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Autonomous cars make mass transit obsolete

Discussion in 'Cars and Transportation' started by richkae, Aug 25, 2013.

  1. richkae

    richkae VIN587

    Jan 15, 2008
    Imagine a small single occupant autonomous car not much bigger than an enclosed motorcycle. You call it with a cellphone app.
    It figures out where you are and comes to pick you up, and it already knows where to go because you entered that in the app.

    Imagine them so small and sleek that they are less than 100 wh/mile to operate. A 4kWh battery will take you 40 miles, there is no significant city bus route longer than that. The 4kWh battery could be as small as 60 pounds, the whole vehicle could easily be less than 500 or 600 pounds.
    In between passengers they can go find a place to charge or battery swap if needed before the next passenger. Intelligent routing will send you a vehicle that has enough charge to get you to where you need to go. When more cars exist than rider demand, the excess cars find a place to charge or swap or just park and wait in some out of the way location.
    The average bus ride is on the order of 5 miles, not 40, so you would actually choose a battery size that lets the entire fleet continuously operate through peak load ( rush hour ) without having to stop to charge or swap. Average speed during rush hour is likely no more than 25mph, so 40 mile range would let them operate for 1.6 hours, which is probably plenty.
    At 100 wh/mile your fuel operating cost is 1 penny per mile.

    Compare that to a 40 seat city bus that costs $350,000 and gets somewhere around 6 mpg.
    If the average number of riders on that bus is 7, then its the equivalent of 42 mpg. At $4 per gallon for diesel thats 10 cents per mile.
    If the bus is actually full then its 240 mpg but that is 1.67 cents per mile.
    If the city bus is $350000 and serves an average of 7 riders, then each of those riders is riding around in $50000 worth of bus.

    The tiny single occupant EV with a 4kWh battery could likely be made for less than $10000 each with todays technology. So you could have 35 of them instead of one bus. Since the single occupant EVs are more flexible than buses you would actually need significantly less total capacity.

    A properly built battery electric bus may be able to compete on efficiency with the single seat EV if it is full, but it is likely to be a loser when you factor in that it needs a much larger battery to be able to continuously circle the route ( which it continues to drive even when empty ) and cant just go charge or idle when there is no passenger demand.
    The BEV bus is also likely to be much more expensive than the ICE city bus, and thus it would be much cheaper to just have 40 single seat EVs.

    On top of all the efficiency arguments, the autonomous car will take you exactly where you need to go and pick you up from wherever you are. Vastly more time efficient than any current mass transit.

    It is unlikely that any form of bus or train can compete on cost ( operational or capital ) with small single occupant autonomous EVs unless you are talking about some kind of super high speed travel.
  2. Enadler

    Enadler Member

    Nov 29, 2012
    Westchester, NY
    Would make taxis obsolete as well.
  3. richkae

    richkae VIN587

    Jan 15, 2008
    Yes absolutely. There's a strong case that autonomous cars would make car ownership obsolete as well.
  4. IceWendigo

    IceWendigo Member

    Jun 5, 2013

    You could have that as part of an inter-modal system, where you would use this for proximity errants, and for regional transit, use it to a Faster regional Station (which could be small cabin Monorails like SkyTran or medium cabin monorail) where you go to another station where you enter the small proximity electric vehicle if that is where you want to go, or enter an even faster hyperloop/airport for very fast inter-region transport.

    I like monorails because you are above ground level which imo has many logistical/safety advantages, but for proximity, unless the urban design is made from scratch for walking to a nearby monorail, then a automated ground level vehicle is an interesting option.

    One can even imagine that the Regional Monorail and Inter-Regional Hyperloop might be able to load in these vehicles and transport them to the destination

    Specially if a Tesla Model E like-vehicle would be rolling over to your door ;)
  5. mitch672

    mitch672 Active Member

    Jul 1, 2012
    Stoughton, MA
    There is an app called "Sidecar" that lets you "call" for a car on demand, it knows wher you are base on GPS of your smartphone, it tells you how close the nearest driver is, and you tell it your destination, the driver then picks you up... You pay them though the app (no cash is exchanged). They suggest what the payment should be, but you can opt to pay more or less. This is a taxi replacement in a bunch of cities right now.. This same technology could be used with autonomous vehicles.

    Website: Overview - Sidecar
  6. RDoc

    RDoc S85D

    Aug 24, 2012
    Boston North Shore
    This is a proposal I wrote awhile ago Future-transportation-system-proposal. The basic notion is an overhead catenary system for heavy vehicles (buses, trucks) and everything else being self driving cars/jitneys which would replace all taxis, subways, city buses, etc. Private cars would only be allowed on most city streets if they were self driving.
  7. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

    Aug 18, 2006
    CA CA
  8. Zextraterrestrial

    Mar 11, 2010
    Humboldt/Los Altos
  9. brianman

    brianman Burrito Founder

    Nov 10, 2011
    Yes. Life and safety trump laws IMO.

    Next question? ;)
  10. Thumper

    Thumper Supporting Member

    May 6, 2011
    Corvallis, OR
    I see that NASA and Nissan are cooperating on autonomous cars. Nissan and NASA team up on autonomous zero-emissions test fleet

    As a US citizen, I am outraged that our tax money is being used to assist a foreign company at the expense of American companies unless the fruits will be shared with all US companies.
  11. jerry33

    jerry33 S85 - VIN:P05130 - 3/2/13

    Mar 8, 2012
    Giving NASA the benefit of the doubt they probably did try Ford and GM first (Chrysler isn't an American company) but didn't get any interest. Also the Leaf is now manufactured in the U.S. and presumably that's where the autonomous cars would be made. Anyway GM would just outsource production to China and Ford to Mexico, so Nissan may be the most American choice.
  12. Reykjavik

    Reykjavik Member

    Dec 9, 2013
    New York
    I think self driving cars will replace buses, but not subways or commuter rail. Trains are just really efficient, and when well implemented they are pretty popular. People like to joke about how the NYC subways are gross and full of weird people, which is true to an extent, but people still ride the trains regularly, and it makes a huge difference in getting around the city. I don't think there would be enough space to put enough autonomous cars on the road to replace the subway, even if they are very small. And commuter rail goes long distances at speeds that small personal vehicles become very inefficient.

    First, we are going to see autonomous cars with the driver still at the wheel, and still paying attention, then we will see systems robust enough that they don't have to pay attention for long stretches of time, then eventually, when cars can both practically and legally drive without an occupant, self driving taxi systems will hit the market.

    And I don't think this will ever completely replace car ownership. Cars are still status symbols, and luxury and performance vehicles will still be desirable either way. Personal car ownership will go more towards what horse ownership is today, something that is a pastime for enthusiasts, not a practical matter.

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