The automated city: do we still need humans to run public services?
PT is pleased to post this notice from Clark Lim, the principal of Acuere Consulting and an instructor in the SFU Next Generation Transportation certificate:
BC Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists (APEGBC) asked me to hold a seminar on transportation planning. I’ve framed the topic across the transport vertical from governance and policy, to road user psychology, data/analytics and eventually technology.
Although it is held by the engineer association, I suggested it be open to anyone, including elected officials as technology will increasing become an impact to planning and governing. In fact, I’m hoping software engineers come out as I believe they will increasingly be more significant than planners.
Engineers, planners, and decision makers need to understand the complex, dynamic, and industry/domain-spanning issues that will challenge urban transportation systems over the coming decades. The session will cover fundamentals across the “transportation vertical” from data and analytics to policy and governance, the latest planning methods, techniques and tools, and the increasing impact of advanced technologies to the planning status quo.
A survey of more than 1,000 Insurance Corporation of BC (ICBC) customers found that half of them are unlikely to buy a self-driving car if autonomous vehicles go on sale in B.C., while 30% are not interested at all in a fully automated vehicle. …
The ICBC survey found 87% of respondents had heard a lot or some about the technology and a slim majority (53%) believe that self-driving cars would make B.C. roads safer.
“Few consumers trust self-driving cars completely when it comes to getting them safely to their destination,” said the report, indicating 12% of respondents said they trust the technology completely, while 16% do not trust it at all.
Half the respondents said drawbacks included safety consequences of equipment or system failure and 45% were concerned about legal liability if a self-driving car crashed.
Hacking (29%) and tracking of locations and destinations (14%) were other concerns.
The report does not indicate whether any of the respondents had ridden in a self-driving car, but it did include a section on “emotion felt when riding in a self-driving vehicle.” Anxious (28%) and powerless (15%) were the most popular emotions.
Gord Price: In addition to the emotional concerns, the respondents are rightfully concerned about system failure and liability – and those, more than consumer response, are the reasons why these advanced technologies will change our fundamental relationship with the car.
Why bother actually owning a car if you have to be responsible for maintaining it, particularly when any failure might result in your death or a staggering liability in the event you injure or kill someone else? Why not, instead, leave the maintenance and liability up to a fleet manager like a car-sharing firm from which you purchase a mobility package?
The technology will initially be expensive – and quickly obsolete. Another reason not to commit to personal ownership.
But what happens when people no longer have that same emotional connection to the car as we do now, where the vehicle is a reflection of our status and personality? As with a cell-phone communications package, we will love the service a transportation package provides, but with no particular attachment to the always-changing hardware itself.
And once that emotional bond is broken, it also means government has a different relationship with the vehicle too – or more particularly to the citizen-driver. When it comes to taxation and regulation, government will be dealing with service providers, not drivers. The end-user may not even be aware of what the taxation component is, just as today with the cell phone.
That changing relationship may be a more significant change than the technology which makes it possible.
Two tech items from the New York Times:
Big City is watching you.
It will do it with camera-equipped drones that inspect municipal power lines and robotic cars that know where people go. Sensor-laden streetlights will change brightness based on danger levels. Technologists and urban planners are working on a major transformation of urban landscapes over the next few decades.Much of it involves the close monitoring of things and people, thanks to digital technology. To the extent that this makes people’s lives easier, the planners say, they will probably like it. But troubling and knotty questions of privacy and control remain. …
One of the biggest changes that will hit a digitally aware city, it is widely agreed, is the seemingly prosaic issue of parking. Space given to parking is expected to shrink by half or more, as self-driving cars and drone deliveries lead an overall shift in connected urban transport. That will change or eliminate acres of urban space occupied by raised and underground parking structures.
Shared vehicles are not parked as much, and with more automation, they will know where parking spaces are available, eliminating the need to drive in search of a space.
“Office complexes won’t need parking lots with twice the footprint of their buildings,” said Sebastian Thrun, who led Google’s self-driving car project in its early days and now runs Udacity, an online learning company. “When we started on self-driving cars, we talked all the time about cutting the number of cars in a city by a factor of three,” or a two-thirds reduction. …
One reason for confidence in a radically changed future is that much of it is already here. The city’s Uber and Lyft, the Boston-based auto-sharing company Zipcar and things like corporate shuttle buses have shown new ways for urban dwellers to use vehicles. …
One danger of the new city may be the age-old faith that technology makes things better, and more tech is best.
“The danger of big dramatic projects is that they become the equivalent of urban renewal or the kind of sweeping things Robert Moses did for cars in New York that created dysfunction,” said Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster. “The best thing tech could do now is rescue us from the car-centric cities we built after 1930.”
