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back to article Are driverless cars the death knell of the motor biz?

If you're a believer, then the autonomous car is a gateway to a brave new world in which you'll never have to waste an hour looking for a parking spot, ever again. An obvious challenge to this vision is whether it encourages traffic-choked, polluting and wasteful behaviour: instead of parking while you visit the supermarket, …

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So what the author is suggesting is...

...A bus?

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Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

Not so much. Buses travel on predetermined routes. The idea being proposed is like a cross between it and a taxi, which unlike the bus has the capability to go anywhere a car can go. Another possible cross would be a lift, where software has to carefully schedule the routes of the cars so as to gather the most people in the quickest amount of time. Imagine a server that keeps track of the cars in service. As it fields calls with pickups and destinations, it can search for the car that can field that request most efficiently, using already-existing trip-planning systems. It's a dynamic routing system, made possible because the system always knows where each car in the fleet is located at all times yet has the flexibility to change the routes as needed.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

I think many commuter that I know prefer the own car over the public tranportation because then they not together with other people. Its their time for relaxing, which would be even better if they would not need to drive.

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Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

Well maybe his vision might work in a city, but elsewhere? I think not.

I have a car because I don't like sitting on bubblegum strewn seats, breathing in other people's bad breath, smelling their sweat, there is no real bus service where I live and no railway station nearby.

Oh, and except for the odd three car traffic jam, it's a pleasure to drive here.

I am not a number.

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Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

Actually, a variant would word well in the countryside. City dwellers have the option of buses, light rail and taxis- or facilities are close enough to just walk or cycle to. Here in a smaller town, public transport is very poor.

The proposed system would allow young people (even those with driving licenses currently face crippling insurance premiums) to travel to the cinema in the next town, for example. (Only this morning, the local paper tells of a coroner's finding that two young men died in a car crash due to the driver speeding so as beat an 11 PM curfew imposed by his insurance company and enforced by a TomTom-manufactured GPS logger. )

In the UK, there have been trial schemes of a service akin to a bus/taxi hybrid... one rings up to with a request to travel from A to B, and you are contacted later with the time at which you can expect a minibus to turn up. The idea is to lump together people to make efficiencies in a time when local bus routes are being cut back. It was aimed at an older demographic, and before adoption of the smartphone (a GPS-equipped device can only aid services like this, if its users have the inclination and ability to use one).

In France, people who never gained a driving licence in the first place (usually the old) may drive a specific model of low powered car, limited to around 30 Mph. Sometimes they are bought by people who have lost their licence due to drink-driving. Also in France, I see that young people are allowed to take passengers on their mopeds.

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Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

In France, people who never gained a driving licence in the first place (usually the old) may drive a specific model of low powered car, limited to around 30 Mph.

Ah yes, known in France as "coffins on wheels" ☺

Sometimes they are bought by people who have lost their licence due to drink-driving.

It's not quite so simple. A minor excess of alcohol for a first offense will be punished by a suspension of licence, and the driver can still drive a "voiturette". A driver who is further over the limit, or caught a second time, won't just lose his licence, he will be banned from driving, and that applies to all types of vehicle.

Of course, even voiturettes need to be insured, and someone with a drink-driving conviction will find that to be expensive for any vehicle.

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Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

>Ah yes, known in France as "coffins on wheels"

Or as "cars for the blind" in one town in Brittany, at least!

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Ru

Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

Busses aren't that great, due to their inconvenient timetabling and limited routes. Round these parts busses are okay for commuters because there are plenty of services between the centres of employment and sattelite towns and villages, but they're terrible for getting between those villages, for example.

“why should it be your car?” Why own a car at all?

People like owning stuff. It can be the size and colour they want, with the features they want, and they can leave all their crap in it whenever they like.

Already, there's a trend among “millennials” away from car ownership: they use taxis for short trips.

What's the cost of car insurance for teenagers these days?

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Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

"What's the cost of car insurance for teenagers these days?"

