solved issue. In-fact, it may become an even bigger issue once the friction of learning to drive (or even being old enough to get a license) is removed.

This is compounded by the natural "rush hour" cycle (which, lets be honest, isn't an hour) where the suburban population surges into the city in the morning for work, then out again in the late afternoon, competing with one-another to get home.

Let me propose a radical new idea: The hitched pod.

Instead of fully independent vehicles which cause traffic and phantom traffic due to how they accelerate, hitched pods are mechanically bound to one another. This creates space efficiency on the roadway, and due to their mechanical linkage they all accelerate uniformly.

These hitched pods would not have to be independently owned either, reducing the commuters high up-front cost of vehicle ownership. Instead they could be operated either privately or publicly since vehicle time-usage for the average commuter is only about 5-10% of their day with their vehicle sitting dormant and depreciating the other 95% of the time. This is the real "sharing-economy" at work.

Not only does this make trips cost effective for average commuters, the hitched pods could also be time optimised using algorithms to ensure they handle the flow of commuters as efficiently as possible (eg: in the morning more pods bring people in from the suburbs, and vice-versa in the afternoons).

This also frees up parking space in cities, which reduces the burden on local governments and independent car drivers looking for a place to park their vehicle, but also creates a better overall atmosphere for residents. Parking lots could be transformed into apartments (increasing urban density and housing availability), businesses (increasing livelihood through more foot traffic), or green spaces (which are just great).

There are a few optimisations that could make hitched-pods the de-facto transportation of the future.

  1. There could be consistent hop-on hop-off points with fixed times (say every 15 minutes) so commuters can easily plan their commute.
  2. Payments could be made simply by tapping a bank card reducing the need for apps. It also means commuters can get on a hitched pod even when their phone is dead.
  3. Open the mechanical linkages between the pods so commuters can easily find a place to sit (or stand) during transit. This would allow for better space efficiency and reduce the cost of the system per commuter.
  4. The city could create dedicated lanes for hitched-pods so that they avoid traffic. This is both a boon to the hitched-pod riders and independent vehicle users since there will be less vehicles on the road overall, and therefore less car traffic.
  5. Instead of using a self-driving pilot car (which relies on fallible AI and complex sensors and systems to operate) we instead use a mechanical direction system. I propose 2 steel beams which the pods rest upon on conical wheels. This will ensure the pods do not go off-route, and also reduces rolling friction and, therefore, the energy required to move the pods.

I know the idea of transporting hundreds of thousands of people efficiently seems neigh impossible. But I think this idea just might work if we put our minds to it.

...trains. I'm talking about trains.

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