Autonomous vehicles offer opportunity to radically rethink mass transport - The Next Silicon Valley

Autonomous vehicles offer the opportunity to radically rethink how we implement mass transport in the future, and save billions of dollars in public infrastructure spend. But the challenge in our current way of thinking for all involved, from OEM’s to government, is how best to implement this technology into real world applications, and what economic model will best serve the general population and manufacturers/operators simultaneously, says a white paper published earlier this year.

It proposes that a paradigm shift is needed in our terminology, from mass transit to human transit —a minor change in terminology with major implications. We need to be thinking in terms of moving a human, not a mass of humans, says the author of the paper, the Nashville, Tennessee councilman Robert Swope. He adds that we, collectively and individually, need to begin to re-think what mass transit really means in the age of autonomous vehicles.

He says we need to leverage efficient transit technology, namely the autonomous vehicle (AV) to 1) realize huge governmental cost savings through public‐private partnerships, 2) increase traffic efficiency, and 3) create freedom of movement not dependent upon any socioeconomic status.

We publish extracts from his paper here:

“I believe that we, as a society, have reached a critical point in the evolution of transportation. A point where small change is not going to satisfy the demand for efficiency, or move the economic dial substantially in any manner. We have reached a point where only a true paradigm shift in the way we address both local transportation and national infrastructure funding has to occur. I suggest we adopt these changes before we needlessly spend trillions of taxpayer dollars across the national spectrum.

There are a dozen implementation models currently being tested throughout the world. From personal vehicle ownership and ridesharing applications to bus rapid transit lanes and fleet service operations, all of which have existed relatively unchanged for over 70 years. It is time for a change, a new way of moving from point to point, a new way of creating the financial structure to construct the necessary infrastructure, and a new manner of societal thought. Within this paper, I submit a model that I believe will create this paradigm shift for the betterment of all.

The first reality to understand is that transportation, whether personal, mass or freight, affects every aspect of our lives. Affordable housing, transit equality, urban design, cost efficiency, equalizing the disabled, creating a cleaner environment, shortening freight delivery times, and overall quality of life are just the surface of the issues transportation addresses. They are far too great to list, but in short, transportation affects every person, every day, in countless ways.

The second issue to evaluate is the immediate critical need for rebuilding the infrastructure in America, and the world. Most of the highways and bridges in the United States were built in the fifties. 60 years ago. While Eisenhower had great intentions in 1956, we are now at the point where our transportation infrastructure is beginning to fail. The USDOT, state and local governments have spent trillions of dollars of public funds on this crisis and have done little except increase municipal, state and federal debt. And that debt is increasing exponentially as we move forward. I believe that to increase the level of publicly funded spending to facilitate infrastructure rebuilding is an outdated model we should reject in the future.

When one looks into creating a new model, one has to ignore the current status quo entirely. Most road projects are funded in the same manner they have been for over a century. The USDOT provides an estimated 80 percent of the funding for federal highway projects, with each state and municipality sharing the remaining 20 percent of the construction expense. As for state roads, the USDOT funds an estimated 50 percent with each state and local municipality sharing the remainder. This is the case for most, if not all, federal and state highway and road systems.

Read the full article here: