back to article Destroying the city to save the robocar

Behind the mostly fake "battle" about driverless cars (conventional versus autonomous is the one that captures all the headlines), there are several much more important scraps. One is over the future of the city: will a city be built around machines or people? How much will pedestrians have to sacrifice for the driverless car to …

  1. Naselus

    Obviously the solution is....

    The automated bicycle.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Obviously the solution is....

      "The automated bicycle."

      Thanks, I'm now looking forward to an evening when I'm thrown over the handlebars when a plastic bag gets mistaken for a small child by the cheap as chips LIDAR sensor which was covered with mud during my off road commute earlier in the day.

      1. Dr Scrum Master

        Re: Obviously the solution is....

        I'm now looking forward to an evening when I'm thrown over the handlebars when a plastic bag gets mistaken for a small child by the cheap as chips LIDAR sensor

        Ah, you mean it should have the intelligence of a horse.

        1. enormous c word

          Do we really want self-driving cars?

          I'm curious - if wholly autonomous cars were available today, priced competitively with *manual* cars - would you actually buy one? I know I just don't want one myself.

          Obvously there's a place for public transport, freight and maybe the taxi - but your own car?

          Thumbs up for "Yes" I want a wholly autonomous car.

          Thumbs down for "No" I prefer to drive myself.

          1. jmch Silver badge

            Re: Do we really want self-driving cars?

            "I'm curious - if wholly autonomous cars were available today, priced competitively with *manual* cars - would you actually buy one?"

            If it had a way to manually override auto-mode, yes. If it was in permanent auto-mode probably not, at least until they were commonly available for 5-10 years without significant isues

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Do we really want self-driving cars?

            In fact, a car capable of autonomous level five, and manual driving, and everything in between, on demand, is what I want.

          3. Adrian 4 Silver badge

            Re: Do we really want self-driving cars?

            I used to enjoy driving. Now, with traffic levels and increasingly effective automated road policing, I can't be bothered any more. I prefer the train if I don't have things to carry. I would love to have a car that allowed me to sit back and do something other than look out for roadsigns or BMW 'drivers'. I'd also like it to carry my luggage, find somewhere to park after dropping me off, and come back to collect me when I wanted it.

    2. boltar Silver badge

      Re: Obviously the solution is....

      Two wheelers are the fly in the ointment of this whole automated car nonsense. For automated cars to work properly and not constantly be gamed by human drivers then all manually driven cars would have to be banned from the roads. And given the chances of an automated motorbike or bicycle being developed are close to zero (and who would want to ride one anyway?) they'd have to be banned from the roads too. And good luck with any government that tried that!

      Fully automated cars are not for our benefit - they're just a wet dream of governments who want more control over their citizens movements, and silicon valley bros who want to cash in their shares in 20 years time and retire as billionaires. Hopefully neither will get their way. If someone can't drive for whatever reason there are already good alternatives - public transport or taxis. We don't need - and I suspect most drivers don't want - fully automated vehicles with no option of manual control.

      1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

        Re: Obviously the solution is....

        For automated cars to work properly and not constantly be gamed by human drivers then all manually driven cars would have to be banned from the roads.

        This is the big problem that all the autonomous car advocates forget: for a significant number of us, a roar vehicle that can't be manually driven and/or can't tow (and park) a trailer is completely and utterly useless. Examples:

        • as a glider pilot, I need to be able to retrieve my mates if they land out. This means towing their trailer off road into the field they landed in and positioning it in front of the glider while the glider is derigged, loaded into its trailer and then towed home in its trailer.
        • Sailors will have similar requirements when launching and landing their boats

        Even if trailers are not involved, there are everyday uses of road vehicles where their use becomes impossible if they can't be manually driven:

        • Model fliers need to drive off road too: club flying fields and sites major competitions are all off the road system and lack the markings and curbs an autonomous car will need to be parked
        • Visitors need to park at National Trust or English heritage sites: its unreasonable to expect them to pay for building car parks suitable for automatic parking.
        • Emergency services will be unable to operate if all road-using vehicles are forced to become autonomous.

        ...and there are doubtless many other cases where the ability to drive a road vehicle manually is a necessity.

        1. Lysenko

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          Your points have reminded me that autonomous vehicles might spell doom for towed caravans. Hmmmmm. I'm conflicted here .....

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Obviously the solution is....

            "Your points have reminded me that autonomous vehicles might spell doom for towed caravans. Hmmmmm. I'm conflicted here ….."

            It's not just caravans but any trailer. I rent a trailer from time to time to pick up large items I've purchased that won't fit in the boot. It's cheaper than hiring some bloke with a van and I don't always have to bug my mates that have a pickup.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          I agree with most of your points though not with emergency services. As part of the autonomous world all vehicles on the route could be automatically pulled over and a clear lane from station to incident and then to the hospital all enabled by the AI. Other traffic would be diverted to reduce resultant congestion and reduce delays.

          Perhaps emergency vehicles would also have a special mode allowing them to break the standard rules.

          All well and good but unnecessary if we all used autonomous vehicles as there should be no incidents on the road.

        3. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          @Martin Gregorie - "Emergency services will be unable to operate if all road-using vehicles are forced to become autonomous."

          Fireman: "Take us to Mega-Shopping Centre, Townsville, maximum speed!"

          Fire Engine: "A fire has been reported at your destination, for your safety and convenience you are being re-routed. New destination Maxi-Shopping Centre, Citiesville"

        4. The Mole

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          I think what they actually meant to say is ban the manual driving of cars on the road. Not necessarily ban the ability to drive manually off public highways (or in emergency).

        5. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          "Even if trailers are not involved, there are everyday uses of road vehicles where their use becomes impossible if they can't be manually driven:"

          Martin brings up a great point. If you are going to an event at a large arena/playing field, the parking and access to the front of the facility is not always the same. You could be going to a boot sale being held where there is a big car park and it's occupying the back corner of the lot.

          There are lots of situations where being able to manually drive a car will be required. Most especially so after a disaster or major storm when road are blocked. It's doesn't even have to be a major event, just a downed power line or some construction might lead to needing to do some creative navigation.

      2. a pressbutton

        Re: Obviously the solution is....

        Absolutely

        Children on bicycles

        ... Wont somebody think of the children

        1. Domino
          Devil

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          @a pressbutton ... [i]Wont somebody think of the children[/i]

          The ones in my imagination have discovered playing chicken with the automated cars sensors.. And throwing glitter at them from overpasses..

      3. iron Silver badge

        Re: Obviously the solution is....

        @boltar - "given the chances of an automated motorbike or bicycle being developed are close to zero"

        Meet Yamaha Motobot, not just an automated motorbike it can actually race:

        https://youtu.be/Djzjrc5FIIk

        Its not fast enough to beat the GOAT but not many are.

        1. boltar Silver badge

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          "Meet Yamaha Motobot, not just an automated motorbike it can actually race:"

          Its got stabilisers. Doesn't exactly fill me with confidence. Then put a 100kg biker on top who moves around and see how well it manages. Also bikers have to be able to read the road and obsctructions and muck on it far better than a car driver. What chance would a computer have of spotting some oil or mud on the road ahead?

          1. jmch Silver badge

            Re: Obviously the solution is....

            "Its got stabilisers"

            That was first version. Look at the video till the end, the new version was just 2 wheels and went round the track on it's own. Much slower than Rossi, but on it's own. Of course, the 'no one else on the track' caveat still applies

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Obviously the solution is....

        > For automated cars to work properly and not constantly be gamed by human drivers then all manually driven cars would have to be banned from the roads.

        I disagree. There's absolutely no reason to ban all manually driven cars for the simple reason that 'gaming' will only be a minority - just as people who undertake, jump queues and force their way in at the front etc (i.e. 'game' human driven vehicles already) are a minority currently. If it became a major problem then there will be plenty of video evidence available to be used in support of prosecutions.

        When the first cars came out, people said they'd never be practical because they keep getting punctures from the nails lost from horseshoes scattered all over the roads.

      5. Son 1
        Pirate

        Re: Obviously the solution is....

        As to banning manual cars from the roads, that will happen automatically and all players, for or against, will ban themselves. How?

        The insurance industry will eventually make premiums for manual cars prohibitively expensive. And the 'manual' car holdouts will dump their cars in droves.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          "The insurance industry will eventually make premiums for manual cars prohibitively expensive"

          Why?

          The cost of insurance is meant to cover the cost of covering the risks involved, plus overheads, plus some sort of profit margin. None of these costs suddenly becomes higher due to the introduction of self-driving cars. In fact, if self driving cars really did turn out to be safer than human driven vehicles it would lead to the roads becoming a lower risk environment - average insurance costs for human driven vehicles might even be expected to fall.

          1. boltar Silver badge

            Re: Obviously the solution is....

            "The cost of insurance is meant to cover the cost of covering the risks involved, plus overheads, plus some sort of profit margin."

            Originally yes. Now that equation has been skewed so far to the right that its pretty much ALL about profit. Need an example? Loyal customers of insurance companies who don't have any accidents still getting screwed with an inflation busting premium rise year after year.

          2. jmch Silver badge

            Re: Obviously the solution is....

            "In fact, if self driving cars really did turn out to be safer than human driven vehicles it would lead to the roads becoming a lower risk environment - average insurance costs for human driven vehicles might even be expected to fall"

            That's not how insurance works. If self driving cars turn out to be safer than human driven ones, premiums for self-driving will fall and those for human-driven will rise. Higher risk categories have to pay higher premiums. The only exceptions are legal-equality-mandated. For example even though female drivers are statistically lower risk than male drivers*, it is not allowed** to charge premium differences based on gender.

            * This doesn't mean they are better drivers, for example they could have more low-cost accidents like small bumps and scrapes while one guy totalling their car from reckless overspeeding bumps up the male average

            **Now, in the EU at least? It used to be common practice

          3. The Mole

            Re: Obviously the solution is....

            Because in a world of mostly automated cars the vast majority of the accidents will be judged the fault of the manual driver (remember the data will be logged to prove this). The cost of insuring the automated car will be lower (as they should be safer due to less driver errror) and many of the current low risk (high profit) drivers will switch to automated cars. Therefore the manual cars will be more complex/specialised for the insurance industry, probably be driven by people who are higher risk takers (they've rejected the safer option), and are more prepared to pay for the privilege (they obviously love driving enough to value it higher).

            At first the difference may not be substantial - except due to subsidies from the automated car manufacturers to pursuade people to buy the car, in fact I wouldn't be surprised if they offered to self insure them for free/part of the rental cost. Over time the number of manual drivers will decrease (why pay expensive driving lesson fees) which means the size of the pool decreases meaning higher overheads and more conservative pricing models.

          4. B Bunter

            Re: Obviously the solution is....

            I think the point that was being made is that the risk is lower only if everyone is on the autonomous bandwagon. If you are not, and driving a non-AV, then you are the one increasing the risk profile and thus charged the prohibitively high premium.

          5. Adrian 4 Silver badge

            Re: Obviously the solution is....

            "....average insurance costs for human driven vehicles might even be expected to fall."

            Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

      6. Daniel 18

        Re: Obviously the solution is....

        "For automated cars to work properly and not constantly be gamed by human drivers then all manually driven cars would have to be banned from the roads."

        Nonsense. A safe automated car has to have an appropriate set of algorithms for extreme situations... Like a 'run down any pedestrian in the way and leave the area' button to prevent carjacking. You just authorize the car to do what a human driver would, if reacting appropriately. Then it is up to the would-be carjackers to forget about their guns and get out of the way.

    3. 0laf Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: Obviously the solution is....

      I had a thought that started out silly - "ha, no you want automated Segways"

      Then got serious.

