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Detroit Train Station for Autonomous Vehicles?

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Detroit Train Station for Autonomous Vehicles?

Old 06-19-18, 10:54 AM
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Detroit Train Station for Autonomous Vehicles?

Apparently, Ford Motor Co. is buying and renovating Detroit's abandoned train station and turning it into a research center for autonomous vehicles. This got me thinking about the relationship between autonomous vehicles and trains, as we know them. Could autonomous vehicle technology become the 'train rails' in an age of automation?

Let's really think about this: with all the debates about safety and hacking of autonomous vehicles, we seem to forget that rail-transport is and always was dangerous. Trains don't stop on a dime and so we've seen safety technologies emerge like cow-catchers and automatic crossing gates with loud bells and flashing lights. The one thing we never had to worry about, however, was steering. Rail vehicles steer themselves very well; after all the rail is what steers them.

Now think about autonomous vehicles with all their lidar, etc. to steer them. Why not just put guides on the roads that steer the vehicles the way rails steer trains and street cars? If these vehicles only go where there are 'rails' for them, how are they different from other rail vehicles?

Really, you could make the argument that rail vehicles are better than autonomous vehicles guided by a special paint stripe or whatever, but isn't the problem with rail that it costs too much? For whatever reason, it is easier to get investors, buyers, mechanics, etc. to coordinate their economic activities to build and maintain a fleet of cars than it is to get them to maintain a rail system, but what if the railroad is suddenly made of autonomous vehicles?

Finally, this leads to the question of whether LCF is really fundamentally about living 'car' free, or whether it's about living without having to own and drive a car. Often we talk about trains and buses as if those are fundamentally different from cars, but trains have 'cars' and buses have motors. So really LCF is about numerous other issues for most people, but if ride-sharing or car-sharing or autonomous vehicles or whatever innovation in automotive technology frees us from the need to own and drive a personal vehicle, and at the same time reduces the amount of cars and pavement, then maybe Ford is onto something and autonomous cars are a reason to revamp the train station.

https://detroit.curbed.com/2018/6/19...n-this-weekend
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Old 06-19-18, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
Finally, this leads to the question of whether LCF is really fundamentally about living 'car' free, or whether it's about living without having to own and drive a car. Often we talk about trains and buses as if those are fundamentally different from cars, but trains have 'cars' and buses have motors. So really LCF is about numerous other issues for most people, but if ride-sharing or car-sharing or autonomous vehicles or whatever innovation in automotive technology frees us from the need to own and drive a personal vehicle, and at the same time reduces the amount of cars and pavement, then maybe Ford is onto something and autonomous cars are a reason to revamp the train station.
As we've seen in numerous past threads there is a variety of opinion on what "car-free" means and also a variety of different motivations for wanting to be car-free. Most commonly people want to reduce expense, get exercise or reduce the harmful effects of cars on the environment and/or society. If everybody stops owning cars, but relies on them just as much as ever through widespread use of hired driverless cars, that wouldn't seem like much progress to me.
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Old 06-19-18, 07:21 PM
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Originally Posted by cooker View Post
As we've seen in numerous past threads there is a variety of opinion on what "car-free" means and also a variety of different motivations for wanting to be car-free. Most commonly people want to reduce expense, get exercise or reduce the harmful effects of cars on the environment and/or society. If everybody stops owning cars, but relies on them just as much as ever through widespread use of hired driverless cars, that wouldn't seem like much progress to me.
True, but my hope is that autonomous vehicle sharing will liberate a lot more people to do a lot more walking instead of toting and parking their personal cars everywhere they go because what else can they do, leave it? Currently there are only two options for car-owners: 1) leave it at home or 2) bring it with you wherever you go until you park it at home.

My thought in terms of passenger rail is that autonomous vehicles would basically be rail vehicles where the rails could just be painted on the road instead of built. These would be fixed routes similar to buses; and there could also be buses on routes with enough demand for seats. The business model would be similar to rental car agencies that have a lot of cars in stock, but instead of checking them out like library books, they would just drive along fixed routes continuously like buses.

It would basically just be a way to increase the frequency of bus service and add new routes and extend schedules without the local transit authority having to buy more buses, hire more drivers, etc.
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Old 06-20-18, 05:09 AM
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Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
True, but my hope is that autonomous vehicle sharing will liberate a lot more people to do a lot more walking instead of toting and parking their personal cars everywhere they go because what else can they do, leave it? Currently there are only two options for car-owners: 1) leave it at home or 2) bring it with you wherever you go until you park it at home.