For a 17yo, iro £3k-4k

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

We could all drive where we wanted 30-40 years ago. These days it would be impossible for everyone to own a car and drive it on the roads at the same time.

Planning everything around the car is also unfair on those who can't drive due to eyesight problems, epilepsy and so on.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

Given they are the highest risk group it's no wonder. There's not a month that goes by without hearing about a car crash and people dead because a teenager smashed their car into a tree or lampost.

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Unhappy

Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

"It's not quite so simple. A minor excess of alcohol for a first offense will be punished by a suspension of licence, and the driver can still drive a "voiturette". A driver who is further over the limit, or caught a second time, won't just lose his licence, he will be banned from driving, and that applies to all types of vehicle."

IIRC the french "over the limit" is 2x the British "over the limit."

So "quite hammered" by UK standards.

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Holmes

@Charles 9 - Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

Wrote :- "Buses travel on predetermined routes. The idea being proposed is like a cross between it and a taxi, which unlike the bus has the capability to go anywhere a car can go. Another possible cross would be a lift, where software has to carefully schedule the routes of the cars so as to gather the most people in the quickest amount of time."

Some cities (Bristol is one) and rural areas have such schemes already. But I understand it can take ages to get anywhere with pick-up requests coming in all the time. OK for pensioners who have all day to go and buy a lottery card.

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Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

>> How much to insure a teenager - 3-4K IRO

> Given they are the highest risk group it's no wonder.

Any it's nothing to do with them getting fleeced by the insurance industry, no sir move along, nothing to see here.

Some (horribly rough) finger in the air approximations stats:

UK population: 70M

Average life expectance: 70 (or there abouts, for sake of easy computation - it's really closer to 80 IIRC)

Assuming even distribution of people to age bins (untrue, but it helps correct for the under shoot above) ...

Roughly 3M 17-19 year olds.

Let's say 30% drive - 1 M people.

1M * 4K => 4 BILLION pounds.

Do teenagers crashing cars really cost that much every year, or are they just a very high margin group who are easy to get money out of because many have no choice but to have a car for work, and all the companies are price fixing ^H^H charging what they can get away with.

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Re: So what the author is suggesting is...

> IIRC the french "over the limit" is 2x the British "over the limit."

It's the other way around. British limit is 0.8g, French is 0.5g. Penalties get heavier if you're over 0.8g, but there's no automatic ban unless there are aggravating circumstances. That leads a lot of people to assume that they can get away with it once, and contributes to the French road death rate being 2x that of the UK, for the same number of cars,.

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Anyone who suggests this doesn't have young kids, as the mess they make is fucking horrific. I don't want to have to clean up after them sufficiently for a complete stranger to use the car at the end of every single journey...!

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Young kids? Try drunks when the bars close for the night. They HAVE to get rides because of their condition, yet their condition leaves them likely to leave some of the worst messes you can imagine in a vehicle.

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Anonymous Coward

Once had a hire car and found a pile of sick in the boot.

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Young children you would obviously want to escort yourself. However, this system could be used to get older children to a pre-determined location without adult accompaniment (to a rural school, for example, or a friend's house).

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Anyone who has had more than a couple of pints HAS to get a lift of some sort. Their "condition" doesn't make them likely to make any kind of mess though.

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Not to mention you need to be able to choose a car with child seats...

I would not trust my family to one of these vehicles, as they will clearly be the cheapest they can buy to make the maximum profit.

I expect the only people to benefit will be those in the towns & cities, all us in the country will be as we are already, cut off without our own cars...

And really I like my own car, I trust it, it is comfortable, it is reliable AND it is cost effective for me...

If I take my family on holiday, I can leave things in the car when I go places, do you really want to lug your luggage around after you check out of the hotel one day and you visit your next tourist attraction before leaving for home??? I don't I leave it in the car...

Do you want to lug that picnic around when you visit a national park, or do you leave it in the car until lunch then fetch it?

While I am sure some journeys would be cheaper with this, in reality, having a car is more practical for anyone who lives outside of a city and certainly any family people...

