Future cars / Driverless cars

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David Greene
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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby David Greene » July 8th, 2016, 4:15 pm

talindsay wrote:Electric cars have all the same issues but they *add* the severe range issue, and the mitigating factor right now is the (currently debatable) premise that they're somehow better for the environment. I suppose there's also the techie cool factor, and there's also the killer line speed, though most consumers won't be swayed by either of those.

I think a reliable range of ~300 miles before a long-wait charge is necessary is probably about the minimum before mainstream acceptance in the midwest US. On the coasts, where a larger proportion of the population travels shorter distances regularly, that's probably less important, but the midwest has very little infrastructure to help people get between mid-size cities.
The range issue is way, way overblown. It's a real concern for people, but only because people don't yet generally understand electric cars. I put the blame for that entirely on the electric car manufacturers. They still don't know how to sell 'em and even hesitate to do so.

It's important to distinguish short day-to-day driving from longer trips. The vast majority of miles driven by metro residents fall into the former category. If everyone in every Midwestern metro city drove an electric car for those trips it would be a game-changer for clean air, domestic security and international trade.

After five months owning a 2016 LEAF (107 EPA mile range) I will not go back. Range has not been an issue at all. When we need to travel longer distances we jump in the gas car. No biggie. One day I was putzing around St. Paul and then the toddler fell asleep so I took a road trip west. Got almost to Waconia before the charge went below 50% and I turned back to be safe. I arrived home with 30% charge. I could have gone a lot further. I could have gone even further if I'd really concentrated on saving energy (keep below 50 mph, etc.).

When we bought the car I assumed we'd have to get an L2 charger fairly quickly. We still don't have one. Haven't needed it at all. The car almost always is at 100% charge in the morning even on a 110 line. The rare days it's not (because we drove it a lot the previous day), we haven't needed the full range. Honestly, we rarely dip below 50% charge on a given day.

I'm not sure what we'll do when the battery degrades enough to care. Maybe we'll just buy a new car. The statement in the article about needing replacement after 300 charges is completely bogus. That would mean yearly replacement. Most LEAF owners expect to need replacement in 5-7 years. Since we don't need the full range very often, we may very well be able to stretch that to 10 years. That's another advantage of longer range. Even if it doesn't cover all your trips, it can extend the practical useful life of the battery. All the savings on maintenance of other parts (the maintenance manual is: rotate tires; rotate tires; lube chassis & rotate tires; rotate tires...) may very well be enough to cover a new battery. I see it as a wash, financially.

The electric car is absolutely practical for all kinds of people *today.*

As for the environment, we have WindSource from Xcel so the car is essentially wind-powered. Once we win the Made in MN lottery, we'll be installing solar and the car will be sun-powered (yes, the solar array will cover the electric needs of the car over a year).

As a LEAF owner I'm sure I'm "optimism biased" but I'm relating real experience. The electric car is not for everyone but I'll say it is right for at least 80% of metro populations, for 95% of their trips.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby kiliff75 » July 9th, 2016, 6:55 am

It's also worth pointing out that even if the electric car is currently powered by coal or natural gas (making carbon emissions not much different than gas cars), some long-term carbon benefit comes from incrementally improving the infrastructure for lower-carbon transportation. Slightly higher demand for charging from each car will increase the supply of charging stations, increasing demand for cars. Also, as more electric cars are bought and manufacturers become more efficient at making them, they should become cheaper and more abundant. As we move to cleaner power sources (from coal to wind, solar, and natural gas), electric cars will become cleaner. At this point, it seems much more plausible that cars will have lower emissions in this manner rather than through some sort of liquid fuel.

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Mdcastle
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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby Mdcastle » July 9th, 2016, 8:29 am

So what's the best way going forward?
1) Continue to invest a lot of money into trying to improve batteries so an electric car can be an "only car" for everyone, including those that make 500 mile road trips?
2) Forget about that, and improve marketing since we could make an enormous impact if multi-car families had one electric car and one gasoline or gasoline/hybrid car? Write off the idea of most single car families owning only an electric car until self-driving cars make renting a specialized vehicle a lot easier?

