(Jim Morin via GoComics.com)
But, hey, at least we can look forward to driverless cars!…
… While driverless cars might still seem like science fiction outside the Valley, the people working and thinking about these technologies are starting to ask what these autos could mean for the city of the future. The short answer is “a lot.”
Imagine a city where you don’t drive in loops looking for a parking spot because your car drops you off and scoots off to some location to wait, sort of like taxi holding pens at airports. Or maybe it’s picked up by a robotic minder and carted off with other vehicles, like a row of shopping carts.
Inner-city parking lots could become parks. Traffic lights could be less common because hidden sensors in cars and streets coordinate traffic. And, yes, parking tickets could become a rarity, since cars would be smart enough to know where they are not supposed to be…
Harvard University researchers note that as much as one-third of the land in some cities is devoted to parking spots. Some city planners expect that the cost of homes will fall as more space will become available in cities.
If parking on city streets is reduced and other vehicles on roadways become smaller, homes and offices will take up that space. Today’s big-box stores and shopping malls require immense areas for parking, but without those needs, they could move farther into cities….
Yeah, that last idea might not be universally appealing, one suspects. On the other hand, if the single most failable automotive component is the proverbial Nut Behind the Wheel, maybe there’s a tradeoff when commuters are free to text, eat, or catch up on their reading without imperiling everyone in their path…
Apart from futuristic fantasies, what’s on the agenda for the start of the week?
Airport at 4am. Take deps. Back at midnight. This was not in the brochure.
Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN)
My first day of teaching went fine, except that the students all have the wrong edition of the textbooks. So I’m going to have to do the work either to type out the problems that I want them to do from the editions I have or I will need to put together solutions for the problems in the editions they have. Either of these options constitutes a huge time sink for me.
Back to work. Arrrggghhh. Been on vacation for a week and a half, went to Jamaica, had a beautiful time in the aqua water. Home and chilling for most of this past week. Not looking forward to emails and phone calls and bullshit meetings.
@Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN): Scan the pages with the questions then just tell them what numbers. Even more half assed, DL a free scannign app (eg CamScanner) to your smart phone and you can use your phone to photo and crop the page and upload directly to dropbox.
Back to work this week and it will be our second week of new student orientations. So glad I got rested up for it the past week. These orientation weeks kick my ass. I run all the parent sessions plus have to deal with them all individually to try to settle their financial concerns (which, as you might imagine, can be quite as stressful for me as it is for them). I will be exhausted and crabby all week.
When pedestrians become extinct. Until then, not so much.
Come to think of it, a pike square formation of pedestrians in the center of an intersection could instigate a ripple effect, bringing all traffic to a halt. Talk about yer gridlock.
How in the hell are driverless cars going to reduce the need for parking? It is still a car, not something that will fold itself into a suitcase. What am I missing? Or better yet, what kind of drugs are these people doing?
I wondered about that, too. Maybe they drive themselves home and then drive back to pick you up?
This car obsession is what led to place flying cars as the mark of the future in Back to the Future II instead of communications, as it ended up being in reality.
People just can’t quit having wet dreams about cars.
@abo gato: Negril?
@Nemo_N: That’s cuz all my friends are low riders. . .
Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN)
@TheMightyTrowel: I don’t have a smart phone and I barely have access to a printer here let a lone a scanner. I can probably ask the students if they could do it, I suppose. I don’t know if that will work.
I’m really unimpressed with the professionalism of the operation I’m working for. I guess as long as the check clears . . .
why do i get the feeling that idiots will still manage to screw up even “driverless” cars, that hackers will find a way to steal them, that gps systems will still be able to drive them off cliffs…
and you have great taste in cartoons, anne laurie.
@Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN): A lot of libraries have scanners. Most photocopiers have them built in these days.
One hour till quitting time for me. I’m excited because my crappy rental house has been invaded by carpenter ants, and for days I’ve been trying to figure out where the hell they are coming from. Then I realized I had seen a pile of sawdust on the front porch, twice in the exact same place before being washed away by rain, so now I know where they are. This also made me realize I could never be a police detective. Other than ant genocide, I’m going to take a nap, wait for the plummer to come and once again unclog the drain in the basic so I can use the facilities without the basement filling with sewage (like a said-crappy rental) and watch netflix later. Oh, and since it’s Monday, new Adventure Time and Regular Show.