As cities grow and concerns about pollution and congestion rise, commuters in urban areas are increasingly turning to apps to compare and combine public and private transportation alternatives. “The shared modes complement public transit, enhancing urban mobility,” said Darnell Grisby, director of policy development and research at the American Public Transportation Association, a trade group based in Washington. …
In March, the American Public Transportation Association released a study that found that shared transit modes were likely to continue to grow. And the more people used them, the more likely they were to also use mass transit. …
Nationwide, mass transit use stalled during the last decade. According to the Census Bureau, 76.5 percent of commuters drove alone, 9.2 percent car-pooled and 5.2 percent used mass transit in 2014, the latest year for which figures were available. In 2005, 77 percent drove alone, 10.7 percent car-pooled and 4.7 percent used public transportation.
Apps hold the promise of altering those percentages by showing passengers how to travel from home to a transit stop and then to their ultimate destination, the so-called first mile-last mile of a commute. …
… the Department of Transportation pledged up to $40 million to one city to help define what it means to be a “smart city,” with innovative technologies including self-driving cars, connected vehicles and smart sensors incorporated into a transportation network. The department chose Columbus, Ohio, from the 78 cities that applied. Columbus will receive an additional $10 million for electric vehicles and to reduce carbon emissions from Vulcan Inc., a company started in Seattle by the philanthropist Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft.
In other cities, private enterprise is joining forces with transit districts. In March, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority introduced a one-year, $1.3 million pilot program in conjunction with Bridj, a van ride-hailing service. …
Moovit, a navigation app in a thousand cities worldwide, uses crowdsourced data from customer phones to map the fastest route, estimating how long the trip will take and whether mass transit is running on time.
Experts expect these experiments to continue.
“There’s an insatiable demand,” said Robert J. Puentes, president and chief executive of Eno Center for Transportation, a think tank in Washington.
- Takeshi Natsuno, professor at the Keio University school of media and governance, bluntly said that the Japanese government could be wasting its time and money restoring the Tohoku region, which was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The region has been suffering a sharp decline in population since 2000 and Natsuno said it is not worth restoring lost homes; rather, people ought to be compensated to move to more viable areas.
- He also said the government should cease spending on failing areas. “If the population falls below a certain density, the government should suspend public services,” he said.
- He also suggested moving low-income households to where they could be accommodated more cheaply.
- Natsuno’s cure might seem harsh, but Japan’s current population of 126 million is set to fall to 97 million by 2050. Over the same period, the percentage of over-65s in the population will increase to 39 percent from 27 percent.
- Nakawame was also sharply critical of Osaka’s city planning. “Osaka doesn’t have a future,” he declared. “I sold my house there two years ago.” He argued that the city had failed to develop a unique character by trying to mimic and compete with Tokyo.
- In order to promote innovation, Japan needs better cities, the panel agreed. Suburban areas need to be revitalized and to host innovation businesses as young creative types cannot afford to live centrally and do not want to commute. “Cities must attract creative and entrepreneurial people,” said Tatematsu.
- One example of innovation is the introduction of taxi-hailing app Uber to Japan. Masami Takahashi, president of Uber Japan, talked about how it could meet specific challenges for the country. He noted that accidents involving elderly drivers were increasing, even as overall road safety improved, due to the nation’s aging population. In order to assist, Uber is pioneering a project in Kyotango City, Kyoto Prefecture, where the Uber app will be open to a nonprofit volunteer service that drives the elderly around.
pricetags: At least he’s improved mine.
In a comment below, Scot recommended a most amazing app:
This is the app I use on my phone:
I love it. It shows Bus, Skytrain, WCX, Seabus, Aqua Ferry and shows car share in Vancouver in addition to providing info for cities all around the world. It’s developed by a team of people from Montreal.
I love it too. After downloading the app, I instantaneously got all my local routes and buses noted in real time, with Car2Go locations also on the map. My life is better!
Sandy James: This piece has just come out from Ryerson on the issue of autonomous vehicles. I took one look at this and wondered what people in fifty years will say when they look back on this type of video-will they think the same as we do now looking at those early videos of the benefits of the 1950’s highway construction across the USA?
What is notable is that walking and accessibility really do not get prime points here, and the interfacing between this new technology and peds/bikers gets no shrift.
pricetags: Given how easy it will be for pedestrians and cyclists to frustrate the flow of AVs, knowing that the vehicles will always stop and accede the right-of-way, will there be pressure to prohibit any other users than cars on the roads except in designated places like crosswalks (on the light) and separated cycletracks?
Not quite ready for prime time – but already on the roads. From The Guardian:
“Truck platooning” involves two or three trucks that autonomously drive in convoy and are connected via wireless, with the leading truck determining route and speed.
Wednesday’s arrival concluded the first-ever cross-border experiment of its kind, with self-driving trucks leaving factories from as far away as Sweden and southern Germany.
Jak King, the Grandview blogger and activist, tipped me off to another breathtaking innovation of our exciting modern world: “In Sweden’s 1st unstaffed food shop, all you need is a phone.”
