Individualised local and long-distance public transportation

The challenge

Who nowadays has to commute a longer distance to work in a metropolis has surely already noticed that we are heading with giant steps towards a total traffic collapse if not something fundamental happens. Even larger, wider roads with more lanes will only be able to solve the problem to a limited extent. Public transport as it currently works, or rather does not work, is not a solution either: despite increasing traffic jams, you are still much slower and much less flexible than with your own car. At some point, this will tip over, but this means that people will always spend more time on the road commuting and less time for leisure and/or with their family.

But what could a solution look like in the future?

Certainly we are heading towards an age of self-driving cars. How long it will take for these to become established is still difficult to assess at present, but if we consider how relatively quickly the transition from carriage traffic to predominantly (at that time also called self-propelled) automobile traffic took place, even if in the beginning even a man with a flag had to go ahead to warn other road users (at least at “danger spots”).

But self-driving cars alone are not the answer. Just because you are no longer behind the steering wheel does not reduce the actual traffic. Only when further technical solutions are added and social change takes place will we really arrive at the future of passenger transport.

To make this really effective, it is necessary that human-driven vehicles almost completely disappear from public traffic, or that they are no longer permitted on most roads. This is the only way for “self-driving cars” to coordinate autonomously with each other and ensure an optimal flow of traffic. But even that is probably not enough, because if the number of vehicles on the roads at the same time is not reduced, then we will be in optimized traffic jams in the future, but nevertheless still in traffic jams.

This means that we must also reduce the number of vehicles. However, this is only possible if there are more people per vehicle. In order to be able to optimise this in turn, it is essential that the concept of one’s own car is replaced by a general Car-Sharing concept. Thanks to the ever stronger networking, the next vehicle can be identified in a matter of seconds so that I can be picked up at my current location and taken to my destination with as few stops and vehicle changes as possible. Costs are only incurred depending on use. Framework parameters such as parent-child or whole family transports do not pose serious optimization problems any more than the transport of wheelchair users and other persons with special requirements. Also the transport of luggage or bulky sports equipment such as surfboards, kayaks etc. should be easily solved by optimizing the stationing of vehicles that can meet these special requirements. Since the overall system always knows which persons have such special requirements permanently or even only temporarily and where they are.

Vehicles that have delivered their last passenger and do not currently have a new transport order will automatically proceed to the next charging station.

In order to optimize the overall system, it cannot and must not require a central control system; instead, the vehicles must communicate directly with each other and thus build up a kind of artificial swarm intelligence.
As long as vehicles are within Wifi range, they communicate directly with each other otherwise via mobile network or possibly even via satellites. Each vehicle is directly or indirectly connected to the Internet and thus always can provide internet access itself as an access point (hot spot).

By each vehicle knowing exactly which destination each other vehicle has in the vicinity, traffic jams can be prevented already in the beginning, since by this complete transparency the total traffic can be optimized.

Through vehicle-to-vehicle communication, accidents are extremely rare – accidents only happen through the environment, e.g. weather, animals, natural (catastrophes) such as avalanches, landslides, floods, … or through deliberate sabotage … therefore passive safety becomes less important and a completely different interior design becomes possible (e.g. partition walls between strangers; tables etc.)

“Hijacking” of vehicles stopping to pick up someone else doesn’t happen for two reasons:

  1. the vehicle is very probably not going where I want to go
  2. the vehicle only allows authorised persons to get in at all, and if someone gets in the wrong vehicle it will not start and blocking of vehicles will be subject to very high fines.

The same applies to vandalism, etc., since every vehicle is equipped with interior cameras and everyone can be identified via a mobile device – this is also used for billing the transport costs.

More comfort in the vehicle costs extra and you may have to wait longer. If you don’t order any extra comfort, you can – in analogy to car rental today – be upgraded free of charge in order to optimize the overall system. With the risk of having to change if someone else orders the extra comfort for a fee. When what will happen is only conditionally predictable, because too many parameters are involved, just like a self-regulating AI system works.

Besides, the impact on the environment is also reduced: Route optimisation also means optimisation of energy resources and thus environmental protection.

First experiments that household purchases will be brought home automatically have already been made, that means that in the future the more or less usual shopping stop at the supermarket will become superfluous. Shopping will become a voluntary leisure experience, but is no longer a necessity (“lugging bags” will no longer be necessary anyway).

What this might look like for the future commuter I have tried to illustrate here:  Commuting in the future – a vision

Dieser Beitrag ist auch verfügbar auf: German

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