      Automated wheelchairs. Person who can't control a chair but could control an adapted app could set a destination, "Take me to Argos / the pharmacy / Waypoint 3/ somewhere accessible for lunch". Chair has all the automated car mcguffery but can also go in pedestrian areas and can use your big company AI to take the client where they need to go.

      Could update 'things' in shops too, "Mr Smith will arrive in 5min, he'll need some help to pack his prescription", "here is Mr Smith food order".

      One of my less stupid ideas I think.

      1. ratfox Silver badge

        Re: Obviously the solution is....

        Have you seen Wall-E?

      2. Cpt Blue Bear

        Re: Obviously the solution is....

        "Could update 'things' in shops too, "Mr Smith will arrive in 5min, he'll need some help to pack his prescription", "here is Mr Smith food order."

        ...thus eliminating all the tedious chatting, relaxing and making friends that people were previously forced to do while waiting for elevators

      3. kiwimuso

        Re: Obviously the solution is....

        "Automated wheelchairs."

        Have a look at this as a possible solution to your problem.

        http://ogotechnology.com/

        All it needs is the automatic routing bit.

        Should be a piece of cake to implement.

    4. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Obviously the solution is....

      Bikes are not a solution because it is cold or rainy enough of the time. We don't all live in fucking LA.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          , but girl don't they warn ya. It pours, man, it pours.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            @Tom 38 - leveling the land

            Let's start with San Francisco. Once that's done everywhere else will seem easy by comparison.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @Tom 38 - leveling the land

              "Let's start with San Francisco. Once that's done everywhere else will seem easy by comparison."

              Only if you live in another perpetually warm climate - average LOW in January is about 7 degrees... well above freezing. Four or five months of ice and snow, with 14 or 15 hours of darkness in the winter time add a bunch of additional challenges.

              1. DougS Silver badge

                Re: @Tom 38 - leveling the land

                AC - I was talking about "easy" in terms of leveling the ground so there are no hills to make biking easier, not talking about the weather.

                I agree bad weather is a problem for biking, though once in a while I'll see people riding their bikes to work in the snow with the air temperature below zero (Fahrenheit!) so it can be done. It just shouldn't.

        2. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          "It never rains in southern California."

          It pours, man it pours.

          1. Public Citizen

            Re: Obviously the solution is....

            Then it all burns down so the next time it rains there are torrential mudslides.

      2. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Obviously the solution is....

        > Bikes are not a solution because it is cold or rainy enough of the time. We don't all live in fucking LA.

        Poor weather is a barrier to cycle adoption, true, but it can be engineered around. For starters:

        - better clothing. Also, heating elements on handlebars if bike already has a battery.

        - an enclosed fairing. The extra weight and wind resistance can be mitigated with an electric motor.

        - urban design. Main cycle routes could be covered.

        The other carriers to cycling are:

        -safety concerns. Can be mitigated by better urban design, car design, driver and cyclist education.

        - hygiene. People don't want to be sweaty at work. Some workplaces have a shower.

        - theft of bicycle. Some countries insist that workplaces allow worker's bikes to be securely parked.

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          If people had wanted to come in to work wearing lycra, cold and wet and needing a shower and change of clothes, they probably already would.

          Guess what? Most people like washing and getting dressed at home, and they don't like getting up earlier for the glorious benefits of cycling. Many cyclists only prefer to do it in their commute for part of the year, but we all need to go to work all year round.

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: Obviously the solution is....

            @Tom 38, come to the city center in Amsterdam or Utrecht for instance on a Tuesday morning and count the amount of people on a bike wearing lycra. You MIGHT count one or two bike couriers or amateur race cyclists, but most will just be dressed in normal clothes. Take it easy on a bike and you don't even have to be sweaty either. I cycle to work (20 minutes to get there, 20 minutes back in the afternoon) regularly. I've never had to shower when I get there. I MIGHT when I get back because that's when I get my heart-rate up and push myself a bit, since I am going home anyway).

            1. Tom 38 Silver badge

              Re: Obviously the solution is....

              Is it just a coincidence that the flattest country in world has one of the highest cycling rates?

              Next: Levelling the land

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Obviously the solution is....

              "Take it easy on a bike and you don't even have to be sweaty either."

              When the summer daytime temperature is on the high side of thirty degrees, and the humidex can approach 40, just sitting out on a bike is enough to produce major sweating, even before you try to go anywhere. There is a reason virtually every car sold in some areas has air conditioning.

          2. Phil Lord

            Re: Obviously the solution is....

            Shockingly, it is possible to cycle in normal clothes, and not shower at the other end, because you don't get sweaty. The reason for this is that most urban journeys are 3miles or less, over which distance a cycle is entire comfortable.

            Unfortunately, in many cities, there is no space for cycling, and the experience is miserable of the cars. Provide the space, the number of cyclists go up. The lycra clad, helmeted, cyclists, high-energy lasers for headlights is a product of car-centric city planning. We don't need their numbers to go up. It's everybody else.

            1. DougS Silver badge

              @Phil Lord

              I am going to guess you live in the UK or perhaps an area of Europe or the US with a similar climate, where it never gets particularly hot and if it does get close to hot it isn't very humid. Most of the US gets very hot and humid at times during the summer, with heat indexes reaching over 100F on some days. You can't bike three miles or even one mile without getting very sweaty unless it is downhill all the way. Some days you would be drenched in sweat just walking a few hundred feet to your car.

              I ride my bike all the time and there are plenty of days in June, July and August when I'm already pretty sweaty when I reach the city limits which are about two miles from where I live. And this is in the midwest where while it gets as hot and humid as it does anywhere in the south it does it for a far fewer number of days per year (and over a longer portion of the year than just June - August) In Florida the number of days per year I'd have to deal with these conditions would be at least 10x higher.

        2. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          "Poor weather is a barrier to cycle adoption, true, but it can be engineered around. For starters:"

          - an enclosed fairing.

          Ok, we'll put a box round the whole thing, that should keep the rain out.

          - urban design.

          Have roads go where people want to go

          -safety concerns.

          Bikes tend to fall over when stopped, and perform badly in crashes, let's add some more wheels

          - hygiene. People don't want to be sweaty at work.

          Well, the motor should take care of the sweat, and the 'fairing' will take care of the rain/snow/sleet we get on a typical June day.

          - theft of bicycle.

          Well, the enclosed fairing could have some kind of lock to keep thieves away from the interior.

          Hey, we just re-invented the car!

        3. pdh

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          > Poor weather is a barrier to cycle adoption, true, but it can be engineered around.

          You've never lived in a cold, snowy city, have you?

          I live in the northeastern U.S. in a city of 100,000. We get a lot of snow -- there's about a foot of it on the ground right now, thanks to last week's thaw which reduced the snow cover. The current temperature is 13 degrees F -- it was colder yesterday. Most of our roads have packed snow on them and there are many icy spots. If it warms up a bit, some of the snow and ice will turn to slush, thanks to the road salt that the city applies. Have you ever ridden a bicycle when temperatures are below freezing and the streets are a mix of snow and ice and salty slush?

          Nevertheless, there are still a few maniac winter bicyclists out there, including a few of my friends (I'm a warm-weather cyclist myself). But they ride fat-tire bikes with studded tires, and they generally spend hundreds of dollars on specialized winter clothing. There's no way that any significant percentage of people would ride a bicycle in the winter in a place like this, even if it was motorized with a fairing and heated bars. (We call those "motorcycles;" they're common here in the summer, but not in the winter.) And there are lots of places like this.

          1. jmch Silver badge

            Re: Obviously the solution is....

            "And there are lots of places like this."

            I'm sure there are lots of places like that where cycling is impractical in winter.... but the vast majority of world's population live in areas that get no or hardly any snow. See:

            https://www.themarysue.com/world-population-latitude-longitude/

            ...showing about half the world's population live between the temperate and subtropical zones in the northern hemisphere. Bicycles might not work where you live, but for the majority of Earth's population living in temperate or subtropical cities, bicycles (possibly motorized or electrified) are an ideal solution for passenger transport. You get full autonomy, easy access to anywhere within a few km, tiny road and parking footprint, much cheaper cost and maintenance.

            Limit city centre surfaces to cycle and pedestrian-only, push mass public transport and delivery vehicle routes underground (both of which could then be easily fully automated), circle the city centre with massive park-and rides, and build your vehicle infrastructure outside the city. Then you just need some driver aids (especially useful and easy to implement for motorways) on cars, not full automation.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Obviously the solution is....

              "bicycles (possibly motorized or electrified) are an ideal solution for passenger transport. You get full autonomy, easy access to anywhere within a few km, tiny road and parking footprint, much cheaper cost and maintenance.

              Limit city centre surfaces to cycle and pedestrian-only, push mass public transport and delivery vehicle routes underground (both of which could then be easily fully automated), circle the city centre with massive park-and rides, and build your vehicle infrastructure outside the city. Then you just need some driver aids (especially useful and easy to implement for motorways) on cars, not full automation."

              Sounds like 'you can't get there from here' hell, designed for twenty something jocks who work in the local supermarket.

              Some of us are older, with extra decades of accumulated wear and tear, who commute a hundred kilometers a day, work in specialized jobs away from city centers and mass transport hubs, and need to carry more stuff with us than you can on the bicycle that is only really feasible about four months of the year assuming our commute was an uncharacteristically short ten kilometers, and we were not going somewhere after work.

            2. Public Citizen

              Re: Obviously the solution is....

              Your thesis blows up as soon as you factor in those of us with mobility issues.

              Or those of us who have both mobility issues and live in sub-urban/rural areas where "public transportation", if available at all, is only available during limited hours.

        4. Aitor 1 Silver badge

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          I cycle, but we must recognize that a better bicycle is one that has four wheels, is covered and has an engine. And it is called a car.

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          None of this fixes the problems of snow and black ice, nor does warmer clothing help as much when the wind chill hits -30, and exposed flesh freezes in minutes. Sweating in such an environment can also be life threatening.

          The best fix to produce a truly useful bicycle is to turn it into a car.

        6. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          Poor weather is a barrier to cycle adoption, true, but it can be engineered around

          Or ignored. Plenty of people here in Michigan have bicycles. It builds character.

          For that matter, I believe I've seen some people riding bicycles in poor weather in Europe and Asia.

        7. MacroRodent Silver badge

          Enclosed fairing (Re: Obviously the solution is....)

          - an enclosed fairing. The extra weight and wind resistance can be mitigated with an electric motor.

          Doesn't work (except in California or other warm climates). Unless it is heated vigorously, it will quickly get fogged in cold weather! The energy required would need either a heavy battery, or some fuel-burning heater. Both pretty much negate the whole idea of a bicycle.

        8. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          The temperature in D.C. ranged from minus eight degrees (Fahrenheit mind you) to one hundred and three, in one year (2014 if memory serves). Heavy drenching rains happen numerous times a year, as do heavy snowfalls and icing events.

          The weather's even worse inland. Check out Chicago!

      3. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Obviously the solution is....

        Cold and rainy pretty much describes the weather in the Netherlands between October and April/May. Yet it is a popular and oft used method of getting around. So claiming cold or rain is a problem for bike adoption is mostly just about mindset, not any real problem.

        The biggest problem outside biking cultured countries is that drivers just don't know how to deal with bicycles. They don't watch their mirrors, don't signal clearly, don't block off the curb-side when turning right (on right-hand traffic) to prevent cyclists getting in their blind-spot, don't watch before opening a door, etc, etc. I regularly use a bicycle in the Netherlands. I wouldn't even THINK about doing so in the US. I'm not suicidal.