Worth noting is we don't need to switch 100% of driving to electric to end our dependence on foreign oil since we have some of our own and in addition can make ethanol.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby David Greene » July 9th, 2016, 4:02 pm

Personally, I don't think we're going to see an affordable and practical 500 mile electric car for quite some time, so to me it makes sense to educate people about what's available now. 200 mile cars will be out by the end of the year and that should cover the vast, vast majority of trips for people in cities and suburbs, and even the majority of trips for people living in rural areas.

I'm sour on super-range 500-mile electric cars not because I don't think the technology will be there eventually but because it seems like a huge waste going to diminishing returns. Plus every increase in capacity means more time to recharge. 20 minutes for a quick charge is bearable if you can grab a coffee or something nearby. 40 minutes would just be too much.

How often do people drive 500 miles? I see no problem with using gasoline or some other fuel for that purpose as it's rare and the car is probably running at its highest efficiency for most of such trips.

My plans are to get a series hybrid when the gas car goes (which I expect will be some years from now). Then both cars can use very little gas for most of our trips but we'll still have one for longer trips. If the rental model changes/becomes more convenient we could very well just have an electric.

So basically I think your #2 is likely going to be most effective, with the added statement that "gas cars" will actually be hybrids.

Work is moving to MoA so I'm planning to bike/LRT it most days. Not sure about winter yet but I'll give it a go. :)

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby Anondson » July 10th, 2016, 5:22 pm

Google is going to start teaching its cars to look out for bicyclists.

http://readwrite.com/2016/07/10/google- ... lists-tt4/

I dunno why this is a big deal, it sure as heck needed to happen for AVs to be able to function on a normal street. I'm sure tech-utopians will cite this as obvious progress towards inevitability. I'm still skeptical that perfectly legally driving autonomous vehicles will gain wide acceptance... cars that won't speed, won't blow stop lights, will make full legal stops at stop signs, will stop for every pedestrian at unmarked crosswalks, will give cyclist the full legal amount of space on the road... this will piss off so many normal drivers. Getting these cars to recognize cyclists and operate legally around them needed to happen, this is a start.

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Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby Anondson » July 10th, 2016, 5:31 pm

In this NYTimes opinion: "Silicon Valley-Driven Hype for Self-Driving Cars"

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/10/opini ... p=cur&_r=0

Found this quote at the end...
In February, though, a Google car caused its first accident; a bus collision with no injuries. A few weeks later, Google made a significant, if little-noted, schedule adjustment. Chris Urmson, the project director, said in a presentation that the fully featured, truly go-anywhere self-driving car that Google has promised might not be available for 30 years, though other much less capable models might arrive sooner.

Historians of technology know that “in 30 years” often ends up being “never.” Even if that’s not the case here, if you’re expecting a self-driving car, you should also expect a wait. And so you might want to do something to pass the time. Maybe go for a nice drive?
Maybe the best we're going to hope for are "Assistive Vehicles" where cars loaded with sensors correct certain wildly unsafe human errors?

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby David Greene » July 10th, 2016, 8:47 pm

Franky, that's all we need. Again, diminishing returns.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby Mdcastle » July 10th, 2016, 9:55 pm

I'll have to disagree that it's "all we need". Being able to sleep while the car drives opens up a lot more travel possibilities, it would be easier to make a weekend trip to Chicago if you let your car do the driving on Friday and Sunday nights, to say nothing of the elderly and handicapped that can't drive a car.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby David Greene » July 10th, 2016, 10:43 pm

We will never be in a state where people can sleep in their cars, certainly not in our lifetimes. If you want to sleep, take the train.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby RailBaronYarr » July 11th, 2016, 8:34 am

I don't know whether fully automated vehicles that require zero human interaction will actually be available in our lifetimes. I don't want to dredge up that whole discussion from earlier, but I'm in the camp that it seems at least somewhat likely that before I die (2060+, god willing) we'll see it. But whatever. I don't think the ability to sleep in the car is what makes Level 4 autonomous vehicles attractive for most people, most of the time. I think Monte has a personal affinity for taking more road trips like that, so he brings it up a lot because it interests him.