What? Another week? Already? Sigh.
I’ve been working on sewing a tailored jacket for the daughter unit and it’s driving me crazy. I’m about half done but just can’t get THOSE DAMN SLEEVES right. Arghhh!
I musta been smokin the funny stuff when I took that project on.
As for the rest of the stuff requested from me, same old stuff.
Obviously if something doesn’t solve every problem ever in the history of motoring it;s a complete waste of time.
Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN)
@TheMightyTrowel: A lot of libraries in America have scanners. In Xi’an, not so much.
Unused parking lots (if there are any) will not become parks… they will become new office towers and apartment towers (probably condos). These visioners are incredibly naive if they think that the real estate interests will allow “new found” land to become parks. No way, no how.
ETA: I may go to the movies this afternoon — either Monster University or Despicable Me 2. (I love me some Minions; I even like the Progressive Insurance ad with Flo and the Minions.)
We’re starting to call my boss Captain Queeg. He used to be very active, in a yellow-jacket-at-your-picnic way. Now all we get are emails 2 or 3 days after we contact him with any issues. Seems he butted heads with his boss, and now he’s in lockdown mode, maybe waiting for the axe to fall.
Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN)
Fortunately, I think one of my TAs has come through with a photocopier.
@geg6: At least I’m not alone in seeing the fly in this particular soup… Mind you I like the idea of driverless cars, just not too sure about the implementation and I certainly don’t see the pie in the sky that so many proponents of the “latest technological advance” always see.
To be honest, instead of driverless cars, wouldn’t it be a whole lot more efficient to just improve mass transit to the point where cars are unnecessary in our cities? Oh, wait a minute, there I go being a socialist again.
@Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN): My buddy is working with the national basketball team there and has some interesting stories about infrastructure.
@OzarkHillbilly: I agree with you that it would be nicer if they could develop the mass transit infrastructure so it worked better and was more extensive. Yeah, there I go being crazy again.
Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN)
At least I found beer, though I don’t have a good way to get it cold yet. That all did lead to the adventure of me wandering around the Vanguard supermarket carrying three bottles of Tsingtao pantomiming opening one in the hopes that some employee could direct me to a church key to purchase. I ended up having to settle for a corkscrew with a bottle opener.
The Chinese seemed to be amused by the sight of an American walking around carrying three bottles of beer. I hope it made their day a little brighter.
@Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN):
They were probably reminded of that hilarious scene in Drunken Master Bookkeeping.
When did SkyNet take over my car?
@raven: Raven, no Runaway Bay, east of Montego Bay.
Davis X. Machina
@TheMightyTrowel: A lot of schools will, and I’m not sure of the reasoning behind this, have the scanner function of their copiers turned off. I guess the fear is once it’s digitized, the sky’s the limit on copyright infringement.
@Davis X. Machina: They fear the fines and damages awards for copyright infringement. It has happened. NYU’s Bobst Library was sued for the “personal textbooks” that teachers made up with journal articles and textbook chapters from other books for their classes and kept at the Library. These compilations were photocopied at the time; today you can scan the pages just as easily. IIRC, the settlement was around 2 million dollars.
@Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN):
Should have gone for the Mexican bottle opener: A Bic lighter. Works like this: Grab the bottle with your left hand at the top of the neck with just enough room between the thumb and the cap to push the Bic lighter in (bottom end) at an app 70 degree angle from level. With your right hand, push the top end of the lighter down while using your thumb as the ‘fulcrum’ for the Bic lighter ‘lever’. The caps edge will dig into the plastic of the lighter and, “POP”.
I quit smoking 3 years ago and I still carry a bic lighter, not least of which is for this purpose.
Yes, we need more single-passenger cars, because it’s so modern to use 3000 lbs of machine to move 150 lbs of passenger. And have these cars make TWO round trips to get us to Costco, instead of parking there? Sure, great idea! Surely, we are living in a glorious future!
