This is put succinctly by Brian Leyland in his latest erudite missive aimed at Auckland’s backward transport planners and picked up today by Whaleoil
The council planners seem to be totally unaware of the imminent revolution in personal transport that will be brought about by self-guided cars, modern taxi systems, ride sharing and buses. By the time the tunnel is in operation self-guided cars that will allow twice the traffic density on roads and reduce accidents by 50 per cent or more will be available. Not long after it will be possible to call up a driverless taxi or minibus by cellphone to take you where you want to go. For those who think that this is the stuff of dreams, it is now possible to buy a car that, in a traffic jam, will follow the car ahead and every major car manufacturer is developing self-guided cars.
The future of cars Wireless wheels Emerging technology promises to make motoring safer, less polluting and less prone to hold-ups (seeTechnology Quarterly). “Connected cars”—which may eventually evolve into driverless cars but for the foreseeable future will still have a human at the wheel—can communicate wirelessly with each other and with traffic-management systems, avoid pedestrians and other vehicles and find open parking spots.
Some parts of the transformation are already in place. Many new cars are already being fitted with equipment that lets them maintain their distance and stay in a motorway lane automatically at a range of speeds, and recognise a parking space and slot into it. They are also getting mobile-telecoms connections: soon, all new cars in Europe will have to be able to alert the emergency services if their on-board sensors detect a crash. Singapore has led the way with using variable tolls to smooth traffic flows during rush-hours; Britain is pioneering “smart motorways”, whose speed limits vary constantly to achieve a similar effect. Combined, these innovations could create a much more efficient system in which cars and their drivers are constantly alerted to hazards and routed around blockages, traffic always flows at the optimum speed and vehicles can join up into “platoons” on the motorways, travelling closer together, yet with less risk of crashing.
Just as regulation has helped increase fuel efficiency, cut exhaust fumes and introduce anti-skid equipment, so government involvement is needed to get the connected car on the road. It is beginning to happen. Earlier this year, Europe’s standards-setting agencies agreed a common set of protocols for cars and traffic infrastructure to communicate. Others should follow. Governments should then set firm deadlines for all new cars to be fully connected and capable of platooning, and a date for existing cars to be retrofitted with a basic locator beacon and the ability to receive hazard warnings.
If cars are to connect, new infrastructure will have to be built. Roads and parking spaces will need sensors to monitor them; motorways will need dedicated lanes for platooning. But this will not necessarily be expensive. Upgrading traffic signals so they can be controlled remotely by a central traffic-management system is a lot cheaper than building new roads.
The sooner these changes are made, and cars are plugged into a smart traffic grid, the quicker Singaporean variable pricing—for parking as well as road use—can become the norm. Motorists will then have the incentive, as well as the ability, to avoid the busiest places at the busiest times, and the dreadful toll that roads take in human lives should start falling.
In the past, more people driving meant more roads, more jams, more death and more fumes. In future, the connected car could offer mankind the pleasures of the road with rather less of the pain.
It is unforgiveable that Auckland’s Mayor listens to transport planners whose vision is outdated, outmoded, and profligate. He is allowing them to bankrupt the city with twentieth century train wrecks and Skypaths to Cloud Cuckoo Land.
The answer to Auckland’s motorway congestion lies in technological advances. The people will invest in the smart cars of the future. The city should be getting smart and investing in the infrastructure to accommodate them.