My thought in terms of passenger rail is that autonomous vehicles would basically be rail vehicles where the rails could just be painted on the road instead of built. These would be fixed routes similar to buses; and there could also be buses on routes with enough demand for seats. The business model would be similar to rental car agencies that have a lot of cars in stock, but instead of checking them out like library books, they would just drive along fixed routes continuously like buses.

It would basically just be a way to increase the frequency of bus service and add new routes and extend schedules without the local transit authority having to buy more buses, hire more drivers, etc.
Autonomous cars won't need guidance systems built into the road as they have mapping software, although they will benefit from clearly painted or otherwise marked lanes on busy roads. It's possible that they will make it more economical to operate what are essentially frequent minibuses on popular routes since there's no driver cost.
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Old 06-20-18, 06:25 AM
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There's no need to make the autonomous "bus" replacements to follow a fixed route. Just have it take you direct to your destination (within the local region, I suppose.) Most could be a very small vehicle, just 4 passengers or so. And lightweight and efficient, since they can go get recharged as needed, and be taken out of service when there's less demand. No need for a big bus that runs empty a lot of the time.

Downsides:
I wonder if personally owned autonomous cars will just "circle the block" while the owner is running errands, instead of trying to park. Lots of congestion.

If there are competing "uber" point to point services, will they send empty cars to cruise popular areas so they can have the shortest pickup times? Packs of empty cars!

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Old 06-20-18, 06:50 AM
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Originally Posted by cooker View Post
Autonomous cars won't need guidance systems built into the road as they have mapping software, although they will benefit from clearly painted or otherwise marked lanes on busy roads. It's possible that they will make it more economical to operate what are essentially frequent minibuses on popular routes since there's no driver cost.
One of the big points I'm trying to get across in this thread and raise for discussion is the idea of rails as a steering system. Rails are actually more than that, because they reduce rolling resistance as well, but if we assume that tires are going to be part of the mix, then the steering aspect of rails is very easy to replicate with autonomous cars. Probably the existing road striping is sufficient to steer them, and the big issue is programming them to stop for passenger pickups, etc. In other words, if we think about programming autonomous vehicles in terms of programming a transit system, it becomes less threatening then expecting autonomous cars to do all the complex maneuvering and routing that human drivers do. I think it is much easier to just plan transit routes (maybe just use existing ones) and add autonomous vehicles to those routes, and maybe add some more routes. Then, you basically just improve transit service by offering more frequent scheduling and the option of paying for a private car as a premium service. Plus autonomous cars have no problem "letting the bus back in," because they can be programmed to plan ahead and adjust their speed so that they don't need to accelerate or decelerate for vehicles stopping ahead of them, or even traffic lights for that matter.

And yes I agree with you that there can and should be autonomous shuttles that carry more than a sedan's load of passengers. Mid-sized buses should become popular and make it possible to custom fit vehicles to bus-stop loads along a given route/schedule. So, for example, if you have a certain route that picks up every 15 minutes with an average of, say, eight people at the stop, then a minibus that holds 10 or 12 people could serve that route. Maybe the vehicles could even adjust their speed if the bus stop has enough people waiting to fill them to capacity. I.e. they run every 15 minutes but if enough people are waiting, the next vehicle speeds up and comes a few minutes early.

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Old 06-20-18, 09:09 AM
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Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
One of the big points I'm trying to get across in this thread and raise for discussion is the idea of rails as a steering system. Rails are actually more than that, because they reduce rolling resistance as well, but if we assume that tires are going to be part of the mix, then the steering aspect of rails is very easy to replicate with autonomous cars. Probably the existing road striping is sufficient to steer them, and the big issue is programming them to stop for passenger pickups, etc. In other words, if we think about programming autonomous vehicles in terms of programming a transit system, it becomes less threatening then expecting autonomous cars to do all the complex maneuvering and routing that human drivers do. I think it is much easier to just plan transit routes (maybe just use existing ones) and add autonomous vehicles to those routes, and maybe add some more routes. Then, you basically just improve transit service by offering more frequent scheduling and the option of paying for a private car as a premium service. Plus autonomous cars have no problem "letting the bus back in," because they can be programmed to plan ahead and adjust their speed so that they don't need to accelerate or decelerate for vehicles stopping ahead of them, or even traffic lights for that matter.