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Anonymous Coward

Why do people always mistake a concept for particular scenarios to be a suggestion that it is the one and only solution that will exist for all?

The idea here seems to be commutes with large idle times in between (several hours in the office/ shops/ town/ cinema etc)

In the case of going on holiday you could rent a vehicle that suits your needs if you use such a service as the one recommended here in your day to day life.

You could also still own a car but choose not to use it most of the time and save it for night drives, pleasure drives, and long holidays. While making a saving on insurance and petrol by using other forms of service to get you through the commuter hours.

there are probably a number of other possible scenarios - but in the world no one solution will suit all use cases all the time.

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So, the selif-washing car

A vehicle designed similar to the automatic self-cleaning restroom will be most appropriate in some circumstances. Or, it drives itself to a special washing station, rolls up the windows, and opens the sun roof to let in the soapy water.

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Small kids making a mess?

Right now they make a mess because they're unsupervised. Parent up front driving. Kids are in the back.

Not anymore. The car drives itself, leaving a parent able to fucking take charge of their children and not leave the place a right tip for the next user. I would expect that if a parent demonstrated him/herself unable to do this, they'd just get blacklisted and transport would cost them a bloody fortune. Either way, the problem no longer exists.

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@Alfred - Re: Small kids making a mess?

Wrote :- "Right now [kids] make a mess because they're unsupervised. Parent up front driving. Kids are in the back. Not anymore. The car drives itself, leaving a parent able to fucking take charge of their children and not leave the place a right tip for the next user"

Why would they care? - many parents will simply walk away from the mess. At least with a taxi driver he is able to exert some control over the passenger (like not taking a drunk or screaming kids in the first place), or stopping and telling them to get out. But with this proposal, expect last night's shit and vomit on the seats. This aspect is one reason people prefer own cars to public transport even when there is a direct public transport route.

Wrote :- "[Problem passengers] just get blacklisted ... the problem no longer exists."

Er, I thought we were supposed to be against ID cards, tracking, etc and all for anonymity here. So how will that work?

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Re: @Alfred - Small kids making a mess?

Because if you're paying for the car, the people operating it know who you are.

It's exactly the same way clubs in the UK work at the moment; when I use a Zipcar, if it's in a state when I get in, I call them and the last person to rent that car will be asked about it. Similarly if I spot damage when I get to the car. You check the log, and if it's not there, then you call it in and make a note.

It works very well - for certain types of people. I definitely don't need to have a car sitting outside my flat, which may only get used a couple of times a month. Having one three minutes' walk away that I can use for £6 an hour whenever I need it is great.

And for those times when I do want to go on a really long trip, I have my old classic car.

If the Zipcars could drive themselves, I'd be very likely to use them more often; not necessarily to commute, but for things like social events - likely cheaper than a taxi back after the Proms, for example, and I could have a drink too.

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Anonymous Coward

all I'm hoping for...

is a chance to shaft the car insurance companies out of existence. Anything else is a bonus.

Let's make the world a better place.

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Re: all I'm hoping for...

Unfortunately, shafting insurance companies does nothing except put the premiums up for everyone.

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Re: all I'm hoping for...

AC wasn't using the word 'shaft' to mean defraud (which of course does put up premiums). He was looking forward to a transport system with far fewer accidents, thus greatly reducing the level of insurance required and perhaps the need for many individuals to have to deal with insurance dealers at all.

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Re: all I'm hoping for...

They have asked the government to pass laws to stop them from overcharging each other when a claim is made.

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Mushroom

Re: all I'm hoping for...

Of course they have, it's the only way to stop it happening.

Consider the game theory:

If Company X overcharges and the others don't, X gets both more revenue and lower running costs than the others. Thus all of them charge each other the most they can possibly get away with.

If Company Y decides to stop overcharging the others, it simply reduces its revenue. Its costs stay high.