Lastly: There’s already a driverless vehicle technology that can convey people anywhere they want. swiftly and efficiently–it’s called a “train.”
Another invention that is proven to reduce the need for parking: a good mass transit system. However, you know, FREEDOM!
I’m still waiting on my flying car that was promised 30 years ago…
I’ll believe it when I see it.
In general, it’s amazing how little technological progress has been made in the car industry. We’re basically still using more than 100-year old technology, in the form of the internal combustion engine. When you consider what has been achieved in computing and communications, for example, the progress in developing better cars has been just glacial.
Unless legacy operator-drive cars are all mothballed, self-drive cars will have little impact on basic roadway architecture. 100 years of tech will not go away just because Google created a new robot.
Except for safety, durability, reliability, convenience, capability and comfort.
I’m at the airport headed south to install a laser welding robot in a car plant. There’s been a huge revolution in auto manufacturing.
Sparrows that live in the terminal building are drinking from a water fountain. Life always finds a way.
@Ultraviolet Thunder: You can have my 66 Chevy Longbed Fleetside when. . . you know the drill.
I’m talking about the amount of technological progress over 100 years or so. I’ll readily agree that my Passat is safer, more reliable, more efficient, and more comfortable than a Model T. But you find this impressive?
Not sure if responding is worthwhile, though. You sound like a troll.
That was insulting but I’ll respond to your point with a question. What technologies do you think should have advanced?
Gotta board plane in a minute….
@Ultraviolet Thunder: Don’t sweat the small shit, obviously a troll.
No, she finds that to be progress, something you seem to readily agree with her on, but at first said was all but nonexistent. So who is trolling whom?
Well he did have a point and it’s a complex one. We’re stuck with a lot of legacy tech due to incumbency effects. Steering wheels, pedals and other features could be bettered on a clean sheet of paper.
@Ultraviolet Thunder: Shit, my truck has a steel dashboard and a steering wheel that comes right though your chest in a crash!
There’s a great video of a 2005 Malibu demolishing a 55 Bel Air in a head on crash test. The difference in damage is amazing.
[email protected]Ultraviolet Thunder:
The hydrocarbon-burning internal combusition engine is still the basic technology, and that technology is startlingly similar to what it was about 100 years ago. It still pollutes the air, and we still have to be concerned about goo deep underground in the Middle East, and even occasionally go to war to make sure that we and our allies don’t lose access to that goo. When you consider how much computing power and functionality is in an i-phone, I don’t think any comparable acheivement has been made in car technology. Not even close.
I think if you told Henry Ford we’d still be using a variation of his mass-produced internal combusition engine in 2013, he would not have been awed by our technological progress. Yeah, he would have been impressed by the little computers in our cars, but they just help regulate the workings of basic technology that he would recognize.
And I found your response unnecessarily insulting, which is why I responded as I did, but maybe you just didn’t see my point.
Sammy Davis Jr supposedly lost his eye to the ‘bullet’ center in a Caddy steering wheel.
Who thought that feature was a good idea?
Time to climb on the plane. Basic tech developed by the Wright brothers 110 years ago…
it’s hard to beat the IC engine on portability, infrastructure, and wastefulness. It seems to me that we actually have had an immense improvement in IC engine tech, it’s just that it was wasted on horsepower instead of gas mileage. It’s not uncommon to have 200-300 horsepower now, whereas in 1990 that was a sports car.
A self-driving car would be nice, but the parking lot idea is a little silly. Maybe the parking lots would be moved, I dunno. The damage caused to the urban core by the “need” for parking has been immense though, reversing it would be a good thing.
@Ultraviolet Thunder: Was he trying to suck himself off?
@Ultraviolet Thunder: 2009 vs. 59.
Tissue Thin Pseudonym (JMN)
@EconWatcher: You haven’t answered the question as to what, exactly, you think should have been dramatically improved by now. One problem with regards to the car is that so much of the technological improvements we’ve made over the last half century or more involve making things smaller, much smaller, than they were before. With the automobile, though, that’s mostly a non-starter. Aside from the fact that a large vehicle is a status symbol, there is a strict limit on how much smaller a car can possibly be given that you have to put at least one person inside of it for it to have any value. Miniaturization doesn’t help that much in terms of producing radical change.