        1. boltar Silver badge

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          "Cold and rainy pretty much describes the weather in the Netherlands between October and April/May. Yet it is a popular and oft used method of getting around. So claiming cold or rain is a problem for bike adoption is mostly just about mindset, not any real problem."

          The netherlands is also as flat as a board with plenty of segregated cycle paths - a molehill would be considered a significant geographical feature. This makes cycling rather easy. Now try cycling in the UK on a normal road probably covered in potholes in the pissing rain in twilight up a 1 in 20 with cars and 40 ton trucks passing you by at 50mph. Not so much fun now is it?

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: Obviously the solution is....

            @Boltar, a lot of cities worldwide aren't that hilly either and traffic congestion is mostly a problem within cities and sub-urbs, not outside. Of course infrastructure has to allow for safe cycling. Cycling on a normal road without a bike path section is of course not safe, but again, mostly because motorized vehicle drivers don't expect a cyclist to be there in the first place. I'm not saying biking is an option for everyone. I'm not saying it's an option everywhere. But it's often an under utilized option if it IS there.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Obviously the solution is....

              "Cycling on a normal road without a bike path section is of course not safe"

              That assumption seems to be incorrect, based on accident statistics.

              In fact, you have a higher rate of accidents on streets with bicycle lanes than those without... just as you have more serious accidents with bike riders on sidewalks than on roads.

        2. Sebastian P.

          Never do this

          "Cold and rainy pretty much describes the weather in the Netherlands between October and October". There, I fixed it for you.

          Fully agree with the rest, though I must say that one needs the Dutchies' upbringing in order to adopt the all-weather cycling mentality.

          1. Phil Lord

            Re: Never do this

            "one needs Dutchies' upbringing in order to adopt the all-weather cycling mentality"

            I use waterproofs; find that they work just as well.

          2. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: Never do this

            @Sebastian P. No, no, between roughly May and October it's lukewarm and rainy. Mild difference.

        3. Orv Silver badge

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          hey don't watch their mirrors, don't signal clearly, don't block off the curb-side when turning right (on right-hand traffic) to prevent cyclists getting in their blind-spot, don't watch before opening a door, etc, etc.

          I do all these things, although even after years of driving in cities with bike lanes I'm still not sure if it's legal for me to cross into the bike lane before making a right-hand turn. I do it to avoid hooking someone, but I fully expect to get a ticket some day. Expecting me to turn across a lane I can't legally enter just seems crazy.

          1. dylan 4

            Re: Obviously the solution is....

            "I do all these things, although even after years of driving in cities with bike lanes I'm still not sure if it's legal for me to cross into the bike lane before making a right-hand turn."

            Not sure if it's legal? Ever consider RTFM? Seems unlikely a simple Google search wouldn't find a link to your road rules if you could be bothered.

            1. Orv Silver badge

              Re: Obviously the solution is....

              Not sure if it's legal? Ever consider RTFM? Seems unlikely a simple Google search wouldn't find a link to your road rules if you could be bothered.

              It's hard to find anywhere it's clearly and unambiguously addressed. Also, there's the law, and then there's a traffic cop's understanding of the law, and it's the latter that matters. They often aren't the same thing when it comes to edge cases like this.

        4. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          The difference is performance clothing. I can step out my door into a downpour wearing a coat and hood which is waterproof AND breathable so, provided I'm wearing compatible clothes underneath it will deal with my sweat. On my legs I have a pair of waterproof and breathable overtrousers. On my feet are, you guessed it, waterproof and breathable boots.

          OR if the weather is warm I may opt to simply get wet as I often do in the warmer months when it rains on my runs. I wear no jacket and the sweat wicking technical running gear which is hard to wet, quick to dry and non chafing is transforming. I started running as a kid back in the 1970s. I also cycled 5 miles to school in Auckland NZ which can be both VERY wet and warm too. Subtropical. I had an oilskin. Going to school I would opt to wear it as sitting in wet cotton school uniform was not pleasant. In the winter my sockes would go on the radiator in the first classroom to dry out. Cycling home I would often choose to get wet rather than sweat and get hot in my oilskin as I climbed 250m steeply.

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          "Cold and rainy pretty much describes the weather in the Netherlands between October and April/May."

          Nonsense.

          The average monthly minimum temperature all winter in Amsterdam does not go below zero. As a result, it would seem unlikely that there is any major accumulation of snow and ice.

          The Netherlands seems to be rather warm in winter... being a marine climate probably helps.

          When your average temperature (not average minimum!) is below zero for three months to five months, you have a completely different situation.

          1. kiwimuso
            Mushroom

            Re: Obviously the solution is....

            "The Netherlands seems to be rather warm in winter... being a marine climate probably helps."

            Really?!?!

            How come then that when I had a 6 month contract in Amsterdam including the Christmas period, the canals started icing over. Not completely, admittedly, but any ice forming in the main city canals would seem to indicate a temperature below zero.

            I can also vouch for the temperature as I cycled from the Jordaan district out to near Schipol/Amstelveen most days.

            Icon, because I needed a bit of this after my journeys to and from.....

        6. Public Citizen

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          The major problem with bicyclists in the USA is that they flagrantly ignore the rules of the road that every other vehicle, and pedestrians, follow as a matter of course.

          Then, when this ignoring of common sense gets them in trouble, the endorphen overloaded spandex commandos get self righteously angry at the motorist who was/is exercising usual care in the use of the highways and roadways that are paid for with fuel and licensing taxes upon those motor vehicles, a financial burden that the bicyclists avoid and vociferously object to every time the issue is brought up.

      4. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Obviously the solution is....

        Most bicycles used - Netherlands and Denmark. It's cold, windy and rainy. People dress appropriately.

        If there is anything stopping bikes in urban environments it's (1) hills and (2) heat, especially if you want to arrive anywhere not drenched in sweat. eBikes can solve (1) and mitigate (2), and are far better solutions than cars for urban transport

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          "If there is anything stopping bikes in urban environments it's (1) hills and (2) heat, [...]"

          A recent news report looked at the high incidence of cycling in a town in the Netherlands. Its infrastructure had been influenced by the UK Stevenage new town's design with its many dedicated cycle/pedestrian paths.

          It showed that in comparison the cycle/pedestrian paths in Stevenage were almost unused nowadays. The Stevenage museum has many pictures of those paths crowded full of people in the 1950/60s - especially in the industrial area. Once people could afford a car then they gave up their bicycles/walking. A similar thing happened in the new town of Milton Keynes.

          Stevenage has become a fast commuter service haven for hipsters driven out of London by house prices. That may account for the increased number of cycle racks installed in the station car park in the last couple of years - accommodating many up-market machines.

          It could be argued that many of the Stevenage housing/industrial areas are on the sides of hills - and the town shopping centres are in a valley. Is Milton Keynes equally hilly?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          " and are far better solutions than cars for urban transport"

          No, they are not.

          They are not fast enough to use major roads (minimum safe top speed about 120 kph, to almost keep up with the other traffic, and keep commute times under an hour), do not protect from temperatures of -30 to +35, cannot carry a reasonable load for a full day's activity (eg - computer, camera bag, scuba gear or telescope), cannot secure belongings against theft (eg - computers, cameras, firearms, confidential documents), cannot move two weeks worth of groceries without a trailer, cannot bring along a friend or three in comfort and safety (two wheel road users are very vulnerable in collisions and similar accidents), cannot provide security in questionable neighbourhoods, do not provide protection from ultraviolet rays or lightning...

          1. jmch Silver badge

            Re: Obviously the solution is....

            """ and are far better solutions than cars for urban transport"

            No, they are not. etcetc

            Pretty much all of your arguments apply to suburban and rural environments, not to urban environments. I can give you example from my own experience in Amsterdam which is a major urban centre.

            Top Speed - Irrelevant in urban areas where a car can only go at a fraction of the speed. Pretty much any city journey can be done at the same speed in a bike as in a car (average approx 30km/h). At peak hours it's much faster on a bike.

            Temperatures - Relevant only in the extremes. Suitable attire for cycling is comfortable from about -5 to +25 degrees which is the vast majority of cities for the vast majority of time. Anything more than a light dusting of snow is a problem for bikes.

            Carry capacity - Yes, for the most bulky items, but my experience was that a rucksack for stuff I need to take with me valuables and panniers for shopping work fine. Urban means shops just round the corner, meaning don't need to do 2 weeks' shopping at a go. Anyone reguarly needing more carrying capacity has a 'bakfiets' (look it up)

            Friends - have their own bicycles, kids have their seats on bicycles.

            Safety - A valid concern if the urban environment isn't suitable. My experience in Amsterdam is that just having a bike lane that is physically segregated from the road by a pavement (not just a line painted on the road) is extremely safe. The most dangerous things I found were tram lines, the unwary can get their wheel slot in the rail, and they get very slippery when it's raining.

            Questionable neighberhoods - If you need to cycle through you probably live there or nearby. I wouldn't do it in Johannesburg, but really most cities are safe especially for natives.

            UV rays - really????

            Lightning - hahahahahaha!! (seriously though, urban environment, lightning will strike the lightning conductors on any of the high buildings, not reach the street)

      5. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: Obviously the solution is....

        And some of us have been advised by the surgeon who did arthroscopy on my knee that if I kept cycling the other one would go the same way. I gave up pedalling and kept running and well over 20 years later both knees are tickety boo. Physios tell me that the operated kneecap is 'mistracking'. I tell them it works absolutely fine and causes me no pain and not even any crepitus and therefore I do not care.

        The surgeon fixed me, took away my pain, made me able to run again. Thanks mate.

      6. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: Obviously the solution is....

        There are plenty of barriers to universal adoption of cycling, here are just a few:

        - Some cities have big hills. Fine if you live in a flat bit, but not everyone is young and fit.

        - The weather is not always conducive to cycling (heavy rain, fog, high or gusty wind).

        - Not everyone can, or wants to, ride a bike. It is more demanding, physically, than driving a car.

        - Bikes are more dangerous than cars, they don't have a metal box around you with air bags. Even a low-speed collision can potentially cause a life-changing injury. Lack of road-sense by cyclists, who don;t need to have taken a test (and other road users, who do, but are careless) compound the risk.

        - People who live in small flats or bedsits may have nowhere to keep a bike. You can't keep them on the street like a car, as they are much easier to steal.

        ...and so on...

        The fact is that many people can adopt cycling for their daily commute, and do. But many people cannot, or will not. Better solutions are decent mass transport systems.

      7. Disk0
        Holmes

        Re: Bikes are not a solution...

        Quite. Here in the Netherlands we also have about 362 sunny days a year, and temperatures never drop below a comfortable 23 C. Humans were never meant to be weatherproof in the first place.

    5. Steve Channell
      Facepalm

      Re: Obviously the solution is.... Teleportation

      If they’re going to invest in something that’s not going to work, they should skip straight to teleportation, and only use physical moving for things that don’t mind going slowly.

      Where autonomous vehicle controls will be valuable is for electric car-sharing where they take turns to pop to the charging point in the middle of the night; automatic “take your time” parking and avoiding a driving ban going home drunk (like a Taxi, but you cleanup the ‘spilage’)

    6. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Obviously the solution is....

      The automated bicycle.

      Semi-autonomous personal transport used to be quite a common sight. It could take a little time to train their AI to meet your specific needs, but they could end up being very reliable and would last you for at least a third of your life. They required some regular maintenance but were fuelled mostly by hay and water, and the primary waste products were beneficial to your garden. They were surprisingly popular.

      1. horse of a different color

        Re: Obviously the solution is....

        What about automated shoes?

        1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          > What about automated shoes?

