Blue Lanes - A Strategy for Integrating Driverless Mobility

The Blue Line

The Driverless Road

Planning for the driverless road


1 The challenge
  • It's the road stupid
  • You think congestion is bad now
  • Where has all the money gone?

2 A modest proposal
  • Design guidelines

3 Why act now(summary)
  • Its about the Road

4 Blue lanes in seattle
  • Notes from an earlier revolution
  • And one even earlier
  • And before that
  • Case Studies
  • Why Blue?
  • Intro to me and my vision


Multiple routes-intermittent usage.  Designated routes should have flexible timetables( think bike route during the day, deliveries at night, pedestrian mall/pop-up market on the weekends)

Vehicle signaling.  No need for fixed signaling, av's used to announce oncoming traffic with projectors, flashing lights, and sounds(preferably music)

Also, municipal governments must create a carrot and stick in order to do you effectively with mobility providers. Since you just woke government cannot Control the operation of strapless vehicles on state street's, The existence of set aside routes for driverless vehicles gives in the school governments a carrot that can be used to leverage mobility provider compliance with municipal policy goals.

The Blue Line.  Road design for driverlpart 1

The Road We Are On

Across our country we await a new form of transportation and its implementation by some of the largest corporations in history. We sit passively, in the passenger seat as it were, hoping for the best. But what is something missing in our debate about driverless vehicles. (Make strong statement about how important that we start making decisions about the road, beginning with the simplest step being drawing a line) Having learned not to put the cart before the horse, we risk a similar mistake in putting the car before the driverless road. Because in the end it is the shape the road takes that will most powerfully impact the lay of the land in a world of driverless vehicles.

Driverless vehicles represent one of the greatest technological challenges ever undertaken. So deceptively difficult that the running joke has been that its implementation has been twenty years away…..forever.

The Danger

. And having solved it, will have a great leverage to maximize their market control in the transportation sector. How do we avoid this

Large mobility providers possess deep pockets (and near infinite line of credit) and will be able to implement driverless networks largely on their own.  As this will be an attractive prospect for cash strapped governments, the result will be significant control over access to mobility by these providers.

After all why not let them do it for us?
For example, a driverless system could easily favor some retail models over others, funneling customers to privately owned mall type spaces over locally owned small businesses. It may well be that the cost of entry will limit the number of competing mobility providers. The result would be similar to the.     Cable

And then there is the reality that driverless vehicles will go not where the roads are, but where the best roads are. Just as Internet traffic makes no use of copper cable laying inches from a new fiber-optic line, SDC's will gravitate towards the best infrastructure in a manner and at a speed not typical of existing traffic. In short, to have the second best roads will be no roads at all, bypassed as effectively as state highways (like route66) were by the interstate.  

History tells us this is a recipe for disaster. But what can we do?
If we don't grab the wheel (or at least have a hand on the emergency brake) we may face situation where transportation is a monopoly of mobility providers. It is critically important that municipal and regional planning organizations participate actively in the process of developing a driverless infrastructure as early as possible. This should go beyond the passive acts of regulation and oversight. There's more to the driverless infrastructure then just cars without steering wheels. The road without drivers is still the road, and we own the pavement.

Last, and perhaps most important in the short term, is that the establishment of control over lanes for driverless vehicles gives local and regional transit authorities the opportunity to recapture revenue lost to the failure of the gas tax.  A lane dedicated to the automated vehicles miles traveled would provide would establish a record of miles traveled and all the necessary information to meter and charge it a pork per mile, per minute, or varying density rate charge. Government has strong incentive to implement such a system as It would quickly pay for itself. Driverless car would pay for the asphalt between their wheels, and quite possibly for all of our asphalt too. After all, there is relatively less political outcry to taxing a robot. As long as we don't give them a vote, that is

In the end we have to recognize that this is a regional transportation system, the car no longer requires the entire nation for its playground, to be effective.On a regional/municipal level we need to have control of Av’s to respond tpo local needs. We must have the power to tell them where to go, where to grow.

The Challenge
How do we design a road for a technology that does not yet really exist?
What is the first practical step when the technology is in such a fluid state of change. Aren't we getting ahead of ourselves?
How do we take on the challenge of designing a driverless road. We start by accepting that we know even less about the future of the road than we know about the future of the car.  The difference is that while the driverless car is a project firmly in the hands of the private sector, the road is public property. It is the most utilized public commons ever: it has resisted both private control as well as effective public regulation. Both overused and overbuilt, it is the source of much of modern economic activity and a fundamental limit on its growth.