Customers simply use their cellphones to unlock the door with a swipe of the finger and scan their purchases. All they need to do is to register for the service and download an app. They get charged for their purchases in a monthly invoice.
The former employees of the store will presumably be allowed to beg outside. This story seems to confirm the truism that most apps are created to solve the lifestyle problems of urban 25-year-olds.
Rundown Granville Street redone as a new tech hub? This is something of an old story now, having been featured in The Sun a couple of weeks ago, including this quote from Downtown BIA head Charles Gauthier:
There are more than 20 vacancies “concentrated primarily in the southern three blocks of Granville Street between Smithe and Drake” that could be used to house businesses favoured by the rising contingent of tech workers in the area, Gauthier said in an interview last week.
During the late 1990s dot-com boom, the office parks of Silicon Valley were another world to most San Franciscans, a place somewhere to the south that they needed never go. But increasingly Silicon Valley is rooted in the city itself, which makes it inescapable.
The consequences for people who do not make their living from technology are increasingly unpleasant. The city is bulging at the seams, adding about 10,000 people a year to a record 852,000 in 2014. A one-bedroom apartment goes for a median $3,500 a month, the highest in the nation.
From Ron Richings:
A useful bit of bikeshare info has been incorporated into Santa Monica’s transit app. Transit users will now see the distance/time from their stops to an available bike to finish their journey, along with the number of bikes available at each bikeshare location. Shows bikeshare as a genuine part of an integrated transit system.
This small but important innovation should be included in any new Bikeshare/Transit arrangements here in Vancouver, BC — or anywhere else, for that matter.
Anyone have an update on bike-sharing in Vancouver?
James Bligh: Just in time for Christmas! The article doesn’t have too many details, but the speculative impacts of this research could be massive.
A group of scientists in Taiwan discovered that placing gold nanoparticles within the leaves oftrees causes them to give off a luminous reddish glow. The idea of using trees to replace street lights is an ingenious one: not only would it save on electricity costs and cut CO2 emissions, but it could also greatly reduce light pollution in major cities.
The cars now being tested by Google, BMW, Ford and others all see by way of a particular kind of scanning system called lidar (a portmanteau of ‘‘light’’ and ‘‘radar’’). A lidar scanner sends out tiny bursts of illumination invisible to the human eye, almost a million every second, that bounce off every building, object and person in the area.
This undetectable machine-flicker is ‘‘capturing’’ extremely detailed, millimeter-scale measurements of the surrounding environment, far more accurate than anything achievable by the human eye. Capturing resembles photography, but it operates volumetrically, producing a complete three-dimensional model of a scene. …
The sensory limitations of these vehicles must be accounted for … especially in an urban world filled with complex architectural forms, reflective surfaces, unpredictable weather and temporary construction sites. This means that cities may have to be redesigned, or may simply mutate over time, to accommodate a car’s peculiar way of experiencing the built environment.
The flip side of this example is that, in these brief moments of misinterpretation, a different version of the urban world exists: a parallel landscape seen only by machine-sensing technology in which objects and signs invisible to human beings nevertheless have real effects in the operation of the city. If we can learn from human misperception, perhaps we can also learn something from the delusions and hallucinations of sensing machines. But what?
To see how driverless cars might perceive — and misperceive — the world, ScanLAB Projects drove a 3-D laser scanner through the streets of London.
While artists once traveled great distances to see sights of sublimity and grandeur, equally wondrous and unsettling scenes can now be found within the means of travel itself. As we peer into the algorithmic dreams of these vehicles, we are perhaps also being given the first glimpse of what’s to come when they awake.
Ian found this in The Guardian:
“The freeway is only an ephemeral circumstance where all cars congregate together but the purpose of travel is not the freeway, it’s when someone gets off the freeway to get to their destination,” said Brian Taylor, director of UCLA’s Institute for Transportation Studies. “The focus should be whether or not we can enable those economic and social interactions on the other end in ways that don’t overburden the environment and society.” …
“What we’re seeing is a tremendous willingness of the younger population to really adapt to this, to use these car sharing models as a way of avoiding car ownership,” said Allan Clelland, senior vice president at Iteris, a company developing new transportation technology. …
Meanwhile, those still driving cars are dealing with less traffic thanks to Waze. Experts say the traffic app has eased congestion on freeways and sped travel times for drivers, but also led to a problematic rise in cars moving through residential neighborhoods. This has angered residents, who claim the increased traffic on their quiet roads reduces their quality of life – and the real estate value of their homes – and left cities trying to figure out how to handle another entity rerouting its cars.
“You have a scenario where the government is losing control of its traffic,” said Alexandre Bayen, director of the Institute for Transportation Studies at the University of California at Berkeley.
