Showing posts from 2016


Todays roads are the modern equivalent of an early English countryside . Source of much of their culture's romantic imagery (Andrew Marvell, Jack Kerouak) these are spaces that no one controlls and, therefore, are as unmanageable as they are over-utilized. The choking congestion of most urban space is a situation similar to what was first described in mid 18th century England as the tragedy of the commons. The commons was land at the center of most villages utilized by all, but owned by none. It worked well at times of limited population, but overuse usually resulted in decreasing returns both individually and in aggregate. The only apparent solutions are to limit access, or coordinate use, but both remove the essential freedom at the heart of the idea of a commons. We find ourselves at the same crossroads. Our best solutions seem to be increasing regulation of the open road. To increase the capacity of this shared space, even to mitigate the costs of the ever-


Something I put together with a little help from sketchup. At the bottom of the post is a quick analysis of how many of these vehicles it would take to take care of small package delivery and solid waste collection in a Seattle-sized city; The video below demonstrate two  modes of operation. In parallel mode wheels are oriented to pick up or drop off uniform containers.  In-line wheel configuration allows vehicles to move at speed in traffic lanes, on road margins, and in more constricted transport corridors.  The future is, in retrospect, both less surprising and curiously different than we imagine. The problem is that we cannot see beyond a lifetime spent in a world of cars, any more than or great-grandparents could see beyond a world of steam, or theirs of horses..... But we can look beyond the disadvantages of driverless cars as we now envision them (and envision simple solutions); Disadvantage #1 They scare us-- so they should be small, and not too fast. Disa

Mars has his way

Almost every new technology,. especially transportation technologies, has done their share to occasionally increase the volume of human misery in the world. Its hard to  imagine the trenches of ww1, with the ceaseless supply of bullets and bodies, without the emerging efficiency of steam and rail. Or the civilian airliners of WW2 in their new role as bombers bringing ever larger numbers of civilians within the scope of total war. Frankly, what more autonomous vehicles enable? It is important to note that the bloodshed described above is as much about removing existing limits on man's ability to wage war as it is about creating new ways to kill. Trains removed many of the limitations that distance, and seasons, imposed on warring armies. Bombers alleviated the limits physics imposed on the travel of munitions beyond the front lines. The question then remains, are there serious limits to our ability to wage war that still remain? And if so, does the automation of transportation

The Road to Driverless Cars -- Safety Systems

One unique characteristic of autonomous vehicles is their potential to be safer than the mode they replace. Cars today are safer than ever, but their use still results in over 35,000 deaths a year in the U.S. alone. Safety systems are now becoming available with the potential to mitigate the results of driver error, and avoid some accidents entirely. Advanced safety systems - lane departure warnings, collisions alerts, even direct accident avoidance - are finding their way into an increasing number of luxury and even mid-price vehicles. At this point most of these features are optional and rely on consumers to value them highly enough to pay more.This is reminiscent of the of the early stages of the process that saw the adoption of  passive safety systems such as airbags and ABS. Consumer interest may lead to active safety features being adopted, perhaps more quickly than ABS and airbags, which had minimal adoption rates early in their introduction (even though t