By analogy, it’s hard to beat the mouse for accuracy, precision, speed, and learnability on a desktop computer, and it was invented 50 years ago. (RIP, Doug Engelbart.)
More generally, though, I don’t think there’s any good reason to expect uniform progress in technology across different fields.
You can follow a liveblog of the George Zimmerman trial here:
And computers still run on electricity, which in this country is more than likely produced by burning coal to produce steam to power a turbine. This also happens to be an old, dirty and environmentally destructive process.
I hereby declare the start of the annual Bitching About the Heat season in Washington, D.C. (I would have started it last week, but I was in the mountains.)
I’m surprised no one has commented on that political cartoon. It pisses me off. Sure, it would be nice if more people in the US were engaged in the political process, but it’s absurd to suggest that the middle class in this country is similar to the people in Iran, Egypt, etc. It’s not different from people saying that we live in police state.
You must have missed the drones killing Americans on street corners, the FISA court sending people to secret gulags and the NSA listening in on our calls to the girls at the 900 numbers who are totally into us for real.
@PeakVT: I’d rather crash in the 2009 Malibu. But I’d rather drive the 1959 Bel Air!
Considering that there were mass-market electric cars in the nineteen-teens, I’m more or less with EconWatcher here. Also, do keep in mind that car companies generally had to be either shamed or threatened into adopting a lot of safety features (yeah, I’m gonna go there and mention Unsafe at any Speed), and they fought against a lot of them tooth and nail. Hardly the model of an industry which rushes to embrace progress with open arms, IMO.
@weaselone: I did miss that. I’ll try to pay closer attention.
I agree. The drive to fix the corruption and incompetence in the US government is proportional to the corruption and incompetence. The problem isn’t as bad as in those other countries, so folks are ‘grumble’ here where they’re ‘riots’ level there. Hell, the US population is more politically invested now than at any time in my life. Nothing can get done about it because it’s all been diverted into the culture war.
@RP: I agree. The guy in the cartoon does represent the American middle class. Fat and oblivious. He has a TV and beer. What else is there? FREEDUMB!
I have to go 100 miles to another city today. I’ll be driving. There’s a train/bus combination that would get me there, but it would take an hour longer, and what with going between my house, the train/bus stations, and my destination, it would also cost a lot more. I’d be happy with European-style public transportation, but we’re pretty far from that in my area of the U.S.
Some cars have a lot of tech on the dashboard and dealers supply lessons for customers with a tech. This is not going over well and there is a line of thought that maybe less is better.
For a terrific overview of the implications of driverless vehicles, try this page.
The transition to driverless vehicles could be as revolutionary as the transition from animal-powered transportation to mechanically-powered transportation. It won’t happen all at once, but the forces behind it (economic and social) will be unstoppable.
To take a few of the questions raised above:
Why would driverless cars reduce the number of parking spaces? First, there’d no longer need to be parking within walking distance of any destination, because the vehicle can drive itself to parking. (Parking is no longer your problem, it’s your vehicle’s.) Second, and much more importantly, driverless vehicles end the need for a separate dedicated vehicle for each passenger trip, so there can be fewer of them. Fleets of driverless vehicles become a far cheaper, far more quickly-available taxi fleet, meaning most people don’t need to own one, while the ones that do don’t need to have more than one.
What about IC engines? Driverless vehicles make a great match with electric engines. The main disadvantage to electric vehicles has always been lack of range. With self-driving vehicles, this stops mattering.
Driverless cars mean the rebirth of big box stores? Probably not. In fact, a lot of retail would likely be replaced by Amazon-style giant warehouses in every metro area. Orders would be processed and sent not in days, but in hours, with delivery accomplished by self-driving deliverbots. Imagine if your Amazon orders arrived in 2 hours rather than in a week. Why bother going to the store at all?
The latter and former are part of the same phenomenon. High standards of living in the U.S. (compared to Egypt, Brazil, Iran) mean there’s less “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” But it also means more people who can afford (or think they can afford) to see politics as a pass time in which they vote based on their cultural prejudices, rather than a life-or-death situation in which their own self-interest should guide them.
