Could the car still kill buses and trains? Shared and autonomous cars vs. public transport

January 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

RoutemasterThought-provoking reads of the day – could the ‘sharing economy’ kill off public transport and mass transit systems? It sounds paradoxical, but “micro-transit” – ride-sharing, i.e. in a formal municipal system whereby drivers get credits and incentives for filling their empty passenger seats – could make transit agencies such as bus companies “obsolete”, says veteran transport consultant Ken Schmier, creator of the NextBus app popularly used in a number of US cities. More at NextCity (via Grist).

And in parallel, a blog post at Mother Jones – drawing on a longer piece by Felix Salmon at Reuters –  suggests that driverless vehicles could be superior to rail in developed areas. Autonomous cars (subscribed-to rather than privately-owned) which arrive on demand to fetch you (and other people going in the same direction) save on parking, expensive fixed infrastructure and energy, is the argument. An alternative to the ‘post-car’ train of thought (sorry) – we’re not going to be getting out of cars as such, just using and accessing them differently. (*Update: a further MoJo blog post in response to reader comment).

  • Slightly off-topic, but interesting: Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, is co-ordinating a European research project on urban sound planning. 14 doctoral students will work with city authorities, acoustic consultants, architects and research institutes to look at noise control, soundscaping and their impact on urban planning. Traffic/transport planning, as well as low-noise road surfaces, acoustic screening and soforth, will be part of this, as well as input from behavioural science and psychology. Cities in which research will take place are Berlin, Antwerp, Rome – and Brighton & Hove. More here.
  • Something I missed in the news from CES: Volvo has developed a retro-fit option for post-2010 models to enable owners of existing cars with the 7in Sensus screens to upgrade to the latest Ericsson cloud connectivity via smartphone with Android, giving Google Maps, the Parrot Asteroid app store and music-streaming from apps including Spotify. Dealers will offer this from May though no word on price as yet. I expect dealer-fit retro-fits like this will become more widely available as manufacturers seek to keep owners ‘in-house’ and away from third-party providers – it’s a whole other potential revenue stream (no pun intended) for them as well as a marketing channel (eek). Excellent rundown of The Auto Tech That Mattered At CES from Wired Autopia, including third-party portals (there’s a word I haven’t used for a while) and parking navigation.
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