          Or even (the wrong) trousers?

        2. Disk0
          Thumb Up

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          Sold! And a pair of walking trousers with that please?

        3. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          "What about automated shoes?"

          It's the wrong trousers, Gromit! And they've gone wrong!

        4. onefang Silver badge

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          "What about automated shoes?"

          I walk every where barefoot. Maybe if they miniaturize it enough I can embed it in a toenail?

        5. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          "What about automated shoes?"

          If you mistakenly buy the 7 league model, you might feel a bit of excess stretching in the nether regions.

      2. frank 3

        Re: Obviously the solution is....

        Anyone who's ever looked after a horse will be lolling right now. They are time and money pits :D

        1. Paul 129
          Devil

          Re: Obviously the solution is....

          "Anyone who's ever looked after a horse will be lolling right now. They are time and money pits :D"

          A bike is faster over a prolonged distance.

          As well as not having the disposition to try and throw you off, tread on your toes, or walk under low branches, cause its feeling a little lazy/moody/mischievous.

          Watch out for low stuff. I swear they're mostly mischievous, with the occasional horsing around.

    7. pnony
      Mushroom

      Re: Obviously the solution is....

      They already broadly exist in the form of e-bikes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_bicycle). Even my dump of a town in the arse end of the Netherlands—think Oldham, but with windmills and even more racial tension—has just had a new dedicated e-bike shop open up. It's a growing market, even though the bikes start at a grand a pop compared to a few hundred for a regular beater.

      A killer feature of them is that they're basically motorbikes, but they don't have number plates nor does the rider require a driving licence. This may change as more drunk-drivers discover that they're a good way to get back from the pub despite a driving ban. Under English law, if you're still sober enough to keep it upright, it's legal. Drink-cycling is technically illegal in the Netherlands and attracts a fixed penalty, but so are drugs, whores, and bike theft, and look how much that gets enforced in Amsterdam.

      Icon because they use lithium batteries.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A strange idea

    If we're talking about the huge upheavals required, why are people seeking to preserve the concept of the city at all? Cities came about when transport and communications were very slow and very costly, when people had to be physically present at a specific location (such as a factory) to work, and when almost the only things with value were heavy, bulky, and often perishable.

    Look at London, Paris, New York now. How many people are involved with making anything? How may physically need to be there? Most of these cities now exist to service people working to create, process or analyse information, or making decisions based on information. All of that commuting, all of that squalid living cheek by jowl, all of the exorbitant property costs, sclerotic transportation, pollution, noise, concrete, it all exists only because the infrastructure and concentration of people was once needed. A city isn't a human scale creation; it has of itself no community. Just huge ghastly blots on the landscape, absorbing resources to create a sort of battery farm for humans.

    The idea of the walkable city is such contradiction in terms. If you want the ease of walking to work, why try and achieve that in the middle of a hundred square miles of overcrowded concrete? And why try and rebuild it for self driving cars?

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: A strange idea

      I think it's also about efficient set-up of shared infrastructure. A city allows many shared/scarce/expensive resources to be efficiently used/allocated in areas of significant population density (whether or not autonomous car-related or not).

      It also sounds like there is a cultural difference here as intimated in the article. For example, in London you would be fine walking (or getting the tube/bus) for many journeys.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A strange idea

        "in London you would be fine walking (or getting the tube/bus) for many journeys."

        There's a reason for this. The core of London grew up in ages where your choices were walking, or, if rich, taking a horse or carriage.

        Here, the cities grew up when your options were taking a car or train. The entire urban structure is different by design, meeting different needs with different constraints.

        The fact that something works in an old (often European) city is no reason to believe it will work in a newer (often North or South American) city

    2. boltar Silver badge

      Re: A strange idea

      "A city isn't a human scale creation; it has of itself no community. Just huge ghastly blots on the landscape, absorbing resources to create a sort of battery farm for humans."

      Cities do have communities, lots of them. And some of us like living in cities with everything nearby rather than in a dormitary village or barn in the middle of nowhere. Not all of us are on the spectrum, some of us value social interaction.

      1. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

        Re: A strange idea

        A better idea is to try some sort of separation of fast cars and humans (like we do now with motorways) and in suburbia where humans and cars do encounter each other, switch on a lot of safety features on cars.

        The next trick is to ban cars as much as possible from city centres, and provide instead very good car parking facilities around the city centres. A useful step in this direction would be to mandate that all traffic-related fines including parking fines must be paid to central government and not to local councils to prevent them from seeing car parking fines as a cash cow (this then forces them to see car parks as the cash cow instead).

        Inside a city, use either slow autonomous electric vehicles or variations on bicycles, including hire bikes with electric assist. For in-city deliveries, use autonomous and slow robot vehicles, but human-controlled ones outside cities.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: A strange idea

          The next trick is to ban cars as much as possible from city centres, and provide instead very good car parking facilities around the city centres.

          Unfortunately the ban always gets implemented, but then there's rarely enough money to build the car parks and replacement public transport. Even if there is, the eco-types get up in arms about the plans for the new roads that bypass the city to take the traffic that used to go through it, and the end result is traffic jams, pollution, and a dead city centre because the shops & restaurants have all migrated to places people can reach by car.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A strange idea

          "A better idea is to try some sort of separation of fast cars and humans (like we do now with motorways)[..]"

          That is how Cumbernauld new town was designed in Scotland in the 1960s. It does not appear to have been a success with the inhabitants.

          Stevenage new town also separated cyclist, pedestrians, and motor vehicles. The cycle/pedestrian path ways became largely unused once most people could afford a car.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A strange idea

        ""A city isn't a human scale creation; it has of itself no community. Just huge ghastly blots on the landscape, absorbing resources to create a sort of battery farm for humans.""

        You really don't understand anything about cities, do you?

        Civilization, as we know it, is a product of cities. The clue is in the word itself.

        Without cities we would probably not have much in the way of art, literature, technology, science, or culture, by the standards set by our current wealth in those areas.

        Cities, in turn, are dependent on tax collectors and 'peasants' - the workers who provide the 'surplus' that enables the existence of specialized classes such as teachers, artisans, artists, philosophers, scientists, engineers, and so on.

        Check out history, economics, anthropology and sociology for more clues.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A strange idea

          "Cities, in turn, are dependent on tax collectors and 'peasants' - the workers who provide the 'surplus' that enables the existence of specialized classes such as teachers, artisans, artists, philosophers, scientists, engineers, and so on."

          That effect started in much smaller communities like villages or towns. Unless there was handy navigable river then most people lived their whole lives inside such a relatively self-sufficient community. Teachers were a local "trade" involving one person - like the farrier and blacksmith. Many country squires dabbled in the science of the natural world and agriculture. Later on cities amplified that effect.

    3. Dazed and Confused

      Re: A strange idea

      The idea of the walkable city is such contradiction in terms.

      I think you've missed the whole point of cities.

      I was born in London and to be honest I wouldn't live there if you paid me to.

      But, I love visiting London of an evening. It's vibrant, There's lots happening, a huge variety of places to eat, places to go for entertainment. Lots of places to meet up with friends etc.

      To me that's the advantage of cities.

      If I was 30 years younger then I'd love to live in a place like that.

      The idea of the walkable city is such contradiction in terms.

      Nope!

      I want to be able to walk around it.

      I'd love to be able to just walk around without having to worry about cars, buses, trucks and cyclists.

      London has a high enough population density to fund burying most of the transport infrastructure. The more of that which is out of sight and out of mind the better.

      If they want to plan a city for autonomous cars then it should be one where the roads have been removed from the places that the pedestrians want to walk, live in 3 dimensions take it up and/or down.

      If all the roads were buried in tubes then people probably wouldn't care that much about driving.

      Oh yes,

      PS. I love to drive and wouldn't want an AV in today's road system.

      PPS, when AVs start to appear on our roads you can bet I'll be one of the people who game them.

      PPPS, I've said here before that as a pedestrian I will not give way to an AV, it can damn well stop and give way to me.

    4. Orv Silver badge

      Re: A strange idea

      I think you're missing that there are some things that still can't be efficiently provided in places with low population densities. These include:

      - Clean water

      - Sewage treatment

      - Fast internet

      I've lived in rural areas before, and trust me, having a well and a septic field (which you have to have enough land to keep suitably apart) is a pain in the ass, and brings with it all kinds of limitations and complications. In the suburbs you can still bring these things to people, but the fewer customers per mile the more the cost goes up.

      Even electrical power is less reliable in rural areas than in cities, and the only reason (at least in the US) that it's not massively more expensive is it's subsidized.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: A strange idea

        "I think you're missing that there are some things that still can't be efficiently provided in places with low population densities. These include:

        - Clean water

        - Sewage treatment

        - Fast internet"

        My house has a septic tank and it's no problem. I am on city water, so I'm not worried about my tank fouling a well on my property. The city well is about 1.5 miles away.

        I have blindingly fast internet from a cable provider and if they jack rates and piss me off, I can hook up with a high speed wireless provider that's not too far away and line of sight from my house.

        The town I am in is low density. There are no "developments" and many homes have at least one vacant lot next to them. I'm sitting pretty with only one home across the street from me and vacant land all around. I can go full force on the drum kit with no neighbor issues although, I haven't tested that at 2am.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A strange idea

      "The idea of the walkable city is such contradiction in terms. If you want the ease of walking to work, why try and achieve that in the middle of a hundred square miles of overcrowded concrete? "

      Indeed.

      If you want walkable, build arcologies... cubes 2,000 metres on a side, capable of housing all the functions of a city of a million people, where you can walk anywhere in forty minutes, or much less if you have horizontal 'elevators' as well as vertical ones.

  3. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Stop

    why are people seeking to preserve the concept of the city at all?

    A better question might be: why has every civilisation (and we'll ignore the fact that the root of that word means "city dwelling") from prehistory onwards only thrived in cities ???????

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: why are people seeking to preserve the concept of the city at all?

      why has every civilisation (and we'll ignore the fact that the root of that word means "city dwelling") from prehistory onwards only thrived in cities ???????

      One obvious answer is that in every previous civilisation being in close proximity was the only way for people to communicate and interact effectively. When that constraint ceases to exist...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: why are people seeking to preserve the concept of the city at all?

        "proximity was the only way for people to communicate and interact effectively"

        Going by what passes for communication on social media, it still is.

      2. Excellentsword

        Re: why are people seeking to preserve the concept of the city at all?

        I wanna live on Bjork's island.

      3. Dr Scrum Master

        Re: why are people seeking to preserve the concept of the city at all?

        Where that interaction is not just about work but is also about the exchange of goods and services.

        If everyone can sit on their arses* at home and consume services on-line or receive goods by drone, then it'll be the year 2525 (or 252525).

        *Google was unhappy with arse and arses.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: why are people seeking to preserve the concept of the city at all?

      why has every civilisation ... from prehistory onwards only thrived in cities [citation needed]

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge
        Mushroom

        RE: [citation needed]

        let's start with ...Uruk, c.3000 BCE, pop. c.80,000

        1. Bill M

          Re: RE: [citation needed]

          Did they have robocars in Uruk ?

          If not then what destroyed it ?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: why are people seeking to preserve the concept of the city at all?

      A quick review of the last 100 or so years of human history would suggest that most of what we have considered progress has revolved around moving people to urban areas/cities to give them better access to healthcare, education, social services and employment opportunities.

      The combination of vehicle economics, congestion, storage, security incidents and pollution have forced the current models of transport to be re-examined and it is very likely that future vehicles will be automated (the argument around whether the cars will by autonomous or centrally managed in some form is irrelevant in terms of the argument of self-drive vs automated).

