What does the future hold? [Transport]

John Murray shared an interesting article this morning

The gist of the article is that – whilst autonomous vehicles can be instructed to take obey laws, follow rules, and react to environmental conditions etc – humans could  exploit that ‘weakness’ and ‘bully’ self-driving cars.

A conversation ensued on Twitter, some of which I’ve included here:

There were several separate threads, and I’m sure was only one example of many such conversations taking place elsewhere.

What started as a tweet sharing an article about the anticipated behaviour of a small number of drivers towards self-driving cars, swiftly morphed into a conversation about private versus public transport, planning, transport strategy, and climate change.

What’s the problem?

Phew! Where do you start? There are all sorts of factors, conflicts and complexities around transport, so the possibilities are endless. What follows is a quick brainstorm of some of those, in no particular order:

  • Car manufacturers want to maximise profit, so try to sell as many cars as possible, at the highest price they can
  • Car drivers value their independence, and are reluctant to use public transport as an alternative
  • In many places, public transport just isn’t good enough to compete with privately owned cars anyway (no service before / after certain times)
  • Councils are under pressure to cut costs, making them increasingly unlikely to subsidise public transport
  • Climate Change looms large – lots of pressure to cut emissions
  • Ownership of rail infrastructure, management, maintenance, and train operating companies is complex and full of conflicts
  • Poor links between different modes of public transport (rail, bus, tram, ferry etc)
  • People’s needs are complex and changing (young couple becomes couple with baby…young family…family with dog(s)…with disability…elderly couple etc)
  • Planning rules are slow and can be rigid
  • Problems vary according to geography, average income, population density etc
  • Local authority regimes have very different views about how to address transport issues
  • Technology is changing rapidly, and brings disruption at many levels
  • Technology also enables other forms of disruption, like the sharing economy (look at the impact of Uber and the like)
  • Governments come and go, politicians have to stand for election and rarely like to continue the policies of their predecessor (but even this could change…liquid democracy anyone?)
  • It’s a long list…add your own

So, what does the future hold?

jess_dixon_in_his_flying_automobileI’m personally convinced that the attraction of owning a car will diminish as the range of options improves. If you could step out of your door and be whisked away to where you want to go, for a good price, with the minimum amount of hassle, would you be tempted? Would it matter to you if that was called ‘public’ or ‘private’ transport?

I reckon, in 10 years time…

  • car ownership will no longer be the norm for most people*
  • we’ll be able to book / summon a vehicle at will
  • options will include
    • people, basic transport
    • people, mid-range comfort
    • people, luxury, on holiday etc
    • single (expensive), multiple occupancy (mid-price), group travel (cheapest)
    • moving bulky goods (accompanied)
    • moving bulky goods (unaccompanied)
  • most vehicles will be in continuous use, except when they’re being charged and maintained
  • car parks will become prime development land
  • vehicles will be electric, of course, with long life, interchangeable batteries (if batteries are still even needed)
  • rail will continue to be popular, and will become better value once it is returned to public ownership. There will continue to be guards on trains, but not drivers.
  • vehicles won’t necessarily be on roads, though that’ll continue to be the norm for some years until self-driving airborne vehicles come of age
  • there won’t be a long term problem with aggressive drivers, as there won’t be any drivers

That’s my quick effort. I fully expect to be proven wrong on many of these.

  • Very rich people will still of course continue to collect luxury cars and maybe even drive them on sunny days

Photo credit

This work is from the Florida Memory Project hosted at the State Archive of Florida https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jess_Dixon_in_his_flying_automobile.jpg#/media/File:Jess_Dixon_in_his_flying_automobile.jpg

About markbraggins

I’m interested in lots of things, in no particular order: society, politics, public services, open data, technology (and what you can do with it), wildlife, photography, the countryside, and long distance walking.
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