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Future transportation system proposal

Discussion in 'Cars and Transportation' started by RDoc, Dec 26, 2012.

  1. RDoc

    RDoc S85D

    Aug 24, 2012
    Boston North Shore
    A set of modest proposals:

    Highways - Electrify one or more lanes with overhead electrified wires (catenaries) that would be exclusively used by qualified vehicles that had electric motors that would draw power from the catenary. All vehicles using this lane would be required to have extensive on board real time diagnostic systems as well as auto driving and communications systems to network all the vehicles traveling in a group together. If the diagnostic system in a vehicle noticed a problem, the vehicle would be automatically exited from the group and lane and the driver put back in control. There would be one speed for the lane, probably about 100 kph with all vehicles automatically maintaining the same speed and a safe spacing that would likely be much closer than current practice to get some drafting benefit. To enter a lane, the driver would maneuver the vehicle to an adjacent lane and as much as was safely possible match the speed of the electrified lane. Then the entering vehicle would communicate with the ones in the lane who would automatically open up a gap, merge the new vehicle in, then close the gap and adjust all the vehicles' speeds and spacing. Exiting would be the reverse with control returned to the driver once the vehicle was safely out of the lane. If something went wrong they would all slow down together and if necessary turn control back over to the driver. Exclusive use of the lane would be enforced by vehicle cameras that would capture license plates of any non-authorized vehicles in the lane for legal action.

    Trucks - Similar to current tractor trailers but with articulated pickup arms and connectors similar to trains (pantographs) to connect to the catenary for power to supply electric motors for long distances plus diesels for local driving. Like all vehicles for this system, they would have to have the auto driving and diagnostics systems so they could use the electrified lane safely.

    Buses - Same hybrid power and auto driving systems as the trucks but with much better suspensions than currently, probably active air systems to get the ride quality up to train standards. With automatic exclusive lane use the average speeds would be higher and the ride would be much better than currently so people would be more likely to use them for medium distance travel than current buses.

    Car Train Leader- This is a new type of vehicle whose purpose would be to allow a train of private limited range electric cars to link together for longer distance trips so they could use the controlled highway lanes and wouldn't be charge limited. It would have a pantograph to power the entire train and its own electric motor, but ultimately wouldn't need to be a hybrid or have a high capacity battery as it would never leave the electrified highways. Initially there'd likely be a need for a heavier version that would have an engine and generator while the catenary system was being built out. The Train Leader would get power from the catenary and distribute it down the train of cars behind it to power their motors and recharge their batteries. The cars would be running under their own power, not being towed, so the Train Leader wouldn't have a particularly powerful engine, it would just have the electrical distribution system and serve as the coordinator for the entire train. Since the cars would be running touching each other, the drag would be significantly reduced. Light trucks, passenger vans, limos etc., hybrid or all electric, could qualify as well, but would have to conform to the same control and physical connection standards and would be limited in how much current they could draw to avoid overloading the Car Tractors. The trains would be both statically and dynamically scheduled so commuters could rely on them and during off hours be re-routed according to real time demand. For local parcel delivery companies, etc. there could be private Car Trains that would consist of the company's delivery vehicles to move them between suburban distribution centers and urban delivery routes. A possible extension to this would be for heavy trucks to offer some kind of ad hoc train service to private cars going the same way.

    Private cars - These would be all electric or hybrid vehicles with standardized physical connections, communications, auto driving and real time diagnostic systems so they could safely join together in trains. Most private cars would not have a pantograph as they'd get their power from the physical connection to the other cars in the train or on board batteries. For local travel they'd just run normally and for city use they'd be able to use the city systems described below.

    Cities - Most of the city streets would be exclusively used by autodriving electric or hybrid vehicles, leaving a few for existing vehicles, heavy trucks, through traffic, etc. For limited hours non-electric vehicles could use the streets for heavy deliveries etc.