      Once automation becomes common in large cities, it alters the economics for all future self drive cars (and the current economics for self drive cars looks shakey as the volumes decrease and people hold onto cars for longer, affecting the downstream resale markets). While the manufacturers hope electric vehicles will save them, I'm not convinced that increasingly more expensive vehicles will help them...

      While there are many arguments against shared vehicles, the success of Uber (from passenger/journey numbers) points to a large percentage of people in urban environments being prepared to trade their vehicles for the convenience of a well provisioned, cheap shared service.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: why are people seeking to preserve the concept of the city at all?

        Do not confuse autonomous vehicles with shared vehicles. The concepts are independent, and autonomous vehicle capability simply enhances the usefulness of both shared and private vehicles.

        Similarly do not confuse autonomous with electric vehicles... power systems are an independent variable.

        Also, do not assume that autonomous vehicles must be autonomous mode only, nor that autonomous vehicles cannot mix with human controlled vehicles - it should be obvious that their introduction will require the ability to mix with manual control vehicles

        1. Orv Silver badge

          Re: why are people seeking to preserve the concept of the city at all?

          it should be obvious that their introduction will require the ability to mix with manual control vehicles

          And *that* will be interesting. Especially when people realize the automated vehicles can be gamed. e.g., "if you need to squeeze into a lane of traffic, just look for one of the new Teslas, they hit the brakes as soon as you swerve toward them."

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: why are people seeking to preserve the concept of the city at all?

      Because cities are defensible concentrations of capabilities - food distribution, water, sewage systems, education, manufacturing, communication, policing, health care, fire fighting, environmental mitigation (flood control, snow removal, forest fires, etc) etc.

      As someone else pointed out, as population density drops, quality of services decline while their costs go up, resources for paying for them are diluted, and in the long run these places are not secure and defensible from either natural or human threats.

  4. Andytug

    Depends which country you're in, too.

    A lot of the US seems to have been designed around the car, to the point where it isn't even possible to walk anywhere, even between shops on opposite sides of the road (see Bill Bryson for examples).

    As opposed to the UK, Italy etc where many villages and towns were put together way before the car was invented and are almost completely unsuitable for cars.

    Mind you, if you design a town to keep pedestrians and cars apart you seem to get somewhere like Milton Keynes, or Skelmersdale............

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Depends which country you're in, too.

      "[...] Milton Keynes, or Skelmersdale............"

      Cumbernauld.

  5. Tigra 07 Silver badge

    I see the problem as "how do we stop cars driving over everything?" Fields, pavements, pedestrians? If the law was enforced in the first place i believe we'd all be much happier.

    Some drivers speed, some park anywhere, and some are so blatantly dangerous they shouldn't be on the road at all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      driving over everything

      I see the problem as "how do we stop cars driving over everything?"

      What about optical illusion pedestrian crossings, like this one being tried in France (article is in French, but the picture is clear).

      1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: AC

        Why is Donald Trump pulling that man over the crossing?

  6. Unep Eurobats
    Childcatcher

    What price safety?

    We've been told that autonomous cars will be safer for other road users. Their sensors are better and their reactions faster and more reliable than those of human drivers.

    Now it sounds like the industry is beginning to go back on that promise. We're hearing that autonomous vehicles will mean 'the barricades go up'; that pedestrian safety is 'difficult, expensive' and 'cannot be dealt with by today's technology'.

    So which is it? A driverless utopia or autogeddon? I suspect car-makers are too unwilling to spend the money required to give us the former, so are beginning to soften us up for the latter. You do want that fleet of robot vehicles bringing you cheap deliveries, right? So stay behind those barricades.

  7. tiggity Silver badge

    Wake me up

    When an autonomous car can take me back from a pub in the middle of the countryside, (so it can contend with e.g. cattle crossing the road from field to field, horses (with riders) in the roads etc .

    As it would be churlish to not have a drink at said pub, needs to allow me (being over the limit) not having to take any control, just effectively being a passenger.

    Until that day autonomous cars hold no interest.

    1. Zimmer
      Facepalm

      Re: Wake me up

      There are going to be a lot of disappointed people/supporters of the autonomous vehicle when they wake up and realise the regulations surrounding them will require those non-drivers to pass a driving test in order to be driven around in one...

      As far as I can tell the only people clamouring for the autonomous car are those who cannot drive. They already have the solution to their problem, it's called a taxi and, yes, it's expensive... don't expect the driverless one to come any cheaper..

      Could we not spend the development money on building some more power stations and infrastructure for all those millions of electric cars the government wants us to drive in the near future?

      (What do you mean ,'Not until they've worked out how to replace the @£1/litre in tax revenue' ?)

      (D'oh and Epic Fail, too IMHO)

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Wake me up

        "They already have the solution to their problem, it's called a taxi and, yes, it's expensive... don't expect the driverless one to come any cheaper.."

        Why? It's not like you have to pay a driver. And if you don't have a cost advantage, no one's going to use you.

  8. SVV Silver badge

    Great solution dudes!

    Our invention isn't really a great idea fr cities? Well, just get rid of the cities then!

    Still not great when there's pedestrians arund? Just get rid of the pedesrians!

    A technlology that requires such fundamentally stupid ideas like this isn't a workable solution to any practical problem - it's just trying to change the problem in a ludicrously massive and impracticable way in order to fit the "solution". History tells us that following this type of thinking ultimately leads to conversion of humans into Daleks, so let us fight against it with all our might to stop that tragic chapter repeating itself.

  9. Alan J. Wylie

    Highway lanes expand and contract automatically for high-traffic times," dreams John Jones, Fjord's VP of design strategy.

    Just like the A38M.

    BTW, I worked on the requirements specification for the tidal flow signalling back in the early '90s

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd rather have automated buses, trains and trams....and have them subsidised to get the prices down.

    Or failing that, more HOV lanes. Seriously...most of the vehicles clogging up our roads have only a single occupant. That needs to be discouraged, and hitting people in the wallet is the quickest way to get a response. Car sharing schemes don't work because people are lazy and/or selfish. I tried offering rides on Blablacar and the sheer lack of interest compared to the likes of Germany is astounding.

    You may declare it's your right to own a car. Which it is. But it shouldn't be an assumed right to drive it on public highways without assuming some of the (environmental/financial/congestion/aesthetic) cost that it inflicts on everybody else.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "Seriously...most of the vehicles clogging up our roads have only a single occupant."

      Ever thought that's because they live and/or work nowhere near their co-workers? Bus isn't an option in my area because the nearest bus stop is a few miles away and often with a full parking lot, the weather is lousy 9/10th of the year and I have knee trouble as it is. Taxis raise the cost of living beyond my range, and I can't move. Basically, it's a personal car or bust.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The problem here is the lack of investment in public transport. MORE cars just makes the problem worse. Look at Los Angeles. One of the densest road networks in the Western world, with some of the worst traffic jams. And almost no public transport to speak of. The LA Metro is about 40 years behind where it should be because they're too busy building 8-lane highways.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          No, it's because the last time they tried to build a subway, part of Hollywood Boulevard became a sinkhole. LA'S been leery about mass transit since, especially since none are ever economically self-sufficient.

    2. Redstone
      WTF?

      ..it shouldn't be an assumed right to drive it on public highways without assuming some of the (environmental/financial/congestion/aesthetic) cost

      Considering the amount of tax you have to pay when: 1. You buy a car, 2. Pay your Vehicle tax, 3. Fill up your car, plus VAT on any and all conumables (wipers, tyres etc.) then it would seem evident that drivers have (by a long mile) more than 'assumed' the imaginary cost you believe is inflicted on others. It really is their right to drive on public highways that their taxes have financed.

      As for cars being used by a single occupant: Good. It's everyone's right to associate with whomever they please - and if that means associating with no-one at all on their journey, more power to them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Noted. So, you're saying that the rich have priority?

        I was speaking in a more general, long-term sense, rather than looking at who contributes and deciding that those who contribute more should get more...

        As for cars being used by a single occupant: Good. It's everyone's right to associate with whomever they please - and if that means associating with no-one at all on their journey, more power to them.

        Uhh...so you say that social isolation is a good thing? Are you also in favour of gated communities and anything else which deliberately isolates people from those who aren't like them? God forbid you might have to interact with somebody you didn't plan to during the course of your day.

        I presume you're either an Audi owner, or wish you were taken to work in a Chauffeur-driven limousine?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Car sharing schemes don't work because people are lazy and/or selfish.

      Yes, that must be it. I should give up my job and instead work for the same employer as my next-door neighbour so that we can both travel in together. It's just my laziness and selfishness that prevents me.

      Perhaps I should persuade my neighbour to become a bus driver, that way I can get the bus to work *and* claim that I'm car sharing - doubly virtuous.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Ever think that perhaps it didn't apply to you? I don't car share either, because I work from home.

        But there are thousands of companies across the country where people travel from relatively close by along the same roads...and they don't share.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I'd rather have automated buses, trains and trams....and have them subsidised to get the prices down."

      That's foolish. Why try to limit 21st century technology to replicating 19th century tech with all its flaws and limitations?

      Instead, get rid of buses, and trams, and convert trains for carriage of heavy transport AVs,

      Get rid of HOV lanes by converting them to AMO (autonomous mode only) lanes.

      Get rid of subsidies, which only encourage bad decisions that cost us all by distorting the economy and preventing the efficient provision of services people actually want.

      A Rand corporation study estimated that an electric two person AV could provide transport for two people for 16 cents per mile (10 cents per kilometre). The added utility of shared vehicles providing door to door service makes this an obvious replacement for conventional buses and streetcars, particularly when you are on a 60 passenger bus, plodding along with one other passenger and the driver... a waste of capital, labour, road space, energy, and other resources.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yeah...because Reaganomics worked so well before...

  11. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Not a new problem

    The growth in car ownership led to all sorts of grandiose post-war plans to "modernise" cities for the age of personal transportation. These included the London Ringways, the similar Manchester plan and the Newcastle Central Motorway(s). None of these plans was ever fully completed owing to the ever-growing protests about the destruction of both buildings and environment that resulted. The roads that were built are now little better than car parks at peak travel times.

    In the unlikely event that autonomous vehicles ever become realistic and in the absence of any other change, most of them are going to be sitting in the same traffic jams. You can't fix that with more roads, only by changing lifestyles so there are fewer vehicles.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Not a new problem

      Oh? Can't automated vehicles coordinate themselves better than humans with their subpar reaction times?

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Not a new problem

      You could remove half the cars at a stroke if ride sharing was the norm. The obvious carrot would be that the car driver would travel more quickly on a less congested road (if the reduction in traffic didn't encourage more people to travel at that time). Humour behaviour is complex.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Not a new problem

        *Human* behaviour, that is.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Car sharing

        Ok, heres a problemo for you

        Today I drove from Dorking to Crawley, went to B&Q, Sainsburys, picked up my Mother, took her to a place on the other side of Horsham for Lunch, took her home, made her a cup of tea and then returned home.

        Left home at 09:30 returned home at 16:10.

        Exactly how does car sharing work with that then? Oh, and the car needed to be able to carry her wheelchair.

        Car sharing is fine in theory but for most of us real life gets in the way.

        1. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Re: Car sharing

          Ok, heres a problemo for you

          Today I drove from Dorking to Crawley, went to B&Q, Sainsburys, picked up my Mother, took her to a place on the other side of Horsham for Lunch, took her home, made her a cup of tea and then returned home.

          Left home at 09:30 returned home at 16:10.

          Exactly how does car sharing work with that then? Oh, and the car needed to be able to carry her wheelchair.

          Car sharing is fine in theory but for most of us real life gets in the way.