And yes I agree with you that there can and should be autonomous shuttles that carry more than a sedan's load of passengers. Mid-sized buses should become popular and make it possible to custom fit vehicles to bus-stop loads along a given route/schedule. So, for example, if you have a certain route that picks up every 15 minutes with an average of, say, eight people at the stop, then a minibus that holds 10 or 12 people could serve that route. Maybe the vehicles could even adjust their speed if the bus stop has enough people waiting to fill them to capacity. I.e. they run every 15 minutes but if enough people are waiting, the next vehicle speeds up and comes a few minutes early.
One of the barriers to LCF or LCL and we hear it here all the time, is that public transit is stigmatized as smelly, dangerous and so on. I think it is possible, that if people start to give up car ownership and rely on first on chauffered Uber and later on hired driverless vehicles, they might also become less hesitant about sharing a ride because they assume the one or two other passengers are their kind of people, and thus shared transit will become less stigmatized. Multiple smaller cars can also be a lot more flexible than large buses, so a diverless car might pick you up at your door, and offer you a discount if you agree that it can pick up one or two other passengers along the way. The usage will then define the popular routes, much like foot traffic across the newly laid campus lawn shows where the sidewalks will need to be. Cities might enourage or subsidize independent jitney services or incorporate it into public transit because it will mean less costly road maintenance if they can eliminate large buses.

However, it might end up that people still prefer to ride alone, and the benefits of sharing won't emerge, and the roads will be as congested as ever and we will still need traditional public transit buses for people who opt out of paying extra for a single occupancy vehicle.
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Old 06-20-18, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by cooker View Post
One of the barriers to LCF or LCL and we hear it here all the time, is that public transit is stigmatized as smelly, dangerous and so on. I think it is possible, that if people start to give up car ownership and rely on first on chauffered Uber and later on hired driverless vehicles, they might also become less hesitant about sharing a ride because they assume the one or two other passengers are their kind of people, and thus shared transit will become less stigmatized. Multiple smaller cars can also be a lot more flexible than large buses, so a diverless car might pick you up at your door, and offer you a discount if you agree that it can pick up one or two other passengers along the way. The usage will then define the popular routes, much like foot traffic across the newly laid campus lawn shows where the sidewalks will need to be. Cities might enourage or subsidize independent jitney services or incorporate it into public transit because it will mean less costly road maintenance if they can eliminate large buses.

However, it might end up that people still prefer to ride alone, and the benefits of sharing won't emerge, and the roads will be as congested as ever and we will still need traditional public transit buses for people who opt out of paying extra for a single occupancy vehicle.
I think the stigmas of public transit are very relative to a culture where private car ownership/driving are normalized. What I mean is that if you look at young people who use transit while they are in college, or people who take transit when they travel to cities where transit is "the way to get around," people are fine with it and dealing with those smelly or obnoxious passengers is just par for the course. It's when they go home or to some other place where driving is the norm, at least for people in their social class, that they fall back into the habit of making excuses for not taking transit. Ultimately the real reason is that it's just not "the thing to do" because their peers, relatives, colleagues, etc. all drive so unless they are the type of person who doesn't mind being different, they're going to make whatever reasons work in their mind to justify going with the flow. This is why marketing departments put effort into normalizing their products and not just advertising the benefits.

This is why autonomous vehicles operating to augment transit vehicles has real disruptive potential, i.e. because people are basically still taking a car to their destination, but the car is operating like a streetcar on rails. If their reasoning is that it's more private and hygienic to travel in their own car, then they can pay a little extra to ride alone. Probably most people will realize the benefits of getting a better deal by taking a shared ride and of course they'll be reminded often that sharing rides reduces traffic congestion on the roads. Carpooling was promoted the same way, but it is too difficult to coordinate shared rides when people have different destinations and time-constraints, and one person has/gets to be the driver while others have to be passengers at the mercy of a host.

I think many more people would take transit if the schedules and routes were more comprehensive. In peoples' minds it boils down to having to choose whether to have a car or not. Once they choose to invest in the car, they are so much less likely to leave it at home to take a bus unless they live someplace like NYC where driving and parking are enough of a hassle to make transit clearly more convenient. With autonomous vehicles, transit systems are suddenly augmentable without adding new buses and drivers to the system. Still people will choose private vehicles, even if they don't drive them themselves, but the balance will shift a bit toward ride-sharing, which will become more synonymous with transit because fixed routes/schedules along with flexibility made possible by smart technology will cause the two forms of transportation to converge a bit.