And now it is about to see dramatic change in the road just as it reaches the breaking point. A dangerous situation that cannot be controlled by innovation alone. But regulation is clearly a dangerous undertaking in such an uncertain situation. The answer is both simple and audacious - build a system within the existing system. Allow a driverless road to grow in an uncontrolled fashion in a tightly constrained framework. A new road. A blue road.  

It's a simple idea. In is basic form no more than blue paint on pavement. A single lane no wider than the vehicles themselves.  A lane on underutilized or marginal pavement. A lane without fixed rules or signs. Lanes that are widely separated from each other where space is limited and traffic heavy, but that extend into every nook and cranny of the existing infrastructure. A space where any vehicle equipped with sufficient communication, navigation, sensor, and control capabilities can operate, even those under direct human control.

Could the first step really be as simple as grabbing a bucket of paint (and really, it doesn’t have to be blue) and drawing a line? Why not let waymo, uber, ford, and all the other massive private companies now racing to produce the first large capacity mobility product solve the problem for us? Well, we’ve been down that road before. Anyone familiar with the darker corners of corporate America’s battle against mass transit knows the danger of unrestrained capitalism. And the unquenchable need for space that individual mobility based on human operated cars had effects far beyond our dependence on fossil fuels for mobility. The program of road building that began in earnest after ww2 …..

But there is a silver lining in the oceans of asphalt produced by …….if we can spare 2% of it draw a thin blue line.  

And drawing lines has always been a powerful tool for asserting control.

How local and regional planning organizations respond to the development of driverless networks, and more importantly leverage the resources they do have, will help determine how effectively this powerful new technology support the goals of sustainability. So what can they do?

The challenge is that there is no roadmap to a successful driverless system. Finding a way to both accommodate driverless technology as well as encourage a wide range of approaches to taking advantage of the opportunities it provides requires something regional planning organizations are not known for - flexibility..

Why not just give AV’s some room to themselves. One such idea is the blue Lane. These lanes need not be numerous, and they don't require any special rules. In fact they operate better the few were constraints that are placed on them. All they are would be a lame painted blue, with a continuous signal running along the top. When in use that signal would burn blue, indicating other traffic should stay out of the lane. The usage times would be dedicated only to those times when autonomous vehicles are in the lane, insufficient numbers to support their usage of the lane. At intersections existing signage would be used to limit or stop existing traffic flow while autonomous vehicles pass.

The development of driverless vehicles and all the benefits that come from them will be rapid. But, let's be honest, it will take time. What we need to now know is what steps can we take now to both develop the vehicles, and more importantly the infrastructure that will support a driverless ecosystem. After all it is the road and not the car that will have the most historic impact, and is the area which is most open to Innovacion by regional and urban actors.

In a mixed environment of driverless and manned vehicles almost all the advantages of avs are lost. In fact they are counterproductive to and goal of providing mobility and sustainability to the larger urban population.  


There is no Driverless Car
The importance of establishing lanes early.

You think congestion is bad now
It can get worse. The fighting this disease with a limited area to operate in forces them to work with marginal asphalt, and leave her already congested roadways largely to ourselves. The truth is that under prevailing conditions a significant role out of driverless vehicles will make congestion worse, not better, in the medium term. Even the best case scenario where drivers quickly adapt to the presence and function of driverless vehicles the basic fact remains, these vehicles will be on the road for significantly more time per vehicle, creating an outsized effect that is greater then their numbers would suggest. Even now it is the common impression that mobility services such as Uber Lyft are increasing stress, as well as congestion, on the roads.

Here again local and regional transportation agencies have options to solutions that are beyond the reach of even the most deep pocketed mobility provider. And providing these solutions are importare important beyond simply facilitating the development of self driving vehicles. Much as providing a path of least resistance for a building volume of water, the spillway as it were, providing segregated path would allow them to be used as efficiently as possible and with a little impact as possible on existing traffic conditions. With the added advantage that the impact of SDC’s on urban mobility would be more clearly ascertained.  

