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THE FUTURE IS DRIVERLESS Featured
12 July 2017 Posted by 

THE FUTURE IS DRIVERLESS

Not driving, just multi-tasking
ED BLAKELY
THERE has been much speculation about the arrival of the driverless car. Speculation is over.
It is now only a matter of time before vehicles without drivers are on the roads. In Sydney, we will see driverless trains with our new Metro system. 
 
In many respects, we already headed for the introduction of driverless buses and shuttles as a natural part of the new Metro system. 
 
The reasons for this must do with the fact that we will have more people in Sydney with very little new road space. Most vehicles are on the road for about 20% of the time. 
 
The problem is almost these vehicles are trying to occupy the road space at the same time of day.  
 
We are competing with each other by moving our self-propelled vehicles at the same time and we are seeking to park or locate them in a shrinking amount of parking space. 
 
Of the brief time, our mobiles are on the road many that time is either standing in traffic or circling to find a place to put the car. 
 
While each of us wishes, more people would ride the bus and use other forms of public transportation so that we can have the road to ourselves; this is not going to be possible. 
 
There are rising complaints about higher densities meaning more vehicles per residential block. So, when the vehicle is moving it is seldom parked in the authorized garage space near the apartment or near the home. 
 
So, more density does not necessarily mean more people elect not to have cars. There are several reasons for this pattern. 
 
First, many people have several stops to make on their journey to work. They must pick up something at the chemist, drop the kid at school and take grandma to swimming lessons. 
 
They may need to make a similar number of stops on their way back home. Moreover, we all know the automobile serves many another useful purpose. 
 
It is an office, a place to store things for the gym or the children, and a nice place for some personal time. It is an extension of the home in every respect. 
Therefore, we cannot think of driverless cars as shareable instruments because the numerous activities associated with the automobile are very hard to duplicate in a shared modality.
 
It’s Not Driving but Multi-tasking
 
Automobiles are the best example of multitasking. They serve numerous functions well beyond transportation. Therefore, as we move into a driverless era, we will have to find a multifunctional vehicle as well as a new design for urban living. 
 
The reason we have so many stops to make on our journey to work is that the city is designed for the car. 
 
Therefore, we must think about the new design of cities as well as the development of a vehicle that can serve multiple purposes for us. 
 
The technology is currently incorporated in all our mobiles built in the last decade for them to move without a driver or with little human interference. So, the transition to these vehicles would be easy. 
 
However, if everyone elected to have a driverless vehicle, there might be more cars on the road; because we could genuinely use this automated transport to do many of the personal things, we would like to do in comfort. 
 
For example, in a driverless vehicle we can read the newspaper, powder our nose, email our friends, even write or read our favourite blog. Hands-free is mind free. 
 
Moreover, if we don’t have to use our brain to drive, we can live much farther from work. Suburban life might even grow further out when driving is painless. 
 
On the other side of this coin, if we choose not to be owners but users of automated vehicles we may find it better to live close to where we want to move since we the right vehicle for the right purpose at any time and low costs.
 
Shaping the Place, not the transport
 
The future of the self-moving vehicle is going to be determined not by the technology but by the kind of places we develop for urban living. 
 
The interface between residential space and working space will determine whether we elect shared vehicles as part of a movement system because it will be more convenient and cheaper than the alternative. 
 
Clearly, a person might elect to have a self-propelled vehicle far away from the density of living and working, but the penalties for this will be increasingly onerous.
 
The cost of moving the vehicle as well as insuring it and making certain one can get to the appropriate energy station will be a drag on ownership. 
 
As carbon prices go up and electricity and other forms of energy become cheaper the model of movement is transformed to a denser system for short-haul travel over the long haul. 
 
Therefore, the New World of cities will be based on how the movement system interfaces with the living system so that fewer movements are required. 
 
We can see how this is emerging in many central cities with the food markets and retail outlets becoming an integral part of the living units. Broadway/Central is an illustration of this form of new urbanity. 
 
This form of a living will increasingly not only include retail but commercial space built in or near the building. 
 
Beyond this approach, we will see schools, concert halls, theatres’, and social – cultural facilities built with the living units or in a master planned area that includes all these features as part of the development process. 
 
So, the future of the driverless car will be a servant of this new urban density, and not as many of us think a new way to reduce the effort we put into moving a car and finding places to park it when we are not using it—which is most of the time.
 
Shape of the Future
 
The shape of the city is altering the need for our current personal vehicle choices. Freeing people of our ownership also increases the amount of wealth they have available for home purchase. 
 
When facilities are co-located more densely, then the needs for movement are reduced and the requirement to use a vehicle as alternative storage is also reduced. Simply, if things are close to you such as the gym, you don’t have to carry around your gym clothes.
 
The reason that all the large manufacturers of automobiles are moving to new platforms of ownership versus sharing is to be ahead of this new wave of travel, so they are not caught out like train companies were when airplanes arrived on the scene. 
 
The large automakers are investing billions not only in their technology but also in understanding how to build better and smarter cities where they can participate in the cash flows that come from the closer proximity’s that people will enjoy. 
 
So, if they on the park stations and ran out the vehicles as well as control some of the energy inputs and outputs they can secure their future by linking vehicle choices and movement choices as part of the capital flow within the new urban framework. 
 
Put more simply, why wouldn’t an auto company use is surplus energy development regarding electricity to supply this energy to buildings and commercial users. 
 
Thus, the auto manufacturers very quickly see their future and the controls systems for buildings, for movement devices, and for the distribution of goods and services. 
 
Giants like Google and Amazon are partnering with vehicle producers and large-scale urban builders to craft new living arrangements in which they can use their mass movement capacity to either bring you to the thing you need or to move the thing you need to you. 
 
The drone, platoon trucking, driverless metros will be used on 24-hour databases to move goods and people to where they need to be with the person only selecting the product and journey.
 
The iPhone or its equivalent will be the only piece of equipment you need for transportation, retail services, or even medical care.
 
Journey’s End
 
We cannot look at the driverless car in isolation. We must look at the driverless vehicle being as transformative the original introduction of the automobile and the airplane. These two creations have driven both how we live and where we live. The new vehicles will do the same.
 
Professor Edward Blakely holds acting and emeritus professorships at Universities in Australia, the US and Africa. He is the Greater Sydney Commissioner for West Central, which covers the Cumberland, Parramatta, Blacktown and The Hills local government areas. He is an active advisor for many cities and international organisations including the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. These are my views not those of the Greater Sydney Commission or any organisation that I am affiliated with. Let’s make a conversation! Listen to weekly radio Cityscape radio podcast at 2Ser FM radio streamed @ http://www.2ser.com/on-air/streaming


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