    On most main streets, almost all the time, all vehicles would be under auto driving control with city wide real time traffic coordination optimized for throughput. These streets would have their own catenary systems for use by city vehicles, and while ideally the catenary systems for the city and highways would be identical, I'm doubtful that's practical. These streets would have a much more complex traffic control system than the highways to deal with much denser traffic with cross streets and vehicles stopping to drop off passengers and freight, then rejoining the flow. I think this could all work if all the vehicles were under a single control system, but doubt it would work if there were human drivers in the mix. Pedestrian and bicylce traffic would have to be very tightly controlled for safety and to maintain efficient flow. WRT bicycles, they wouldn't be allowed to weave through traffic, but bicycle lanes would really be kept clear and safe and the incidence of car dooring greatly reduced since there wouldn't be on street parking.

    Smaller residential streets would be capable of auto drive control but would run much slower and at lower densities for safety, pedestrians, dogs, kids, etc. than they do now or the way the main streets would operate. There would be no catenaries so the vehicles would have to run on battery power and no on-street parking since the cars could just pull over, drop off passengers, then automatically valet themselves to a parking facility to recharge while waiting for a call to return. To slow down traffic and make the residential blocks more livable, the parking might be done by blocking the streets at one end and using it as the parking area with the cars connected together for charging. The cars could automatically move themselves out of the way to extract one in the middle which would then slowly drive down the block to pick up its owner.

    Subways - For cities with existing subway systems that are essentially light rail vehicles, they would be rebuilt as underground express lanes for standardized jitneys and cabs. Essentially they'd be paved over and exit and entrance ramps added to move vehicles to and from the city level streets. Rather than the existing fixed route/schedule underground train system, there'd be a system of automatic jitneys holding perhaps 20 passengers each that would be dynamically scheduled by user demands with inputs from cell phones and kiosks. As the desired departure/destination journeys changed, the system would dispatch the jitneys accordingly and dynamically reconfigure the loading platforms to group passengers going to the same destination. Since they could run underground in coordinated trains with vehicles touching, they could have higher traffic densities than current subway systems and in many places there would be enough room for a though lane and a pickup lane although it's likely that most of the pickup platforms would eventually be at the surface. The individual jitneys would be able to enter and leave the subways via the ramps so the subway and surface auto drive systems would be completely integrated.

    City Buses/Jitneys - Ultimately, these would be the same vehicles for use above and below ground and the surface and underground systems would be unified with surface stations operating the same way as the underground stations with raised platforms and dynamic scheduling. A bus could pick up passengers at street level, make a few stops, then enter the subway, make more stops, then continue its route on the surface. While the system was being built out, they would likely have to be hybrid systems with drivers that could leave the automatic streets' catenaries and continue under their own power and human control. They would use the same kind of active suspension as the highway buses for comfort. They use raised platforms on the streets at stops to eliminate paying fares on the bus, speed up loading and unloading, and make them compatible with the subway system. For door to door service, the buses would coordinate with the taxi system so a passenger could use a taxi, bus, taxi combination without significant connection waits.

    Taxis - Auto driving capable vans with pantographs for the city catenaries, either hybrids or long range electric. Essentially much smaller versions of the City Buses but with a driver. During non-rush hours they'd be able to use the subway system as express lanes to go longer distances although they probably couldn't pick up and drop off passengers at the subway stations. Most of the time they'd be under automatic control either on the controlled streets or in the subways, but still have a driver to go door to door on non-controlled residential streets or outside the urban areas. For longer trips their pantographs likely wouldn't work with the highway systems, but they could join the car trains if necessary. There might be an opportunity for coordinating the taxis and long distance buses with some kind of commission system to compensate the cab companies for handing off passengers to the bus system.

    One final thought. The vision of a city with the major streets capped with the wires and posts of the catenary system may not be that appealing. However, another way to do this might be to have a system of linear pedestrian ways raised over the streets with frequent openings to the sky and the catenaries hung under them. The current side walks would be uncovered so the sky would be visible there, but most of the width of the street would be decked over. If private companies were given concessions for small shops, restaurants, etc. along the walkways it might largely pay for its own construction.

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