Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Michael Sutcliffe thinks Unmanned Aerial Vehicles would make a great military evac vehicle. What I’m interested in is Unmanned Land Vehicles, especially when I’m squeezed in a train trying to get home.

Can we develop a radically better form of public transport? Maybe. Lets start by getting rid of buses on bus transit lanes. Instead replace them with robot taxis; Robo-taxi. The basic technology for driverless cars seems to be here now. They can be electric with quick swap battery packs. Network them so they can be aware of each other and road conditions. They can be electronically linked to each other so they can speed up or slow down together like a train. The robo-taxis travel on set routes , commuters can call a robo-taxi at a taxi ramp or by mobile phone. You now have a responsive system that has the privacy and comfort of the private car with the advantages of the public transport , and unlike bus drivers, they don’t to take sickies or strike.

If the AI gets good enough they can operate on conventional lanes and would make most private cars redundant. Cars generally spend most of their time in a garage or parked waiting for the next drive. The robo-taxi could work nearly 24 hours a day, I therefore expect them to be cheaper then private vehicles. But theres more. Dump City Rail and pave over those tracks. convert them into highways and install electric power cables in the new roads. That way the robo-taxis can just power their motors from the highways saving battery power. Now the robo-taxi has nearly unlimited range they can travel at high speeds on the former train tracks and go pack to batteries on conventional roads.

This will probably remain a fantasy but I think the main obstacle to any radical change to public transport will be entrenched interests rather then technology.

1 comment:

  1. Even when we get half-decent 'driverless' car I think the way people organise their time will change substantially.

    Your 'home town' might then cover two capital cities and a rural community. For example, you might live in one of the rural winery communities on the edge of Canberra, work in Sydney and spend your weekends in Noosa, and all this would occur without any difficult or tiring travel arrangements. From your home in the country you would spend the first 90 minutes of each day working in your car, which is equipped as a mobile office, while travelling to your office in Sydney. You'll have everything you need to check your email, organise a schedule and make your early morning phone calls while your car drives you to work in Sydney. After doing the essential stuff at the office, meeting clients etc, you might watch the news and call friends on the way home. On Friday night, you could have a shower at work in Sydney after Friday drinks and then catch a movie and go to sleep in your car, which has a proper bed and entertainment system, to wake up at your weekender in Noosa. You won't even notice the transition.

    Flying is going to get heaps cheaper in our time, but it will still involve disruption to your life as you need to get to the airport, check baggage, spend your personal time talking to someone you mightn't like etc. A personal automated mobility system would be seamless. People would still fly to travel longer distances or to conduct business in other capital cities for a day trip, but it would be more of a chore.