But I disagree in diminishing returns of full automation. That's where you actually get a huge bump in safety (to say nothing of the mobility benefits for elderly/people with disabilities, ability to park somewhere else, etc). Requiring humans to be the primary driver with a buttload of sensors still means you can speed, drive drunk, blow stoplights, ignore pedestrians, etc etc. Maybe I'm wrong in assuming people will let cars regulate drivers by ignoring the gas pedal push during a yellow light, or putting an electric speed governor at 25 mph when on certain streets. I doubt it. The level where the car mostly drives itself but humans need to be prepared to take the wheel in emergencies is even worse, should be totally banned. There's a lot that can be done with the type of things car manufacturers are already rolling out, but I mostly think they're tackling fatalities at the margins.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby David Greene » July 11th, 2016, 9:22 am

RailBaronYarr wrote:But I disagree in diminishing returns of full automation. That's where you actually get a huge bump in safety
Can you give some examples? My sense is that distracted driving is a huge problem and having the car stop/swerve/etc. in emergencies seems like a huge jump in safety. Beyond that we're talking edge cases I think.

I would support speed limiters on vehicles. It doesn't necessarily need to be set at the absolute speed limit.

Mobility improvements for the disabled I can see. But is it better to build out a public transit system for that, one that serves everyone? I don't know.

As for parking elsewhere, I'm not sure that's a win. It'll potentially create more traffic and make driving in urban areas even more attractive. I'm not sure I want to do that.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby RailBaronYarr » July 11th, 2016, 1:26 pm

David Greene wrote:Can you give some examples? My sense is that distracted driving is a huge problem and having the car stop/swerve/etc. in emergencies seems like a huge jump in safety. Beyond that we're talking edge cases I think.

I would support speed limiters on vehicles. It doesn't necessarily need to be set at the absolute speed limit.
I guess I was operating under a world where real humans won't allow their somewhat-autonomous vehicles to be governed too much. I'll call it the "real world." Nobody stops for pedestrians or drives the speed limit or doesn't blow that red light every now and again. Why would they let a car they're mostly driving do it for them? Things like forward collision detection or lane departure warnings (or even prevention), sure. But nobody will stand for the type of thing that would limit their ability to go 35mph on Hennepin Ave or 70mph on I-35W where the speed limit is 55. In fact, I'd bet most people would say that a law or widespread implementation of vehicles stopping for pedestrians is bad for overall safety since it might cause more rear-end crashes - just like that's an argument used against red light cameras. Ignition interlocks for BAC could be mandatory (or, fines/punishment for drunk driving much much steeper), but again they're not existent today. I dunno.
David Greene wrote:Mobility improvements for the disabled I can see. But is it better to build out a public transit system for that, one that serves everyone? I don't know.
I agree, but if we're being honest about the built environment where 90% of Americans live, a public transit system to get those people to their daily needs is never going to happen. If anything, self-driving cars as feeder routes might enable focusing high-quality, high-frequency/speed trunk transit lines by shifting resources from a more coverage-optimized system.
David Greene wrote:As for parking elsewhere, I'm not sure that's a win. It'll potentially create more traffic and make driving in urban areas even more attractive. I'm not sure I want to do that.
Plenty of tradeoffs! What happens to Hennepin and Lyndale (or wherever) if we all of a sudden don't need 11' lanes and 2 lanes of parking on either side? What if we could use the extra space to remake streets with bike infrastructure and bus lanes where right now it's "not feasible" because of parking politics? So much of the outcomes related to AVs is dependent on public policy.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby talindsay » July 11th, 2016, 4:27 pm