          And how would you have achieved that if yourself and your mother were living before the invention of the car? Wouldn't have gotten all that done in a day by cart or carriage.

          That's not real life, it's life today.

          Maybe a lifestyle, long term, humanity can ill afford.

          Our thoughtless selfishness of todays lifestyles could well mean our descendants have less.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Car sharing

            "And how would you have achieved that if yourself and your mother were living before the invention of the car? Wouldn't have gotten all that done in a day by cart or carriage."

            Before the invention of the car, populations were less crowded, and living costs were lower. Ergo, it was more likely mother and child would be living closer together, if not in the same household.

            But, as you so aptly put it, times have changed. There are tons more people in the same cities, creating overcrowding issues. Not to mention sky-high property costs and rents. If you can live in Manhattan on $55 a day with a bona fide roof over your head (8 hrs at about mandated minimum wage), I'd be impressed.

            As it is, most people are priced out of the options that were available in the 19th century. About the only people who could really do what you demand are the rich. For most anyone else, it's the car or bust. Force the issue and a lot of people are going to suffer if not die as a result, and an attitude of "Too bad, game over, better luck next life" is going to raise resentment and perhaps cause backlash come voting time, if not before. Remember, popular uprisings have risen for less.

  12. I am the liquor

    No problem

    It shouldn't be too hard to make roads more suitable for driverless cars. First put big fences down both sides so pedestrians can't get anywhere near them. Then add a signalling system so the car can easily see if it's getting too close to the car in front. Maybe add metal rails to guide the cars, so they don't even have to worry about steering and cars going in opposite directions can't possibly hit each other. Driverless cars should be no problem at all then.

    Oh wait, no, according to the RMT, the cars would then need a driver _and_ a guard.

    1. Glenturret Single Malt

      Re: No problem

      ... put big fences down both sides so pedestrians can't get anywhere near them...

      Just like the railways and look how successful they have been (e.g. Calais e.g. schoolchildren killed or injured).

  13. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    The best of both worlds

    Turf the streets and run cars underground.

    It's not hard to have anything we want; the limit is having the will and ambition, being willing and able to pay for it, and accepting there will be a good deal of upheaval required in the short term.

    Perhaps we need some war or other as that's often an enabler of change. When one's got to rebuild there's an opportunity of making things better and more appropriate than they were.

    Our greatest societal problem is we want the new but won't accept change, or reject the new because we fear change. Most people seem to be NIMBY by nature whenever something affects them.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: The best of both worlds

      It's costing New York about $3bn/mile of tunnel - and that's for a narrow subway.

      Now do that for 4 / 8 lanes of highway, with on/off ramps and ventilation

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The best of both worlds

        "It's costing New York about $3bn/mile of tunnel [...]"

        People are trying to work out who accepted such an inflated price.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: The best of both worlds

          Ask Boston. Look up "The Big Dig".

    2. the Jim bloke Silver badge

      Re: The best of both worlds

      The deeper the canyon you run your GPS in, the worse its accuracy. While satellite cannot be the sole source of positional data (and useless for mobile object detection), it is a cornerstone for vehicle navigation.

      Instead of burying the vehicle roads, perhaps we should elevate them, which solves a lot of the segregation issues, and produces sheltered paths to mitigate climate issues for human powered transport. This would have a massive construction cost plus drawbacks such as on/off ramps landuse requirements, degraded GNSS and other signals for anyone underneath one, and many more that I cant be bothered to think up right now.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: The best of both worlds

        Here's a big one. Who gets to foot the bill?

  14. inmypjs Silver badge

    I posted years ago...

    the only way we are going to have smart autonomous cars is by making roads dumb enough for them.

    1. ravenviz

      Re: I posted years ago...

      Well it all started back in the day when roads had to have proper surfaces for reasonable hope of completing an unimpeded and comfortable journey. We have been slaves to the automobile on so many levels for over a century!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I posted years ago...

        "Well it all started back in the day when roads had to have proper surfaces for reasonable hope of completing an unimpeded and comfortable journey."

        That goes back all the way to the turnpikes. Mind you - the Romans got there a lot earlier and some of their road surfaces still survive.

  15. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Seattle and Vancouver, BC

    "Road signs and lanes disappear

    Good - it can only help.

    The freeway from Seattle splits into two border crossings.

    The old one is "straight on", the new one, open 24hours and with truck facilities, splits off at the last exit.

    You also have signs warning you to exit before you end up at the border

    The result is a set of instructions, to be read at 70 mph, that I think are Turing complete, the wordage makes "Finnegans Wake" read like the Very hungry Caterpillar

  16. EBG

    great quote

    .. from Pratt. I'll be using it frequently. Squares with everything I've ever heard from the actual control systems people, as against the hype merchants. And at last from some one who can't simply be dismissed with " it's the future, it's coming, get with the program, etc. "

  17. prtguru

    Walkability is Key

    Walkability is not a prime consideration in reinventing mobility and it should be. Great walkability can only be achieved when we separate cars from pedestrians by elevating or burying the “cars”. Reclaiming the surface for pedestrians is key to improving the quality of life. It is as simple as that. This requires new transportation infrastructure. Musk's Boring solution is an expensive and misguided attempt at the right solution. Far better technology exists in the form of automated transit networks (ATN or PRT, podcar, pod taxi). Small examples exist around the world and new examples with thousands of pods are now emerging in the East. Learn more at www.prtconsulting.com

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Walkability is Key

      But can they scale and work in OLD cities like London? Also, to increase walkability, you not only have to make the surface pedestrian-friendly but also the locations, meaning you have to pick winners and say who goes where so that all the necessities are within walking distance. All that's going to cost, and you know how averse the citizenry are to new taxes.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Walkability is Key

      "Walkability is not a prime consideration in reinventing mobility and it should be"

      That's backwards.

      Walkability is inadequate for transportation in a modern (large) city, particularly as slowdowns in population growth shifts the demographics to older citizens. We no longer live in villages of one or two hundred people, where there is little specialization in buildings, resources, economic roles, etc.

      Modern cities may contain, for example, manufacturing plants that are 2 km long or wide, areas devoted to warehouses and factories, or fuel depots, or generating stations, others to commercial activities of a hundred specialized types, or entertainment venues that can hold 50,000 people, or places to live that have to fit varied lifestyles and their requirements. Work may be 40 km away, school 30 km in another direction, and the theatre 50 km in yet another direction. As more people work at something other than factory shift work, transportation patterns become more and more individual, and geographically more expansive. The only real and efficient solution includes some form of individually routed transportation.

      Some people will choose to live in large vertical hives, and work in other large vertical hives... for them a subway or train may provide adequate transportation, but others of us really don't fit into a concrete termite hill. I work with 80 colleagues from all over the metropolitan area. The one living nearest to me is several kilometers away, and does not keep the same schedule. Subways and buses give me a four hour round trip commute. A car gives me an hour round trip commute, and the option of doing more than just going to work and home again. Losing 20 hours a week to transit is not an acceptable solution.

      Walking, if it were possible, would yield a 22 hour round trip, without breaks. Not going to happen.

      Also, it makes far more sense to elevate or bury the pedestrians. If elevated they require much less infrastructure and load capacity. If buried, they need less excavation and ventilation, and are protected from the heat, cold, wet, and icy conditions.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Walkability is Key

        "Also, it makes far more sense to elevate or bury the pedestrians. If elevated they require much less infrastructure and load capacity. If buried, they need less excavation and ventilation, and are protected from the heat, cold, wet, and icy conditions."

        Perhaps, but always take into account people who have trouble walking inclines (or can't do them at all). At least cars are powered so are built to handle inclines. Try the same with an elderly person in a wheelchair (even a powered one if the battery's weak).

  18. John Lilburne

    Delivery Bots have to solve the Dalek problem

    How do they get upstairs? Seriously how do they deliver to some apartment in the 10th floor of a block of flats? Don't many of the houses in San Francisco have a flight of steps up to the door? Not all entrances are at street level.

    Additionally there are a number of trips that will involve these little beasts negotiating badly lit underpasses where they can be hijacked, and they won't be equipped with a sink plunger raygun.

    1. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Delivery Bots have to solve the Dalek problem

      How do they get upstairs? Seriously how do they deliver to some apartment in the 10th floor of a block of flats? Don't many of the houses in San Francisco have a flight of steps up to the door? Not all entrances are at street level.

      Maybe, if there's enough money involved, this will finally result in wheelchair access to those buildings?

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Delivery Bots have to solve the Dalek problem

        That's because San Francisco in general is a pedestrian's nightmare: a very hilly city. In many places, it's impossible to have the entrance at street level because the house is inclined against the street: sometimes on BOTH axes.

  19. sjsmoto

    The Roads Must Roll

    Forget moving vehicles, just make the roads move.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Roads_Must_Roll

  20. GrumpyKiwi

    Pretty much everyone commenting in this thread works in IT in some form or another. Do any of you have any form of technology that you own/look after that you'd trust your life with? Because that is what this autonomous driving technology is asking you to do.

    Me, my most reliable technology that I own is my iPhone and there is no way in Satan's hot hell that I'd trust my life to something that reliable. Even my Linux servers don't reach that level of reliability to be trusted.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      I know plenty who HAVE to trust their lives to technology. Pacemakers, for a start.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Pretty much everyone commenting in this thread works in IT in some form or another. Do any of you have any form of technology that you own/look after that you'd trust your life with? Because that is what this autonomous driving technology is asking you to do.

      I have a motorbike and I trust that the ECU won't suddenly try and run the engine backwards as soon as I get to 70mph.

  21. CheesyTheClown

    Bullshit... if you don’t mind

    Autonomous cars are the best idea out there. As soon as Uber, Lyft or someone else can allow me to pay a monthly fee (within reason) for the ability to click “bring me here” and then send an autonomous vehicle with individual lounge pods of which there should be 6-16 per vehicle, I will leave my car parked in the garage and use it for the monthly grocery store trip to Sweden.

    I and many others have no interest in manually operated vehicles. I believe that highways should be autonomous car only. I believe streets on Singapore where the street is off limits to humans and underground passages are available are the solution.

    I want rapid charger vehicles on the road so autonomous vehicles can be charged by magnetically linking to a vehicle in front of them while driving.

    I believe cities must evolve. I also believe that the rubbish written in this article is written by some pissy “I want to drive my own motorized weapon” asshole.

    It’s time for autonomous vehicles. It’ll take 10-20 more years to get something good.

    Also... quit the bullshit about asking companies like Volvo, Ford, BMW, etc... about autonomous vehicles. They will all be gone before long. Their business model depends on 1.5 cars per western household. With autonomous vehicles, we should see more like one pod bus per 3-4 households instead. The pod bus will have few moving parts and due to lack of individuality, they will no longer be replaceable but instead repairable and upgradable.

    There is no room left for traditonal car companies in the future. We’re done with that. It’s time to move on. I am driving a BMW i3 and this car is proof that BMW will never survive the technology future. They can’t even make the front hatch not open while the driver is sitting down with the key in their pocket. Let’s not even talk about their software updating system. The f-ing car is internet connected and you have to bring it to a garage for security patches.

    We’ll see real autonomous vehicle companies in the future. Probably one of the companies that will spin off of Tesla after Musk over-extends and bankrupts the company.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Bullshit... if you don’t mind

      "I believe cities must evolve. I also believe that the rubbish written in this article is written by some pissy “I want to drive my own motorized weapon” asshole."