@RP: Also, you know, the last time the middle class got “fed up” and started protesting “corrupt, incompetent government,” we got the Tea Party.
Personally, I hope that fatass in the American flag shirt keeps sleeping right up through 2024 or thereabouts.
Civil Disobedience Kitteh stages a sit-in.
@Maude: The problem is less the tech than the interface design. Before the iPod, mp3 players tended to be highly complicated devices with many inscrutable controls. Apple showed that you could make the device radically simpler, maintain all necessary controls, and sell a ton of units.
@RP: Agreed. They have no idea about just how tough things can be outside their bubble.
@Marc: The Tea Party, far from being an expression of populism, was always an astroturf operation funded by far-right money. Whether Americans are capable of actual populist unrest is an open question; it almost happened with Occupy.
O… M… F… G……. Apparently whoever wrote that bit of fiction has NO FUCKING CLUE what makes parking in a city a difficult thing to begin with.
The reason you have parking tickets is because parking is scarce. Having a robotic car not being able to find a parking space is no different than having a driver doing it — if there’s no spaces, there’s no spaces.
OK, so put all the parking spaces outside the city. And then what? Wait 45 minutes for your car to come back? The whole damn point in driving into a city is because you need your car there. If you didn’t you could take any number of other already extant options to do it.
The people who wrote that thing act as though driveless cars don’t have any mass and revoke time itself.
@different-church-lady: I am waiting for the day when we can beam ourselves to our destination like they do in Trek.
1. Who would want to give up driving? I love driving.
2. There is no way I’m riding around in a driverless car unless I’m sitting behind the wheel with a manual override available at any time. In which case, I may as well be driving.
@Bill: I wouldn’t have minded riding in a driverless car during the rush hour beltway traffic.
@jheartney: Good stuff. Love to see it happen, but it won’t be for awhile.
I think a far more likely scenario would be “smart cruise control” on the highways. The challenges are fewer than navigating in a city, and it would still convey many of the same benefits. I know Mercedes is working diligently in this area.
I love the idea of driving onto the highway, pressing a button, and then relaxing as your car drives itself at high speed, in synch with all the other cars doing the same.
I’m afraid our inaction means things will have to get substantially worse before enough people wake up…and by then it will most likely be too late.
I’m no big car guy but you are just wrong. Cars have advanced greatly over the last few decades. Electronics have gotten smaller which helps them be faster and which allows more of them to be packaged in a smaller space. But the discrete function of those electronics are basically the same as 60 yrs ago. So is your car but your car can’t be a lot smaller unless you get a lot smaller. But the engines last a lot longer, work better getting to the end of their life and a new car today is dramatically safer than even 20 yrs ago as well as considerably more economical and they create considerably less emissions. And until a better method of fuel delivery is found petroleum fuel is here to stay(till it runs out of course)
The plain fact is the world has figured out that a car is the best and the worst transit system. Best because it has freedom of movement(except in big cities), worst because it wastes fuel and area.
The Other Chuck
Driverless cars will not be mainstream in my lifetime and probably not within my grandkids’ lifetimes either, and here’s why: cars with drivers kill hundreds of thousands of people a year, but if just ONE PERSON is killed by a driverless car due to a bug or simply the failure of its optics to be completely omniscient, the whole fleet will probably be idled while the lawsuits fly.
The Other Chuck
The Creative Nomad had controls that were understandable by anyone who’d ever used a Walkman. Apple had this weird-ass wheel thing.
@jheartney: When imagining driverless cars 20 years ago, this was my first thought: Without the salary of a taxi driver, the cost of using a taxi would plummet to about a third or fourth of what it is today. At that price, most people wouldn’t bother owning a car, just use a taxi for their daily commute/errands. Hell, by the time driverless cars are commonplace, taxi dispatchers will be completely automated as well.
I would, in a heartbeat. Drivers are the single biggest downside to automotive transportation. Basically everything that is bad about cars — traffic jams, accidents, road rage, parking, pollution — will be ameliorated in some way by removing human reflexes and impulses from the equation.