Conclusion. The challenge of congestion in major urban centers around the world is acute and growing. Driverless vehicles, on the face at least, present a threat of an increase in that congestion rather than the reverse. This need not be true. Driverless cars need a much smaller footprint in which to operate efficiently. Providing that footprints, that segregation from existing traffic, will more quickly unlock the benefits of removing the driver from the driver seat

The critical challenge is to provide mobility providers with a lane that simplifies the challenge of providing autonomous mobility. If this isn't done only those companies that can solve the difficult challenge of autonomy municipality in and heterogeneous environment will dominate the landscape, and be largely beyond significant regulation. By opening an easier path to driverless mobility municipalities will maintain control, open the field tomultiple solutions, and have a continuing say in the development of mass mobility systems in their  municipality

A modest proposal

Design principles

  • Reduce, Reuse. Focus on the wasted asphalt and marginal pavement at the edges of our transportation infrastructure. The limited lane width and lack of signage allow routes to take unusual and unprecedented paths. Most important may be that the vehicles themselves can be used in novel ways, to signal the arrival of dvs
  • Small Footprint. Lanes are no wider than the actual vehicle requires  (no more than 7-8’). Placed at 10 to 15 block intervals along major axes of existing road networks although not on congested routes. Driverless traffic would only proceed when a critical mass of vehicles allows the efficient “platooning” of vehicles. Lanes would be open to other uses when driverless vehicles are absent.
  • Open Source. All data collected, solutions developed, and customer access to be shared freely as a condition of entry. Perhaps the greatest challenge to entry for private companies, but key to ensuring access and deriving full benefit of what is a public resource: the road. The road as a Creative Commons.
  • No Rules. Omni directional. Beyond the demarcation of the lane, and indicators that the lane is live, there are no signals, no signs, and no fixed direction. The direction and rules governing use of each lane would be open to change on an ongoing basis. This requires both a comprehensive and highly redundant control and communications network, with vehicles equipped to operate in a dynamic environment.  
  • Branching Out. Access should be established by an extensive rather than intensive network. Reaching into rule areas and industrial areas, linking to locally sourced foods, small businesses, and underserved populations in general. The last mile problem is actually two problems. The first is the challenge of moving goods from the distributor to wherever autonomous lanes end. The second is the last 500 feet or so of nonautonomous lanes.
  • Tread Lightly. Minimum alteration of existing infrastructure. Explain how existing signaling would be modified at intersections. Explain at least two options for delineating the blue lanes of themselves.
  • Platform agnostic (level four, level five,driver piloted vehicles,etc) Blue lens should not be reserved exclusively for the most up-to-date driverless technology. It should be accessible and functional for as many technology platforms as possible. This includes even manned platforms that have the communications, navigation, and safety equipment, as well as the appropriate training to operate safely in a autonomous environment. Attracting startups
  • Productive over Disruptive. Existing business models are given active support so that the advantages of rapid and predictable delivery can be tailored to the needs of existing businesses. This is especially true for small businesses and start- ups. Iinnovation is not reserved strictly for deep pocketed disruptive companies, but grows from the actual needs of existing employers. Just in time transportation
  • The Road Ahead. The unique properties of a driverless roadway will only emerge over time.  where vehicle and path are integrated. The importance of communication\integration. Rely on advantages associated with the driverless system. . Where the road does not provide sensors to determine potential obstructions(pedestrians, debris, pets) or visibility is not sufficient for safe progress even at low speeds, vehicles with passengers should be preceded by passengerless autonomous vehicles. Attracting startups
  • Sustainability. The ultimate goal and driving principle ……
  • Small is Beautiful. In the initial stages small numbers of driverless vehicles will have little positive effect on congestion so major can also wait until driverless ecosystem mature to handle load)

Design guidelines conclusion.  The infrastructure the develops from driverless vehicles will be complex in ways that are unprecedented. The blue lanes are simply an expedient that will allow us to develop at complexity as quickly, and as painlessly as possible. It is a small scale starting point, and as important for it being the first step as it is for the system that ultimately develops from it.

Section.  Nuts and Bolts.

Why would these deep-pocketed companies play along? If given a choice, they may not. But given the opportunity to operate in a less challenging environment, segregated from the drivers they seek to replace, they will have little choice but to take part. The key is to prime the pump. To attract innovators  to the open nature of the system, and the optimism of the problems it attempts to solve.

And the problem for planning organizations is not just that there is no finalized design, but that there is no  vehicle is only half the problem.