While mass transit will remain valid in various corridors for primarily historical investment reasons, on-demand automobile-based services, especially when automated, will make the public transit monopoly harder and harder to support. The TNC economics of cherry-picking high-value routes that generate significant profits now for public transit to offset loss making routes needs early attention by all urban leaders. As before, what is needed in Metro Vancouver is a thorough public policy debate involving both civic and provincial leaders to discuss what kind of transportation network may emerge with new TNC and automated systems – time is now for this debate.
BTW, the evolution of TNC will also mean the potential to enter other urban transportation markets, so why is the Canada Post monopoly for first class mail in urban areas remain valid. If the public is willing to trust TNC with passenger services, without the existing regulatory safeguards, why should moving mail (and increasingly only the junk variety) have a dedicated and expensive delivery system.
Again, I challenge all to pursue with community leaders the need for a forward looking debate on our transportation system, and challenge the status quo everywhere, and not just the current issue around taxi services.
Dr. Joe Sulmona
While with caution it must be noted the following survey (below) was commissioned by a Toronto taxi operator, the observations are consistent with my previous blog that Transportation Network Companies (TNC) will completely re-shape for-hire urban transportation services, including the way we see public transit.
Transmitted by CNW Group on : September 25, 2015 07:11
Poll suggests UberX is decreasing TTC and GO transit ridership
TORONTO, Sept. 25, 2015 /CNW/ – About one-third (32 per cent) of Toronto UberX users who also use public transit say that they’ve decreased their usage of TTC or GO Transit since they started using UberX.
“Toronto’s taxi industry is constantly being pitted against UberX as if we’re the only ones that should be worried about a black-market for-hire vehicle service,” said Kristine Hubbard, Operations Manager at Beck Taxi. “Our city needs to take a moment of pause to consider how the TTC and GO Transit could be negatively affected by the continued growth of a black-market taxi service.”
A survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Beck Taxi also found that among respondents who use UberX and also use public transit, one-fourth (25 per cent) of them expect their public transit usage will decline because of UberX in the next six months.
“Toronto’s transit champions should ask themselves what we need to do to protect the future of public transit,” said Hubbard. “It’s disconcerting to hear that anyone is willing to deregulate transit and possibly put the TTC and investments in transit at risk. What will happen when Uber decides to provide cheaper transit services on popular TTC routes?”
In recent months, Uber has been trialing a “smart routes” service in San Francisco that has been compared to a bus service in media reports. The service discourages transit use by attracting Uber customers to travel along specific routes like a bus, for a competitive price.
Toronto has the highest number of taxis per capita compared to any other city in North America. In order to protect and strengthen public transit in Toronto, Beck is calling on councillors to think carefully about allowing an unlimited number of UberX cars on Toronto’s shared roads.
The survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Beck Taxi among 702 adult residents of Toronto familiar with Uber, of whom 116 use UberX and public transit, from Sept. 4 to Sept. 10, 2015. The survey data are not weighted and therefore representative only of those surveyed.
Beck is a family-run business that has operated in Toronto for 49 years.
UPDATE: Joe adds this example:
Real changes are happening out there, and this DC service has mirror in the UBER-Pool product.
Metro Vancouver is way behind with too much focus on protecting monopoly for conventional transit.
It’s already a problem with seniors in the suburbs, and it’s going to explode in coming years.
The oldest boomers are now just 68. But there are 78 million of them, and as they get older, the impact on suburbia will be profound. More and more of municipalities’ taxes will be going to support them instead of schools and parks — Why? Because they vote a lot — while property values, and the tax base will decline as whole neighborhoods turn into senior citizens districts, with old Saturns rusting in the driveway like at my mother-in-law’s house. Transit costs will go through the roof as seniors demand services in low-density areas that cannot support it.
The fact is, there is a major urban planning disaster staring us all in the face, which is going to seriously hit everyone young and old in about 10 years when the oldest boomers are 78. We have to prepare for it now.
Durning: “Too bad this couldn’t have been pointed out more vigorously before the recent plebiscite.”
These two items just came in together. From Tim Pawsey via Minds:
What better way to use solar panels that as a shading mechanism? The South Korean government had a great idea and ran with it, building a 20 mile stretch of solar bikeway, from Daejeon to Sejong. The lane is protected from traffic on both sides and is in an area about 100 miles south of the capital of Seoul.
From Ron Richings via Newser:.
Skyward growth: Chicago transforms abandoned elevated railway into pedestrian, bike corridor
On an abandoned Chicago railway line cutting between the treetops, bike commuters zip by walkers and joggers, all traversing a ribbon of concrete undulating through a lush landscape where clattering freight cars once ferried everything from coal to furniture. …
Since opening in June, the nearly three-mile elevated path, called the Bloomingdale Trail, has changed how residents move through a section of Chicago’s northwest side that in many places is starved of parks and inviting pathways for pedestrians and bikes.