@The Other Chuck:
It might be telling that, in the very next comment after this quote, you retroactively bet against the iPod.
@Arclite: You’re quite right. In fact, this kind of tech would have devastating impacts on employment all through the economy. Professional drivers of whatever sort are mostly gone. A good bit of retail would die too. Support for drivers and for fossil-fueled vehicles goes away (electric motors are essentially maintenance-free, so no more oil change shops, transmission and radiator shops, etc.) No more truck stops as long-haul drivers go away. And this is hardly the end of it.
@The Other Chuck: If they can insure professional human drivers, they’ll be able to insure the robotic ones. In fact I predict that once the actuaries get some data to work with, insurance companies will love robodrivers. They’ll be safer, not have chemical abuse or rage problems, and never get tired.
A couple of things:
1. You don’t need YOUR car there, if you can just take a driverless taxi, and a lot of people will find this preferable to car ownership.
2. Even if you need your own car, automated cars will be able to park much more efficiently than human-driven cars. This will increase the availability of parking inside cities.
@jheartney: I think the transition will happen over the course of a couple of decades, so we should be able to transition away from that slowly. I wouldn’t say that it would be painless, but a lot less disruptive than if it happened overnight.
@Arclite: The transition may not take all that long once it gets going. Anyway, however long it takes, there’s a growing underlying problem – as robotics gets better, a big portion of humanity is going to become unemployable. Not only because former drivers and sales clerks don’t have the aptitude to become Web 2.0 drones, but also because we don’t need that many Web 2.0 drones. Already a lot of over-50’s can’t find work, not because they are inexperienced or lazy, but because the economy doesn’t need them anymore.
I travel 40 miles to work. And 40 back. I don’t like it but until I can move that’s what it is. I can take a train, a van or my motorcycle.
The train takes twice as long as van or bike. The train costs 25% less than the van but almost 250% more than the bike. The train can not get me to work on time but I work flexible hours so that can be handled. But the extra hour and a half commute time means I have to get up a half hr earlier and get home an hour later. I’m taking the bike. I take up one third the space of a car and get twice the mileage of the average car. I get to travel in the car pool lane for that reason. I’m taking the bike.
@jheartney: Well, I use two decades as a baseline because that’s the current average lifespan of a gasoline engine powered vehicle is. Most of those won’t be converted with an aftermarket kit: it would just be too expensive. It wouldn’t be worth it to convert older vehicles, and robotic cars need to have the sensors and controls fully integrated into the vehicle.
I agree that some workers will be displaced and some will be permanently out of the workplace, hopefully not too many. But I hope you’re not making an argument in favor of keeping taxi drivers. We used to be a nation that was 75% farmers. Now that’s about 1% of the workforce and people do lots of other jobs. I imagine that will be the case in the future, that people who used to drive for a living will do something different, and perhaps ultimately more interesting and less dangerous.
“Some workers” will be displaced, it will “take decades.” You guys are SO WRONG. This is going to transform our world more than the Internet did. People will embrace this technology and although there will likely be some embarrassing (to Google) and fatal screw-ups early on, this system is going to work and it is going to dramatically increase the atomization of our cultural and social world. Think about it: everybody gets their own limo. It drives you to work while you play on Facebook. It finds the most efficient place to park, or maybe doesn’t park at all. Maybe you own it, maybe you don’t. Want to go to Schenectady from Indianapolis? Get in, go to sleep in a real bed, and wake up at Grandma’s. You can even get tanked along the way.
And once you don’t need to drive, why do you even need to go at all? Put in your order with Costco online and send the car.
Driving will be safer, and drunk “driving” will be safe and legal.
The early-adopters will be Wal-Mart, UPS, Fed Ex, and other box stores. There will be fleets of robotic 18-wheelers driving 24/7 on the freeways, and shortly afterwards, the rest of us.
The rest of us, that is, except for the truckers, cabbies, insurers, body-shop workers, lot attendants, personal injury attorneys, state police officers, traffic court employees, DUI expert witnesses, MVD employees, truck stop employees, postal carriers, and a large, large group of other people no longer employed.