Obviously I'm not going to be satisfied as long as I can see opportunities for reducing waste and pavement being missed, but I think the use of autonomous vehicles like rail-cars will increase the opportunities for making better choices available to people. Cynics on this cite will point out that it doesn't matter what opportunities are available, people continue to choose waste in the interest of convenience, comfort, economic stimulus, etc. but until something is done about that, we can only hope that more opportunities emerge to make better choices and that more people choose to make them.
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Old 06-21-18, 11:59 AM
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How the Koch Brothers Are Killing Public Transit Projects Around the Country

"In another line of attack, he also argues that ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are the future of transportation, not buses and trains. “Why would anybody ride transit when they can get a ride at their door within a minute that will drop them off at the door where they want to go?” he said in an interview.

Asked whether low-income people could afford to use Uber instead of a bus, he said that subsidizing their rides would still be more cost-effective."

In a different article, apparently Kock-funded anti-transit forces are also using autonomous vehicles as another tactic to kill public transit proposals.
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Old 06-21-18, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by cooker View Post
One of the barriers to LCF or LCL and we hear it here all the time, is that public transit is stigmatized as smelly, dangerous and so on. I think it is possible, that if people start to give up car ownership and rely on first on chauffered Uber and later on hired driverless vehicles, they might also become less hesitant about sharing a ride because they assume the one or two other passengers are their kind of people, and thus shared transit will become less stigmatized.
But if it ends up being someone you don't want to share a ride with, you're stuck in a smaller, more intimate space. I might think people would be more fearful than that.
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Old 06-21-18, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by jon c. View Post
But if it ends up being someone you don't want to share a ride with, you're stuck in a smaller, more intimate space. I might think people would be more fearful than that.
I agree. I think it is more comfortable to share a bus with strangers than a car. I think most of the autonomous ride-shares will be mid-size shuttle vans, though, with around 12 person capacity. Twelve people is enough that you don't feel confronted with the other people you're riding with but less than a bus so you can justify more routes and more frequent scheduling.

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Old 06-21-18, 07:56 PM
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Originally Posted by jon c. View Post
But if it ends up being someone you don't want to share a ride with, you're stuck in a smaller, more intimate space. I might think people would be more fearful than that.
Yes, and maybe sometimes people feel a limo or bus driver will be a mediator or cop if a passenger acts badly and a driverless car won't have that. However they'll have multiple cameras and maybe a live link to an operator or even police.
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Old 06-21-18, 08:08 PM
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I think it was because the place is huge and being in Detroit is was not only local but the price was cheap.
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Old 06-22-18, 07:48 AM
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Originally Posted by cooker View Post
Yes, and maybe sometimes people feel a limo or bus driver will be a mediator or cop if a passenger acts badly and a driverless car won't have that. However they'll have multiple cameras and maybe a live link to an operator or even police.
I suspect that as automation grows more widespread, security will be accomplished in more creative ways, the way secret shoppers keep store employees on their toes by never knowing which customer is testing them. Probably autonomous transit vehicles will have passengers who unexpectedly address bad behavior the way a driver would or at least could. In fact, I think the plain-clothes security people will be more effective than a driver because drivers have to pay attention to the road and operate the vehicle whereas security will be free to focus on passenger issues. There will also probably be employees that act like train conductor, popping on and off various routes to take note of how things are going.
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Old 06-22-18, 06:43 PM
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Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
I suspect that as automation grows more widespread, security will be accomplished in more creative ways, the way secret shoppers keep store employees on their toes by never knowing which customer is testing them. Probably autonomous transit vehicles will have passengers who unexpectedly address bad behavior the way a driver would or at least could. In fact, I think the plain-clothes security people will be more effective than a driver because drivers have to pay attention to the road and operate the vehicle whereas security will be free to focus on passenger issues. There will also probably be employees that act like train conductor, popping on and off various routes to take note of how things are going.
I don't get the reason for an autonomous car service to plant a bad mannered person in a vehicle. Also having security riding in driverless vehicles would defeat the purpose of going driverless, which is mainly economic.

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Old 06-22-18, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by cooker View Post
I don't get the reason for an autonomous car service to plant a bad mannered person in a vehicle. Also having security riding in driverless vehicles would defeat the purpose of going driverless, which is mainly economic.
You said that people look to transit operators for security. My point is that security will get more creative with autonomous vehicles.

Look at self-checkout lines at stores. There is one attendant for six checkout stations. That reduces personnel costs but it doesn't eliminate jobs. People can do other things besides man a station or operate a vehicle or other machine.
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Old 06-22-18, 07:07 PM
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Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
You said that people look to transit operators for security. My point is that security will get more creative with autonomous vehicles.

