Keep Cars, But Don’t Make People Drive Them

An alternate, and more realistic version of the Green Leap Forward.

Two points: I fear the day that we won’t be allowed to drive, except in special circumstances (like amusement parks).

Point Two: I suspect that a lot of current auto traffic will move to the air, with the advent of Urban Air Mobility, particularly if the vehicles can be powered from the ground (e.g., Jeff Greason’s and Dan DeLong’s Electric Sky is working on such a concept). Airbus has an interesting concept of moving passengers via passenger modules that are moved from one vehicle type to another, like cargo containers, in which you’d share a pod with people from your door to an aircraft, to a long-range aircraft, to another aircraft, to the other door. That’s a lot more interesting and flexible concept than high-speed rail.

6 thoughts on “Keep Cars, But Don’t Make People Drive Them”

  1. “Airbus has an interesting concept of moving passengers via passenger modules that are moved from one vehicle type to another”

    Good lord. Gerry Anderson was doing that in his TV shows in the 60s. It’s taken Airbus decades to catch up with kids’ TV.

    Really, though, it’s about as smart and forward-thinking as the A380 was. Over the next few decades we’re going to see a massive decline in transport as increasingly-realistic telepresense makes actually moving your body around a dangerous waste of time. Why ship your body to the pyramids when you can just rent a VR drone there instead?

    1. While there will probably be a great reduction in the need for travel in the future, I’m not sure VR will ever get good enough to replace actually being there. If it is, then only really weirdos will want to visit space, let alone live there. And that could be the case even today for the latter. But there is a sufficient percentage of weirdos among several billion people that there will likely still be a large absolute number who do so.

      1. The lag is too large to make VR viable from another planet. Even the moon would really be pushing it if you wanted and kind of interactivity.

        But for Earth, if Musk’s computer/brain interface actually works, it can be as realistic as you want, with a latency barely larger than the nerve latency between your brain and your hands and feet.

        Even if it doesn’t take out most of the tourism market, it will take out a lot of the business market. A couple of years back I was paid to fly across the Atlantic for two days to reconfigure some hardware. With a VR bot on site, I could have done it from my bedroom… and that would have been $20k of airline income gone.

  2. To your point #1, George Orwell was off with his timing of “1984”. So too it seems was Richard Foster and “A nice morning drive.”

  3. I doubt even if these people got into power that the car would go away. Even Japanese have cars. So it kind of sounds like hyperbole to me. In fact what they might do is reduce federal taxes on electric vehicles.

    There are plenty of things which someone who wants to “de-carbonize” transport can do. One of them is making buses electric or natural gas powered. This is already in progress and will happen regardless of who is the President because, economics.

    The trains make sense in some places. Like the Northeast Corridor, San Francisco – Los Angeles – San Diego, Texas, around Chicago, or in Florida.

    The Hyperloop is a boondoggle. It is dumb. It is a distraction much like hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. A way to say let’s not build high-speed rail because the next thing is around the corner. When it’s neither around the corner nor is it the next thing. Now the high-speed train doesn’t make financial sense when you consider connections over the flyover states. It might make strategic sense, that’s why the Chinese built the Lanzhou-Urumqi line for example, but it does not make financial sense.

    With regards to the train speed the Japanese are already building maglev lines. Those will be much faster than even regular high speed rail. But they are also extremely expensive and won’t make sense in anything but the most densely populated areas like the Northeast Corridor.

    Having traveled recently on the San Francisco Bay Area public transportation system I have to say more than high-speed rail that place should have electrified and automated the tracks on Caltrain. That would have been a minimal investment in comparison, no need to acquire right of way since it’s there already, and would serve a lot more people than the high-speed train. Also the BART is, well, a relic of ancient times. Honestly someone needs to redesign that thing.

    I think the French experience with high speed rail is also telling. I have traveled in the TGV. There are typically two approaches the French use. They either repurpose existing track and get a kind of faster rail or they build special purpose high speed track. I think they should have repurposed the existing track in California first before investing on the high speed rail line. I think when most people consider a train line in California they think of a coastal rail line, not what ended up being done. I mean, I get why they did it that way, because of right of way property acquisition issues, to make the depressed areas in central California grow, etc. But I think it was too soon for a project like that.

    No one thinks airplanes would go away. It would just make short haul flights less common in dense areas. Sure you can’t connect the entire US cheaply but it does not matter. There are other modes of transport to do that.

  4. Also the amount of medium rises in the US is growing. When I went to California I noticed it’s happening. People don’t talk about it but it is. A lot of more affluent people want to live close to the center and don’t want to spend time driving. Cities are becoming dense as a result. It’s not happening as fast as it could be due to stupid zoning restrictions but it is happening. For example this article talks about it.

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