      And I believe the car will always be demanded by people whose lives don't fit to a schedule yet is still only 24 hours long, minus time necessary for sleep and so on. Many of us find ourselves having to go anywhere (including off-road), anytime (on short to no notice) while carrying passengers (like children and the elderly, neither of which will have much in the way of incomes) and cargo (including stuff I wouldn't trust to a bus or train, if I was even allowed) in any number of combinations, along routes less traveled. There's a VERY good reason a personal car has long been considered a symbol of personal freedom in spite of its caveats.

      1. GrumpyKiwi

        Re: Bullshit... if you don’t mind

        Personal freedom symbol, yes I agree. Those who want to be rid of the car are inevitably a left or right wing fascist (hard to tell them apart these days) all of whom love mass transit for it's ability to relocate populations to 're-education camps'. (My local f***witted city council saw absolutely no irony in promoting their 'mass-transit revolution' using the Soviet Realist style of artwork/fonts).

  22. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    No hysteria here. Move along.

  23. Sysgod

    meh

    Walking urbanism is a fad that is being blown up by these ex-suburbanites needing space for marriage and kids.

    Been behind a Prius lately? Think auto-driving cars are going to go 10-15 over the speed limit? It might create more wrecks having to get around these guys.

    But my greatest fear is the robo-streamed semi's. A line of 10 semi's will be like a wall on a freeway causing all sorts of troubles.

    Yeah, auto-driving cars will hit squirels, and people wrongly stepping off a curb or crossing in the middle of the street. But like turn-abouts, they'll be more safer than the alternative.

    We've had a hundred years to make train and subway access safer, and we haven't. No need to focus to perfection on safety because it aint gonna happen.

    1. kirk_augustin@yahoo.com

      Re: meh

      Auto driving cars won't be safe at all, because they are too slow to recognize things. Humans have over 100 billion processors, so are a hundred million times faster at image recognition. Current autonomous vehicles can't even recognize turn signals or brake lights. They are pathetic and dangerous. Nor would they be any fun, or as safe as mass transit.

  24. conscience
    Stop

    Pure fantasy

    Safe, cheap and reliable autonomous electric vehicles any time soon is pure fantasy. It's all just hype.

    Regardless of how much the tech companies salivate at the thought of selling x hundred million pieces of software, hardware and a bewildering amount of sensors, the technology isn't even close to existing with which to build reliable and safe autonomous electric cars. The environment isn't remotely suitable, and even the cities would apparently need redesigning. Parts of the industry are finally being honest and confessing to this, but nobody seems to have informed the UK government who are too busy right now enjoying appearing to actually understand anything technological to notice!

    The UK doesn't even have enough electricity to power such a plan, the government already pay large electricity users not to use any at peak times and run power station car parks full of diesel generators at peak demand while many coal-fired power stations continue to close years earlier than planned with no viable replacements even started to be planned or built. There aren't even enough roads to handle any more cars and the cost would be astronomical. Who is going to pay for all this? It's nothing short of crazy, especially in the time frame being suggested.

    While it wouldn't be a bad plan to reduce the number of petrol and diesel cars on the roads for reasons of public health, wouldn't the money be far better spent on improving public transport systems that all could benefit from?

    Here in the UK public transport options are currently abysmal, especially if you don't live in a big city and so don't have access to various subsidised discount fares. e.g. I had a journey to make last week of approx. 75 miles. I ended up getting a taxi for £80 each way (£40 each for the two passengers). If I came back same day the return was free (so less than half the price of a train, plus £12 per hour waiting time), or next day return which involved a second journey for the taxi driver with a round trip of 300 miles which cost £160 in total (or £80 per passenger). However, this was still cheaper than an anytime return ticket on the train once the very limited number of subsidised tickets were sold out, and that doesn't take long especially if you're travelling at fairly short notice. The equivalent train price was approx. £173, so with two passengers that travelled that would cost £85 each. How come an expensive taxi is often still the 'cheapest' way to travel?

    If we're going to modernise and go all electric, a system of trams feeding a much hugely less expensive rail network seems like a far more sensible idea that would benefit far more people. Other nations seem to be able to manage it, so why can't we do this on a national or even a global scale?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Pure fantasy

      "While it wouldn't be a bad plan to reduce the number of petrol and diesel cars on the roads for reasons of public health, wouldn't the money be far better spent on improving public transport systems that all could benefit from?"

      No, because there will always be people for whom mass transit is not an option, due to timing, routing, location, cargo, or other factors that demand an on-demand personally-owned transport.

    2. Spearecrest

      Re: Pure fantasy

      Your issues seem to be with the trains operating companies and not the transport network itself.

      and also

      "The UK doesn't even have enough electricity to power such a plan, the government already pay large electricity users not to use any at peak times and run power station car parks full of diesel generators at peak demand while many coal-fired power stations continue to close years earlier than planned with no viable replacements even started to be planned or built. There aren't even enough roads to handle any more cars and the cost would be astronomical. Who is going to pay for all this? It's nothing short of crazy, especially in the time frame being suggested."

      What on earth are you on about. We are removing coal power stations because they are no longer needed, we get electricity from Nuclear power stations in the UK and France, see Hinkley Point. Coal is being faxed out because you know... climate change...

      You talk about who's going to pay for road modernization and then suggest TRAMS! So digging up roads and laying lines and over head cabling is fine, but putting electric charging points in places is too expensive!

      1. conscience

        Re: Pure fantasy

        @ Spearecrest

        While it is true that the privatised rail companies are price gouging, there are other factors. e.g. travel time. To make the same journey I referred to, it took from over 2 hours to about 3.5 hours each way, compared to 90 minutes in a taxi. For a same day return, worst case is that it takes as much as double the travel time and costs twice as much to travel by rail than by taxi. Besides, you know that when a taxi is the cheapest option you know there is something badly wrong with the rail network!

        It is not so much 'we' who are removing the coal fired power generation, it is the generating companies who are closing them earlier than contracted to because the financial consequences for doing so are minimal. As for Hinkley, it is laughable idea. As part of the government bribe to get it built, the cost of the electricity generated there will be outrageous and customers will be paying way above market prices for their energy for decades to come, in what many are calling the worst deal for tax payers in history. Also, the chances of the pretty much bankrupt EDF ever laying a single brick to build it nevermind completing the project to completion are minimal, they just can't afford to build it regardless of any Chinese investment. Why do you think that with the 2025 completion deadline fast approaching they have hardly started building it? Currently EDF have something like 19 (IIRC) nuclear power stations to decommission in France with spiralling costs and little to no money to do it with. The truth is that EDF simply cannot afford to build anything at Hinkley regardless of the PR, and no doubt all the decommissioning costs will then fall onto the British tax payer. The French government are only preventing EDF from going bankrupt as otherwise the whole decommissioning bill for their own nuclear programme will land on them and the French taxpayers, currently Hinkley is their best chance of passing those costs on to the UK. I also wonder how long the French imports will continue as their own generation capacity falls with their own decommissioning programme ongoing?

        Coal may not be perfect, but whatever crap is emitted is certainly less than with biomass and is far cheaper and much safer than the nuclear option. I'm not getting into global warming here as I've seen no evidence that it exists outside of the earth's natural heating and cooling cycles.

        It doesn't have to be trams or rail, but finite available space and rising population does suggest that mass transit is the way forward. The only true 'rule of the road' is that the number of cars will always expand to fill the available road space no matter how many roads we build.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Pure fantasy

          "Coal may not be perfect, but whatever crap is emitted is certainly less than with biomass and is far cheaper and much safer than the nuclear option."

          This makes no sense, as nuclear power is clearly, on the basis of 60 years of experience, the safest major reliable power technology we have; as well as the cleanest, absent a lucky accident like a convenient Niagara Falls.

    3. Daniel 18

      Re: Pure fantasy

      "The UK doesn't even have enough electricity to power such a plan, the government already pay large electricity users not to use any at peak times and run power station car parks full of diesel generators at peak demand while many coal-fired power stations continue to close years earlier than planned with no viable replacements even started to be planned or built."

      It is true that the infrastructure for large numbers of electric cars does not exist, and would be stunningly expensive to build.

      It is also true that the carbon footprint of many electric vehicles is greater than that of functionally superior internal combustion vehicles.

      That's why we will have a lot of autonomous capable cars long before we have a lot of electric vehicles.

  25. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Most of the problem:

    "Dealing with pedestrians safely is difficult, expensive, and culturally alien to the nerds building the cars;"

    Is because the nerds building the cars are living and have grown up in countries where car is king and pedestrians aren't allowed to step onto the road.

    The rest of the world isn't like that.

  26. kirk_augustin@yahoo.com

    Automation can't work

    Since automation would require embedded lane transponders, networked vehicles, and everything else banned, it can never work. What we need instead is more mass transit and bio fuel.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Automation can't work

      > Since automation would require embedded lane transponders,

      Why do you think embedded lane transponders are required?

      Self-driving trucks are already used in quarrying and there are no embedded lane sensors, just sensors carried on the vehicle.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Automation can't work

        Quarries are controlled environments, like a factory floor (another place where automated vehicles are in successful use). Unlike on an open highway, all and sundry can't jump on and compete for your space or troll you.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If I wanted to get to there...

    I wouldn't start from here.

    Build a tunnel network for all the important stuff - water, gas, power, transport, cabling, sewage etc etc.

    Then put the people on top on bicycles where they can pretend they are 'green' and ride bikes and shag in the parks and gaze into crystals whilst rubbing each other with scented oils, and congratulating each other on how sensitive they are to climate change and how important the EU is to make the sun shine..

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: If I wanted to get to there...

      Trouble is, both tunnels and bridges are expensive. Which is why most construction is ground level unless necessary. Because at the end, whom do you present the bill?

  28. kschrock

    Does it bother anyone else...

    That this brave new world our young mega-moguls are rushing us into looks a lot like B grade 50s and 60s sci-fi movies? Conversations with computers? Robot electric cars? Wow, I've never heard that before.

    How innovative. These people should be richly rewarded.

  29. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Funkymunky

      F**K the Disabled

      So, we cycle in polytunnels and eschew door to door transport. My wife would love it, cycling along waving her white cane in front with her guide dog on the back of the tandem barking left right instuctions...

      She already struggles with shit public transport infrastucture - she can't get to her work from home using public transport, and thats town to city, not rural isolation to city. She encounters buses that she can't use as they have very steep steps up to the passenger level and her guide dog just refuses what looks to him as too dangerous an activity. Train firms are lobbying to get rid of conductors, but platforms and trains all have varying heights/reach to the boarding level, so that means no train journeys for her without someone to assist her onto/off of the train.

      Electric vehicles are already the stuff of nightmares for her. Imagine you are standing at a road junction with your eyes tight shut, several cars around you are eletric and running totally silent. Now cross the road...

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge

        Re: F**K the Disabled

        > Electric vehicles are already the stuff of nightmares for her. Imagine you are standing at a road junction with your eyes tight shut, several cars around you are eletric and running totally silent. Now cross the road...

        That is an area where I would expect the vehicle manufacturers to get together to develop a transponder that people can (optionally) carry as a way of signalling to autonomous cars that they are there. I imagine a variety of models or signalling modes: one for blind / deaf people; one for elderly / disabled / slower moving; one for cyclists; one for dogs. The ones for people might have a button on it that can be pressed to signal "I'm going to cross the road now."

        1. Public Citizen

          Re: F**K the Disabled

          Here's a better and more cost effective solution.

          Make it a requirement for the electric vehicles to make enough nose so that they can be identified and positioned in the same fashion as those powered by internal combustion engines.

          Please don't even comment if all you have to contribute is "can't be done" or "cost too much". A simple noise generator and amplifier coupled to a loud speaker will accomplish the goal, and using off the shelf hardware.