Look at self-checkout lines at stores. There is one attendant for six checkout stations. That reduces personnel costs but it doesn't eliminate jobs. People can do other things besides man a station or operate a vehicle or other machine.
Of course it eliminates jobs - it eliminates 5 out of 6 cashier jobs. That's why they did it.
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Old 06-23-18, 05:08 AM
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Originally Posted by cooker View Post
Of course it eliminates jobs - it eliminates 5 out of 6 cashier jobs. That's why they did it.
Who wants to do a redundant job? If self-checkout stations are a viable way for people to shop and pay at a store, why would you make them have another person scan their purchases for them? Would you also want an attendant at every water fountain to push the button for you to drink? How about concierges at each bathroom to open the door for you so you don't have to touch the handle after washing your hands? Why not automate work where it makes sense to do so and free up human labor/time to do more relevant things? In fact, I just read a headline yesterday about a burger place that has robots making burgers so the employees can get paid $16/hour to study educational books. Maybe it was a fake news headline, considering how implausible it sounds, but the question where automation and efficiency are concerned is what humans should do with their time/energy when they are fed, housed, and clothed and the machines can operate themselves.

In terms of security/peace-keeping, which you mentioned as a service performed by transit operators, there are two basic options: 1) people can behave themselves of their own accord and thus render the need for paid security/police redundant OR 2) they can behave badly and try to get away with things while security/police try to stop them. I would call option #2 the Loony Toons option because it reminds me of those old cartoons where characters frantically try to abuse and/or escape each others' abuses. For some reason, many humans seem to prefer this social mode of coupling bad behavior with policing, maybe because it creates more jobs, idk. I'm sure with so many people freed up from driving by autonomous vehicles, there will be new and creative methods of social control on transit vehicles . . . or maybe people will just behave themselves and render security redundant; you never know.
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Old 06-27-18, 09:28 PM
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I wouldn't mind because I have no job and I don't want to buy standard units of produce so someone needs to know the codes, what the products are, spot any problematic products before I take them home and I still won't and can't get a credit card. SERVICE. I also don't bag well, I tried that as a job years ago.
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Old 12-14-18, 03:08 PM
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Nearly six months later, this article on why autonomous driving is still far away?

https://arstechnica.com/information-.../unite-day3-2/

Which is okay for me because I still like riding with mom or my kin to her place and would do it myself if I could.

But I suck at driving.
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Old 12-14-18, 06:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Rollfast View Post
Nearly six months later, this article on why autonomous driving is still far away?

https://arstechnica.com/information-.../unite-day3-2/
More of the same at: https://www.wired.com/story/waymo-se...ndler-arizona/

Waymo's So-Called Robo-Taxi Launch Reveals a Brutal Truth
Extract:
"More glaringly, the cars will have a human behind the wheel, there to take control in case the car does something it shouldnít.

So no, this is not the anyone-can-ride, let-the-robot-drive experience Waymo and its competitors have been promising for years. Building a reliably safe system has proven far harder than just about everyone anticipated and its cars arenít ready to drive without human oversight. But Waymo promised to launch a commercial service sometime in 2018, it didnít want to miss its deadline and risk its reputation as the leader of the industry it essentially created, and not even the might of Waymo parent company Alphabet can delay the end of the calendar year.

So Waymo is pushing out a software update, tweaking its branding, and calling it a launch."
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Old 12-14-18, 11:08 PM
  #22  
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Old 12-15-18, 12:27 AM
  #23  
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There are several issues with the "rail vehicle" is that it can only go where the rails go. So, say a car breaks down on the tracks, then all vehicles behind it stop. A bicycle is going slow along the route, then all vehicles go slow.

It works reasonably well for a tram system with a fixed route as long as the trams are given priority on the rails, but people don't live by fixed routes.

One doesn't have to do lane tracking, but the autonomous vehicle still must be aware of surroundings, so it stops for the kid that darts in front of it. Road awareness is half the battle.

Perhaps we'll eventually see AV convoys. Clip them together on highways like a train to benefit from drafting and reduced wind resistance. Also, higher density travel.

Autonomous trains? We may well see those in the near future, especially in rural areas. Although, perhaps one shouldn't worry about labor costs for driving 50,000 tons of cargo across the country. However, an automated speed/braking system might have prevented the recent Amtrak crash in Washington.
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Old 12-17-18, 02:12 PM
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Another brilliant tp social innovation that missed its moment in time
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