The reason I don't think we'll see full automation is that we already have everything we need for people to get from point A to point B while napping, making out, eating tacos, watching movies, etc. We have trains, buses, taxis, etc. We could waste a tremendous amount of money trying to take drivers out of cars, or we could put that energy into making mass transit, public transportation, and private transportation a better alternative. We already have everything we need for the latter. Have we as a population gotten so anti-social that we'd rather be shuttled around by extremely expensive robots on extremely difficult networks of chaotic systems instead of interacting with another person at any point? Don't want to sit with people? Pay some money to a driver. It's already there, and in ten years it's likely to cost you less than buying an automated car, plus all the infrastructure that will be needed to make that safe. Plus, the tech won't be there in ten years anyway.

An elderly woman I know recently paid $450 to hire a cab from a small town in Iowa to drive her to Minneapolis. Absurd! Well, given that she'll need to make that trip at most a couple times a year, she'd have to get a lot of use out of an automated car before it became nearly as cost-effective as that cab ride. And that ignores the storage problem, the fact that she would have to maintain it, fuel (either with gas or electricity) it, carry insurance, etc.

When we envision the problems with single-passenger vehicles, we shouldn't think that automating single-passenger vehicles will solve any of those problems. It just makes us more indebted to tech companies, while continuing all the problems with single-passenger vehicles. Taxis and ride-shares are much better solutions for actual private transportation, and public transportation is *ALWAYS* a better choice where it's feasible.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby mamundsen » July 11th, 2016, 4:33 pm

On another note... I saw a Tesla with Florida(!!!) license plates in Minneapolis today. I think that's the first out of state plate I've seen on a Tesla.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby mister.shoes » July 12th, 2016, 9:00 am

Funny you mention that. I saw a Nevada Tesla just this past weekend and immediately started imagining the route they would have taken to hit Supercharger stations the whole way.
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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby xandrex » July 12th, 2016, 9:09 am

talindsay wrote:The reason I don't think we'll see full automation is that we already have everything we need for people to get from point A to point B while napping, making out, eating tacos, watching movies, etc. We have trains, buses, taxis, etc. We could waste a tremendous amount of money trying to take drivers out of cars, or we could put that energy into making mass transit, public transportation, and private transportation a better alternative. We already have everything we need for the latter. Have we as a population gotten so anti-social that we'd rather be shuttled around by extremely expensive robots on extremely difficult networks of chaotic systems instead of interacting with another person at any point? Don't want to sit with people? Pay some money to a driver. It's already there, and in ten years it's likely to cost you less than buying an automated car, plus all the infrastructure that will be needed to make that safe. Plus, the tech won't be there in ten years anyway.

An elderly woman I know recently paid $450 to hire a cab from a small town in Iowa to drive her to Minneapolis. Absurd! Well, given that she'll need to make that trip at most a couple times a year, she'd have to get a lot of use out of an automated car before it became nearly as cost-effective as that cab ride. And that ignores the storage problem, the fact that she would have to maintain it, fuel (either with gas or electricity) it, carry insurance, etc.

When we envision the problems with single-passenger vehicles, we shouldn't think that automating single-passenger vehicles will solve any of those problems. It just makes us more indebted to tech companies, while continuing all the problems with single-passenger vehicles. Taxis and ride-shares are much better solutions for actual private transportation, and public transportation is *ALWAYS* a better choice where it's feasible.
You’re right that all of those are options right now – but they still include failure points. The purpose of automation is that it can (hopefully) reduce human error. And if we assume automated cars are 30-40 years out, do we really believe that there won’t be people who aren’t well served by those modes in everyday life given how our infrastructure is currently built?