          It shouldn't be the responsibility of society to adapt to the "new technology" which isn't new, electric cars were popular in the early 1900s, but of those marketing the technology to make it compatible with society.

  30. Panicnow

    Safer cycling - CitiPod - The Armoured cycle

    Safer cycling - CitiPod - The Armoured cycle

    My accidental epiphany

    Using CitiPod on a cycle way in Cambridge, my chain came off. I looked down to check and hit a post. Rapid deacceleration followed! Enclosed in my CitiPod Safety-Cell I was not just unharmed, not a mark on me! CitiPod had a 15cm diameter dent near its nose. One push with my foot popped that out. Chain back on and away I went. (With a note to adjust the gear change stops.)

    I then looked at videos of bicycle accidents on YouTube. I saw that in virtually all of the accidents CitiPod would have either prevented the accident or protected the driver and others.

    The Safety Cell

    The CitiPod body is and egg shaped MDPE shell. Fully enclosing the driver. It even has a rear fin to protect the drivers head, in the unlikely event of rolling the CitiPod. The shell absorbs the kinetic energy of the CItiPod bringing the vehicle to a stop without damaging the driver.

    Non “collecting” design

    The smooth design and recessed front wheels mean that CitiPod is pushed away from the obstruction. It does not “collect” the obstruction thus protecting the obstruction as well as the driver.

    Stability

    As a tricycle, CitiPod is inherently stable. Hitting wet drain covers, or kerbs will not throw you headlong into the road,

    Visibility

    CitiPods are bright vibrant colours that present solid areas of visibility. Cycles have no solid areas presenting an almost camouflaged presence, especially with so many cyclists insisting in wearing dark clothes.

  31. Jimlad

    Frayn, not Frayne

    “If you're going to quote from the Book of Revelation, don't keep calling it the Book of Revelations"

  32. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    Unless we all want to be obese and/or weaklings, we better keep using our muscles.

  33. Spearecrest

    Mistakes of the past

    I doth my cap to you el reg and the many commentators for repeating the mistakes of history.

    For these same arguments were sighted in the Times of London and the San Fran Journal back at the start of the massive car sector expansion. Though they said the car was a fad and nothing would take away the streetcars...

    "Demand is low" shocking as they don't exist yet and no one wants to drive a google prototype and the smart cars of Tesla are out of most peoples price range.

    "Barricades to human mobility" yes exactly like the road was when they breached every facet of the city. For the love of mercy the USA instituted JAY WALKING as a legal offence for the car sector!

    Looking at the automated car as a singular market and not an element to a changing data driven future is the reason, I am sure, that Elon Musk is a billionaire and we are, presumably, not. Automation and human space are perfectly compatible. For instance you don't mention that automated cars wouldn't need massive centralised parking spaces in the city. So... no more hideous 1960 style multi level car parks, whats the point of having on street parking when the car can drive itself to a charging station outside of the pedestrianised areas. Take the time to look out onto the roads around you and understand the sheer amount of space that frees up, for bike lanes or, heaven forbid, for walking on. I assume that the majority of Americans will immediately purchase a Segway instead of actually walking on pavements anyway so there goes the randomisation issue of peoples intentions, just link the segways to the cars networking systems.

    Oh and don't forget that linkages to other smart city features would mean the potential to create 'as needed' crossings as well as removing the need for traffic and congestion control lights. Also programming in that if a car detects a child (somewhat different to a 'plastic bag' in shape and density) playing close to the street the car should slow down to 20 or 15 mph is actually better than all of our BMW drivers today, who as polls have concluded don't. Even the basic smart cars of today have more sensors and ability to perceive and calculate threats than we, two eyed, loud muisic listening, texting while driving, meat sack monkey brains do when in our non automated cars.

    Yes the automated car is still to be fully realised, but basing your argument on the processing power of the car today versus what is, maybe 5 years, down the line and decrying it a failure is ridiculous for a tech focused online journal. We have more experience than most in this industry of the power of innovation to drive solutions to problems we never thought we had. See Apple iPhone 2007 or Apple iPod for that matter.

    By isolating the automated car as the single element in a long line of other emergent smart city tech on the rise does it a discredit to the actual potential in revolutionising city space and living making cities safer and cleaner. Saying that the bike is the answer to the universe is a common argument held by cyclists. It is not the solution for those whom for whatever reason can't ride a bike. Nor are bikes the cherubs of the road, being both a cyclist, pedestrian and a car driver, cyclists more than any other vehicle on the road ignore road safety acts and codes of conduct, causing a lot of harm in the process and sometimes death (as was seen in London last year).

    So don't think that there is one solution to all problems or that thing is a failure so all is a failure. That's short sighted indeed and lamentable to the people who still invested in the LA streetcars thinking they'd be around forever.

  34. Greywolf40

    We already have a system that moves people around without their having to drive. It's called a streetcar (tram in the UK). And of course buses. Autonomous cars are one of the moste wasteful boondoggles ever conceived.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > We already have a system that moves people around without their having to drive. It's called a streetcar (tram in the UK). And of course buses.

      It's funny isn't it: we've had trains for two centuries and busses for more than one yet - for some strange reason - people keep seeking alternative forms of transport. Maybe, just maybe, busses and trains are not the whole answer? And that maybe, just maybe, those people who keep proposing them should take a reality check?

  35. hoola Bronze badge

    Yet more data collection

    Autonomous and driverless cars are nothing to do with what the general population want. This is everything to do with large tech companies (and Governments) to get yet more data from the unsuspecting public. This is just the same as Amazon Echo, Google Home and all to an certain extent Microsoft's half baked system. The more tech people blindly use (often with no actual reason other than it is fashionable or cool) the more they can monitorize you.

    VW have been giving away a Bluetooth enabled thingy that plugs into the OBD port (there are loads of unofficial ones available already). This connects to you phone and collects all sorts of useful data but in order to use it you have to have a login to Volkswagen. All the data appears to be uploaded, trip information (yes it connects to Google Maps as well) fuel consumption, speed, braking etc.

    Nothing comes for free and at the end of the day we appear to have a generation that happily share everything with anyone with no concept that what they are doing is in anyway stupid.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Yet more data collection

      "Nothing comes for free and at the end of the day we appear to have a generation that happily share everything with anyone with no concept that what they are doing is in anyway stupid."

      Of course not. They'll only pay attention when it starts KILLING them. How else did seatbelts and airbags get on the mandatory list?

  36. Gravesender

    Who is going to pay for all this stuff?

    I recently read of a request by Foxconn that the State of Wisconsin apply for a grant of $246 million from the US Transportation Department to upgrade 19 miles of Interstate highway and associated access roads and such so Foxconn can operate driverless shuttle buses around its new factory. This works out to about $13 million per mile. Extrapolating this to the 47,000 miles of interstate highways in the US yields a total cost of $616 billion to upgrade the interstate system alone, or 37 times the discretionary budget of the whole of the Transportation Department for 2018. The Foxconn report can be found here: https://news.thomasnet.com/featured/foxconn-needs-driverless-infrastructure-for-wi-plant

  37. IGnatius T Foobar
    FAIL

    Transportation FAIL

    Cities don't need driverless cars because they already have public transportation systems. It's the outskirts, the suburbs and countryside, that would have any use for autonomous vehicles ... and that's several orders of magnitude more kilometers to retrofit with machine-friendly, human-hostile road infrastructure.

    (I also have to call into question whether anyone actually *wants* driverless cars, other than the companies flogging them.)

  38. This post has been deleted by its author

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "I also have to call into question whether anyone actually *wants* driverless cars, other than the companies flogging them."

    ME ME ME

    The idea of having a car that can do the driving on a 400 km (or 1000 km) trip is very exciting. If it can do the same on the daily commute, even better.

    I have other things I could be doing, and the car is less likely to be tired, distracted, etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And why aren't the existing options (bus, train, airplane) viable in this case if you're really bent on leaving the driving to someone else?

      1. Daniel 18

        "And why aren't the existing options (bus, train, airplane) viable in this case if you're really bent on leaving the driving to someone else?"

        BECAUSE THEY DO NOT

        - go where I need to go

        - when I need to go

        - for a price I can afford

        - in a manner that is accessible without triggering crippling physical damage

        - while providing legally mandated security for licensed devices

        - while providing personal isolation during major disease outbreaks

        - while providing for multi-stop transport of too much stuff to carry

        - in a sufficiently time-efficient fashion to be practical

        - while transporting materials that are banned from various forms of commercial transport

        - while preserving personal privacy

        - while providing personal security

        While the methods you mention may work for some people some of the time, they clearly fail to work for all people and circumstances. There's a reason 85 percent of people here go to work by personal automobile.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Well, as the saying goes, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Meaning autonomous vehicles must deal with meat-driven cars, and as long as a human is on the road, so will trolls.

          I suspect someone will soon bring forth a Turing-like proof that computers and the can ALWAYS be fooled, meaning L5 can never be achieved safely.

  40. Aseries

    What we need is an UBER rickshaw.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AI and non-verbal cues

    Living in Silicon Valley with Waymo and other self-driving cars (with safety drivers) already on the road, I am actually quite sanguine about the future of fully automated self-driving cars. But before they are released generally, I beleive that the particular problem of recognizing non-verbal cues from pedestrians (and other drivers) needs to be addressed and solved.

    In my everyday driving, I will wave pedestrians to cross in front of me (after making eye-contact). Similarly, I will drive ahead when a pedestrian or another driver waves me on or comes to a complete stop and makes eye contact. I am not seeing a lot of discussion in the literature about AI and non-verbal cues, either non-verbal communication from man to machine or communication from machine to man.

    A related problem which is being addressed to some degree is vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, but this will have to advance further before driverless vehicles are released for general use.

    As an aside, is anyone scared of driverless elevators? When I was young, elevators had operators who made certain that everyone was clear of the door before closing it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: AI and non-verbal cues

      "As an aside, is anyone scared of driverless elevators? When I was young, elevators had operators who made certain that everyone was clear of the door before closing it."

      Yes, sometimes the sensors fail and people get crushed. Plus the doors don't always work right and people fall through incorrectly-open doors with usually-fatal results.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: AI and non-verbal cues

        But despite occasional well publicized accidents, elevators remain the safest form of mass transportation.

        Humans are amazingly bad at intuitive risk analysis, and media hype, plus over-hyped reporting of single events anywhere in the planet only further degrades accuracy of casual perceptions and fears.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: AI and non-verbal cues

          "Humans are amazingly bad at intuitive risk analysis, and media hype, plus over-hyped reporting of single events anywhere in the planet only further degrades accuracy of casual perceptions and fears."

          Don't get me started on the subject of overprotective parents!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: AI and non-verbal cues

            What point odds when it's YOU or a loved one who's next? If we can't keep that under wraps, what point civilization?

  42. MachDiamond Silver badge

    PRT

    Personal Rapid Transit is very interesting as most systems are envisioned at running on elevated ways so pedestrians and cyclists and the odd manually driven car would not interfere. Some of the plans were very good. As an example, check out the pods that operate at terminal 5 at Heathrow going out to the business parking lot.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: PRT

      Trouble is, they only really work in controlled, limited environments. They don't SCALE.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: PRT

        "Trouble is, they only really work in controlled, limited environments. They don't SCALE."

        Wouldn't that also be true for AI cars?

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: PRT

          That's kind of the point the detractors are trying to make. Studies have shown that computers are pretty good at "thinking" functions like logic and so on but pretty poor at "sensing" functions like vision and voice recognition (see the bit about tricking computers with adjustments our ears can't detect).

          Robotically-driven cars need plenty of both, and it's that latter that's going to (pardon the lame pun) rear-end them.

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