If companies A, B and C agree not to overcharge each other, they will gain when collisions occur that involve parties insured by those in the 'peering' agreement, but lose out if either party isn't.

But they don't get to choose who their insured crash into.

So the only way it can happen is with agreement between all insurance companies - because it only takes one git to ruin the whole thing.

Thus, legislation.

Although to be honest, I'd have thought it was already covered by "fraud", because you have a legal duty to minimise losses and I'm really not seeing how "selling the details on to ambulance chasers" and the various other schemes is doing that.

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higher sales ?

There are many hard-to-predict market effects. With a lower price per mile, more people may make trips. There is a significant chunk of the population who don't have a drivers license (too young, too old). There are a few billion people who don't currently own cars. Their rising incomes will intersect the dropping commuting cost at some point. Also - replacing the fleet with self-driving cars will take some time. The car makers may well see increased sales for a considerable period.

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Re: higher sales ?

>There are many hard-to-predict market effects.

The survival of the rural pub, one hopes. Though excessive beer duty might still destroy the hubs of our communities...

There was a recent story about a county in Ireland that proposed to give some people living in remote locations permission to drive slightly drunk - it was calculated that the health risks of isolation and loneliness outweighed the risks of driving after a few pints on mostly empty roads.

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Re: higher sales ?

Currently living in Ireland and that suggestion was made by a county council where 5 of those who voted for it were publicans, it was seen as a joke here and an embarrassment when news agencies in other countries picked up on it (reinforced the drunken Irish stereotype).

Apart from having been voted only by councillors who had a vested interest, this was so wrong for several other reasons. Firstly, drunk driving incidents occur regardless if you're over the limit (and possibly under) whether you're in the country or the city - country folk don't have magic fairies protecting them, or more importantly other road users, from drunk driving accidents.

This had the old farmers in mind, those who drive their tractors to the pub and back - can you imagine the mess if a tractor veers even slightly onto the other side of the road in the face of oncoming traffic? The bigger they are the less margin for error. Not only that, there are few pavements in the country (and even not so many as you'd expect in the towns in this country) and so pedestrians would be forced to share the road with drunk drivers (carnage no doubt a result).

And finally, the point the medical profession made - alcohol is a depressant - if you're already depressed living in the country, do you really think allowing those people to drink alcohol is going to help? If this is about social inclusion then why don't the publicans arrange a minibus or social events that don't have to include alcohol? Because they wouldn't make money from it, that's why and this is why it's all about money-making for the councillors who voted for it (5 of them voted for it, I think 4 against with 12 absent and 7 abstaining, so only 5 out of 28 actually voted for it).

[$Deity] knows this country needs to move away from needing alcohol to have any kind of social gathering.

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Re: higher sales ?

Thank you for the clarification, Sparky_Boy. A minibus would be the easier solution, though a local pub here in England had to abandon their scheme, due to a change in regulations leading to prohibitive insurance premiums.

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Own the box rent the motor (again)

The autonomous car car does not need the passenger compartment until it gets to the passengers so don't have that with the car.

People can own a standardised passenger compartment* and call up the autonomous motive unit as required and to suited to the trip.

Going to the supermarket 2miles away – small electric motor ~40mph with additional storage compartment, bit boxy but designed to work well in the parking area.

There could even be a constant round trip of motive units between the supermarket and living areas. All you have at home is the passenger compartment and that due to its standard size can be parked in a standard stacking garage.

Want to go on a longer trip call up a bigger motive unit suited to road trains and extra accommodation pods (a form of caravan).

I know most people will recoil at the thought of having to plan journeys or it being harder to just decide on a whim to drive a couple of hundred miles but for the sake of our society and the cities we may want to discourage the large vehicles, often used in the most fuel inefficient ways, taking up two parking bays we have now.

* passenger compartments can be a range of sizes as long as they comply with recognised size and fixing standards – buy to suit the capacity, safety and comfort required.