Historical Notes


Tear a page from history. And then write the next one ourselves.
The page we tear from history is the one where to build a ribbon of steel across a continent we offered the one thing we had in abundance -land - to anyone who would build it. In this case, however, it is asphalt we have in abundance.

The page we write is the first urban spaces dedicated to this new form of transportation - owned by

Blue lanes-why local (seattle-make a special version of blog post just for seattle) government should take the lead in in developing driverless networks.  
Railroads, interstate highways, basic cable, are all examples of transportation/communication infrastructure that grew beyond the control of municipal or even regional governments.

Real roads are a wonderful example of an infrastructure project that was far too large for you in the US government undertake. The result was a system that was both critical to the country and yet beyond it's direct control.Driverless vehicles will present their own challenges to anyone interested in developing structures that are sensitive to local needs and values.  But in some very important ways it is a technology that may be surprisingly amenable to development of local needs, especially if we act quickly. But not all large infrastructure projects are beyond local and put in control. The Internet, perhaps the largest for them all, has so far

What they are

Why Blue

The blue lanes. What for driverless vehicles is the equivalent of net neutrality.

Driverless mobility,  New term for the mobility ecosystem based on driverless vehicles.

The path need not be straight.

How would it work?  The concept of an experimental open road. One lane every 10-20 blocks running east and west,north and south. About the same distribution as freeways. No fixed signs, lane markings, just a blue Lane approximately 10 feet wide.  ust the requirement that either the car is fully automated or the driver is fully trained with the car that is in for connectivity with the system and has the appropriate display to provide directional information, as well as exterior lighting units to communicate to non-qualified drivers. Additionally these non-qualified drivers might be able to pair with qualified drivers in order to use that roadway

Government initiative does not require a detailed government directed design. Nor does government involvement necessitate government control.

The key is flexibility. The rule is to avoid signage as much as possible. when demand is sufficient to justify dedication to your vehicle traffic the lane would become dedicated to foods or bike traffic. In many cases it would revert to its Defaults use as a turn lane at Cetera. The path can be established as a walking, pedestrian much can be given over to pedestrians? How much is given to them now? 15% now, 30% later, 100% increase? A permanent bike lane right down the middle? Physically protected pedestrians?

A nice blend of automated, semi automated, and drivers.

Where does it go? Blue lanes need not to go everywhere, they need not go anywhere specific. As long as driverless vehicles have the capacity to operate on existing roads the blue lanes simply act as an Excelerator, allowing driverless vehicles to remove be removed from traffic volumes and reduce congestion as quickly as possible. It's to be an ass dick pictures of the bent appointed to the percentage of the essence

The important facts of the system are. Intermittent use; they would be open to other vehicles unless the situation called for taking advantage of the driverless component. Platform agnostic; the concept of an open infrastructure such as the blue lanes leaves room for a flexible approach to vehicle form factors.

Who gets to use it? We want to play too! Gives humans who think they're great drivers a chance to prove it! Sharing the blue lanes with robots will be the honor given to those drivers that have been trained and showing their ability to drive at moderately high speed with full concentration and great reliability. It might usher in the era of the professional civilian driver.

Why blue?

Blue is my favorite color, simple as that

Taking advantage of underutilized pavement is Advantageous in several ways. Because  arterioles are primarily devoted to traffic there really are a few destinations there. Alleyways would be much more suitable, as initial drive with traffic will include with just sticks and delivery vehicles in the mix. The space required with not be large, no more than 8 feet, and as possibly as narrow as 6 1/2 feet. No need for two lanes, one will do as the lane would be bidirectional. For example a single lane paralleling Mercer that accommodate a driverless traffic "pulses" at five minute intervals could carry volume equal to 30 percent of existing traffic on that road, alleviating congestion and possibly opening up the possibility of more bicycle and other dedicated use lanes in congested areas.

It would give us a chance to prove that some of us are just as good as computers are driving cars. At least for the time.

Blue Lanes in Seattle

Include link to blog-how much would a woodchuck chuck?

Create a map of possible routes through the city-starting with north Seattle.

It's the Road, Stupid


The greatest challenge facing a flexible approach to implementing driverless ecosystems in an   urban setting is the structure of existing planning organization's. Changes in Roche, and projects for a new Road space, I have extremely long time horizons, often in the decades.

Why Blue?


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