I don’t really see why it’s any more anti-social to have a fully automated car drive you to work/on a date/etc. than it is to simply drive alone anywhere as many do now. Are we really calling the average commuter in the Twin Cities anti-social? Automated cars could even improve socializing because a driver wouldn’t need to have their full attention on the road – a robot would do that for them. Mom/dad could talk to the kids in the morning as the car drops them off at school (yes, in an ideal world they’d walk, but being realistic here) before being whisked to work. Transit is inherently a social environment, but there isn’t necessarily a whole lot of socializing happening. My morning commute both ways involves headphones in with MPR streaming. That’s pretty much par for the course for everyone on my bus. That’s not being anti-social – it’s coping with the cattle car nature of South Minneapolis transit at rush.

And, of course, this point has been brought up before, but the tech that powers driverless cars isn’t just for the SOV – it’s also valuable for many types of transit where we again have error-prone humans driving us around.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby Mdcastle » July 12th, 2016, 10:27 am

We're not living in an era where you hop on a stagecoach and then stay in a shared dorm in a tavern anymore. If you look at the past 50 years, culture has demanded and expected a lot more privacy:

* Shared bedrooms for kids? Mostly gone.
* Showering stark naked in front of all you classmates after gym? Mostly Gone
* Open wards in hospitals? Mostly gone. Even semi-private rooms are being phased out in new construction and for services where patients ave a choice.

Even the explosion in single family houses with private yards are in part due to this, to say nothing about legacy cars. So I don't think the desire for a car instead of a bus is an indicator of being "anti-social". When I take the train I see a lot of people isolating themselves to the fullest extent possible by using their phones with headphones the whole time. Is that any more anti-social than wanting an auto-pilot in a car so you can play board games with your family rather than staring at the road?

Taxis, Buses, and Trains all have bugs that are un-resolvable. Taxis, whether traditional or what is termed ride-sharing, are not private and with even 80% of the people in Minneapolis having cars, are a lot more expensive than taking the car you own. Buses are certainly not private, have a greater potential for obnoxious or even criminal behavior by other riders, and only go certain places at certain times. This geographic restriction on trains and planes is even more. Maybe they're fine if you want to go from downtown Minneapolis to downtown Chicago and not have a car there, but if you live in Bloomington and want to get a hotel in Rolling Meadows for half the price of downtown, or stay with your friend for free in Skokie and have a car in Chicago, you drive to the train station, pay to park, pay for a ticket for each member of your family, then rent a car in Chicago. Maybe the rental model of self-driving cars will make this easier- be dropped off at the station in St. Paul and picked up by another in Chicago. But if so then why not take the same vehicle all the way and have the entire trunk space be available the whole time?

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby talindsay » July 12th, 2016, 3:12 pm

xandrex wrote:Are we really calling the average commuter in the Twin Cities anti-social?
Yes.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby xandrex » July 13th, 2016, 12:41 pm

talindsay wrote:
xandrex wrote:Are we really calling the average commuter in the Twin Cities anti-social?
Yes.
I mean, that's just silly. But carry on.

I got plenty of socializing on the bus today...if you define socializing as standing in the aisle of a full bus, pressed between several sweaty bodies and getting shoved around as people tried to exit. It really made my day.

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Re: Future cars / Driverless cars

Postby talindsay » July 13th, 2016, 3:31 pm

I mean, I was being snarky, but the point is of *course* people are anti-social. They don't want to interact with people who aren't like them, and that is a major driving force in our commuting behavior. It's a dominant characteristic that's driven all post-war suburban development, the growth of the auto industry, our highway designs, and our infrastructure investments. We equate "freedom" with being alone, especially in a car driving to work. It makes no sense at all to put piles of energy into propping up single-vehicle transportation where there's a mass of people all going the same direction, at the same time, and yet we talk about automating the single-passenger vehicle for commutes instead of talking about how we could use the same technological innovations to make mass transit more efficient, more convenient, etc.

Not to get all mattaudio here, but people think the great thing about vehicle automation is that it will somehow erase the fundamental problem with everybody commuting in single-occupancy vehicles, as though suddenly that will be okay because people will be able to do other stuff. They already can do other stuff on mass transit, and the cost structures surrounding the infrastructure for single-occupancy vehicles for the purpose of daily commuting are absurd.


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