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Pint

Re: Own the box rent the motor (again)

This *could* work- but only when we live in cities like the Jetsons. Existing infrastructure wouldn't support it, it would be like bin-collection day every half-hour, every day.

Sadly.

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Facepalm

Re: Own the box rent the motor (again)

People can own a standardised passenger compartment* and call up the autonomous motive unit as required and to suited to the trip.

*****

Wouldn't that be the worse aspects of both systems.

+ No Parking Space Is Saved

1) Because you still have to store the passenger compartment at home, office and shopping center.

2) Still need multiple passenger compartments for multiple simutaneous trips (office and school run)

+ Up Front Costs

1) You still have to pay a large upfront capital payment to buy each passenger compartment your family would need. They would be cheaper than a whole car but not as much as you might think. They would need to be crash impact resistant compartments in the same way as cars are now so they will still be significant lumps of metal.

+ Still Dependant On Someone Elses Schedule

1) So you've got the cost of buying, storing and maintaining your own passenger compartment, but you are still dependant on someone elses schedule before you can make a trip, if there are enough motor units to nearby that wont be a huge problem, but image you live in the sticks and need to get into town, the nearest motor unit might be the town you want to visit, so you order a unit, it travels from town to your house, back to town, goes off to do other trips, then picks up your passenger compartment again to travel from town, to your house, and back to town again (a single 2-way trip needing a minimum of 6 journeys)

A final proof that this idea wouldn't work is this. Nothing in your suggestion couldn't be done now using small tractors units with drivers instead of autonomous cars and yet no one does it... anywhere in the world as far as I can see. The closest analogy is 40ft goods containers but they work because they are built in places with lots of space to store containers, lots of expensive machinery can be concentrated into one place to store and stack the containers and transport time isn't as critical as it for passenger journeys.

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Re: Own the box rent the motor (again)

By passenger compartment I was thinking for many people something like the SmartCar cab but without the engine, lightweight materials. Just because we are programmed to think safety is "lots of metal" that doesn't mean it really is. If you are only going on a max 30mph trip having crash survival for 50mph is unnecessary. Automomous - face the other way etc.

Many people already chose to have cars that are quite small so if there was a cost saving to limit yourself to something that only takes up a small space and even forgo some safety to reduce the weight and efficiency (think moped or mbike) people might still make that choice.

Once you take away the complicated bespoke crumple zones and extra bits parking something like that is maybe three times more efficient than most cars. Houses in the UK are not planned for the average local car ownership so its only going to get more pressing and where people “absolutely must avoid nasty shared transport” this is another route.

I'm not sure Parking comment 2 is valid once you pick a decent compromise size to start with, you might have to upgrade as the kids grow but you don't have to change the stuff missing like motor, gearbox, brakes running gear, you could even take the seats, aircon, radio once a standard design fitting is in place.

Carbon use is cost so someone that wants to have a heavy "protect myself and the four kids" shell should pay more than the single person to run the roads.

I'm not saying this is the solution but we need to break away from the current model where space and resources are at a premium and yes it probably won't work for many rural areas but that is no reason to cling on so dearly to the status quo. its a talking point, a big metal box with loads of duplicate parts being used in an energy inefficient way will seem very silly, (in some urban areas) quite soon.

Your “Final Proof” thing made me laugh, because you are, I protest, talking at cross purposes, there are no direct implementations of this so it doesn't exists that's why is currently isn't done much.

Personally I'd like really good public transport, for people not to get drunk and throw up on buses, proper cycle lanes where dog crap is a capital offence, some kind of fleet car for shared use and few other things, what I understand is that in the UK especially we are fixed on our individuality and well defined personal space and how super valuable our lives are over the well being and happiness of others on the planet, it's not sustainable in the longer term. The trick is to find solutions for a range of people who aren't ready to divest themselves of one second of their life or risk one hair on their head for the society and others. The no car days in places like Bristol get some pretty ranting responses about “personal inconvenience” society is not personal, there are others outside your gate and maybe its time we worked together for this land.

Here endeth etc.

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At night ......

....when few people are using them, will the cars prowl around and exhibit feral pack behaviour?

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Terminator

Re: At night ......

HONK! HONK!

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Efficiency

Warm engines are more fuel efficient than cold ones... keeping a car in use through out the day makes it more efficient per mile, as well as increasing the life time (measured by distance) of the engine.

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One day my newborn baby daughter will look at me in disbelief...

"You actually drove cars YOURSELF, Dad? Why would you ever do that?"

Then I shall take off my slipper...

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Another idealized vision that lacks a grasp on the realities of living outside of a major metropolis or the uses that many real households put their cars to.

My usage includes weekends at race circuits in remote areas, travel at odd hours and "on demand" for a disabled family member, trips to the amenities site with garden rubbish, collecting a neighbours kids and their huge numbers of friends from club nights (when dad has had a few drinks and they missed the one evening bus), oh and I work odd hours too.

I don't need the delay and inconvenience of having to wait (in my semi rural area) for a vehicle to become free, alternatively nor do I want to be faffing about getting my "box" mounted on whatever chassis they system deems I may need. I have a car that covers all of my uses, including the twice monthly weekend shopping trips that these days involve at least a 70 mile round trip (nothing left in our local towns) - and often closer to 100 miles, This of course an the weekend where the demand for "long distance" travel chassis could be higher, and of course has to incur costs far higher over a period of time than actual ownership of a reasonable sized (if older) car.

Its OK for occasional drivers - but then we already have hire cars for that, for most this would be expensive, restrictive and less comfortable (in terms of the state that some people are likely to leave the vehicle in) For most decent public transport would be more practical than this, not to mention more affordable

Stupid idea dreamed up with those with too much time on their hands - maybe they should try getting a proper job - one that is busy enough to prevent stupid day dreams like this.

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My usage includes weekends at race circuits in remote areas, travel at odd hours and "on demand" for a disabled family member, trips to the amenities site with garden rubbish, collecting a neighbours kids and their huge numbers of friends from club nights (when dad has had a few drinks and they missed the one evening bus), oh and I work odd hours too.

So you're an edge case and the scenario does not apply to you.

Okay. So what?

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>Another idealized vision that lacks a grasp on the realities of living outside of a major metropolis

The article clearly stated that there will be people who will need to own their cars.

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Sure, it's not for you, but there was nowt in TFA, saying that they are enforcing it on you, so why are you trying to enforce standard cars on the rest of us?

Personally, I'd like a car that I could drive to the pub, and it'll take me home safely at the end of the night....

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This was my initial reaction and then I thought about it a bit further. For many two car families this scheme would make a lot of sense. They'd keep ownership of one car, the one they tend to use together at the weekends, for shipping road trips etc. For the majority of the time you do need two cars (commuting or other planned times) you would be able to book far in advance what time you want to arrive and will be given a scheduled regular time you will be picked up.

Public transport (whilst better than private car ownership) is on the whole very inefficient outside population centres. You have to run a constant service on the off chance that someone will want to get on board, which is probably fine at peak hours but can result in regularly empty vehicles off hours that you still have to run, as if you cut it too much people won't use it at all. A dynamic system of cars like this could much more efficiently replace public transport - on regularly busy routes during peak hours it may well end up being a scheduled fixed standard route with larger vehicles which is run.,Off peak smaller more efficient on demand cars are provided giving the best of both worlds.

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What it didn't clearly state though is that that group is the majority of adults (in the UK and outside London at least).

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FAIL

Edge case?

I would say city dwellers are the edge cases, but they already have usable public transport, the people who already use cars are not the city dwellers, I know many and they hire cars as needed, BUT people like me who live outside the cities, need convenient transport, and having to wait an extra 5 minutes because one of their cars breaks down means I miss my pre-booked train and I am stuck or end up spending another £100 on a ticket for the next train..... and end up being late....

Now I would LOVE a commuters bus service through my village, but that'll never happen...

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