I hope they can pull this off.
"a shared fleet of cars continuously picking up and dropping off passengers within cities"
And just like existing bus companies, the self-driving ones will also require you to take a detour so that other passengers can be picked up or dropped off along the way.
So the main novelty is that you eliminate about $0.2 per minute in salary, but in exchange you now have to maintain much more complicated vehicles with much more expensive replacement parts.
Oh and have you ever considered that the same people that you hate meeting on the bus could also be combined into your ride? Except that now they are not 3 weirdos out of 80 people but 3 out of 4.
So unless this is so expensive that most people cannot afford it, it'll have the same drawbacks that rich people currently hate about taking a public bus.
I expect these companies to lead to more traffic, because afterwards you will have the regular poor-people bus and in addition the almost empty rich-people bus vehicles.
The self-driving car will presumably be a similar experience to the Uber, but addresses the labor issues that are the main problem with that model.
I take buses regularly. Uber too. Taxis too.
All in all, the de-humanizing/automation part that's getting traction from capital. It's not a strictly human/modern need that's being met, it's an addictive service (faster, exclusive) that's being sold and cost-optimized.
You can be certain that the day Uber-automated-cars are the norm for transit, for cost/efficiency reasons, you will be kindly asked to join a specific pick-up point; and off-loaded at a specific location as well.
Those locations will be computed & decided by the provider, not you (you know, bus).
Unless you pay another premium (taxis).
There is a lot of skepticism that automated vehicles will ever happen without massive infrastructure changes that remove human drivers from the road in large numbers. The liability issues are huge -- accidents will happen and people will die. In a case where fault must be determined between an autonomous vehicle and a human driver, human judges / juries are going to overwhemlingly side with the human. If anything, automated vehicles will require more costly regulation than human drivers do.
Car services are a hard business to make money in because the job isn't very skilled, so there was a lot of regulation in place to ensure those services were priced in such a way that they continued to be reliable. Uber sidestepped a lot of that regulation through creative accounting and VC subsidization, but my guess is that when Uber and Lyft implode in a year or two, much of it will be reintroduced to fill the smoking hole they will leave in last-mile transit since they put the taxi companies out of business.
I think you're right, but _because_ there is sensor data to back it up we won't have to "take the person's word for it" that the driver-less car "cut off" the human when the human was going twice the speed limit (as an example).
> Personnel expenses are the largest portion of Metrobus budget. For FY2019, personnel cost is estimated at $522.5 million or 80.2 percent of Metrobus budget, which represents a decrease of $27.7 million from FY2018 budget.
I'm not convinced it's being cost-optimised... Uber is the most unprofitable company in existence! Unless cost-optimising means undercutting competitors with dirt cheap labour and by burning unholy amounts of cash, on the order of billions per quarter.
Getting where you want to go in a timely manner is a human need. Currently people fulfill it with private vehicles, because buses can’t get you to work on time. (Part of the fault is government-when I lived in Delaware, bus drivers would randomly decide to end their shift early and skip all the remaining pickups. The other part is structural limitations in the nature of bus service.)
Which is already served in a more than reasonable manner, that an automated car won't significantly speed up.
> Currently people fulfill it with private vehicles, because buses can’t get you to work on time.
Depends a lot on infrastructure and governance. Where I live (moderately large city in France, but still serviced by Uber too), you go faster where you want by bike or buses than by car. Notwithstanding that it is more sustainable (economics).
And Uber does not go much in the countryside. Buses do.
The average public transit rider in Paris spends over two hours a day commuting. In most of America, drivers spend half that time. Replacing the current mix of cars and transit with point to point vans would dramatically speed up commutes.
Going by a mix of foot, bike, bus/metro has _always_ been faster, more flexible and less costly than by car.
The only exception is when you've got a large/heavy package to pick/deliver.
No amount of additional cars will improve the trafic there.
"The average amount of time people spend commuting with public transit in Paris, for example to and from work, on a weekday is 64 min. 15% of public transit riders, ride for more than 2 hours every day."
The main problem w/ the model is people having to travel non-walkable/bikeable distances twice a day. Until we invent teleportation, not a lot is gonna change that basic math.
You're forgetting the other half. What if we remove 3/4 of the existing car volume at the same time?
> and I shudder to think of the impact on the environment.
Despite it being electric?
Re: electric, this is a good step but we still produce most of our electricity (by far) by burning fossil fuels. Plus we lose energy in transmission/storage so it's a net loss.
Let's say we currently have one bus and twenty cars.
If we replace that with 12 vans and 5 vans, respectively, that leaves us with 17 vans.
The road is now less congested and less polluting.
(There's no reason to expect all the current cars to be replaced, but there's no reason to expect all the busses to be replaced either.)
But as more and more people work (global population is still increasing), this doesn't scale. Commuting is the problem, not humans having yet to find the perfect commuter to axle ratio.
This is my problem with self driving tech in general. So much energy and engineering has gone into solving a problem we don't need to solve. The answer is more light rail and more remote work. And if you think it's a tech solution to a political problem, I'd point you to all the political problems Uber is having. It's just, idk bad planning or something.
Grandparent's point was self-driving cars solves the labor problem, and thus the benefits of ridesharing totally outshine the benefits of mass transit. I'm saying I don't think a labor shortage is the main problem (no matter how much you think those drivers are making, it's not a lot). Rather, I think the problem is "every American worker gets a car and is transported ~16 miles twice a day" isn't scalable.
And no, I don’t want to shut down the busses. I’m describing why so few people are using them, and why self-driving cars have a better chance of success. In fact, I think self-driving is a necessary ingredient for a public transit system that meets everyone’s needs in the US. I think buses are a natural park of a self-driving network - a dynamic dispatch system can use them on the most in-demand routes.
Right now in America, the vast majority of people are driving solo to work. Even if self-driving vehicles merely double the capacity those vehicles handle, that seems enough to fix our transit problem.
Yeah if your metric is how much time you spend walking, or privacy I guess, then a car is better than a bus (a car with no driver even more so).
But in NYC many people don't have cars, and while "parking in the city is impossible" is one reason, there are other way more popular ones:
- mass transit is much, much safer
- it's more environmentally friendly
- it's faster (trains, not buses, although with bus lanes and lights that might be changing)
- car maintenance is expensive and tedious
- cars are expensive assets that depreciate incredibly fast
- you can do other things while on mass transit
> There simply isn’t a bus that exists that will take most people from where they are where they want to go.
You might be surprised. There's a bus around the corner from me that takes me directly to my subway station. My total walk time is maybe 2 minutes. It doesn't make any sense to me to figure out self-driving cars to save me 4 minutes of walking a day, in fact that's probably a bad idea and pattern in general.
> I’m describing why so few people are using them, and why self-driving cars have a better chance of success.
Again you might be surprised. In NYC, 2.25 million people ride the bus every weekday. I don't know what rideshare stats are, but I bet they're lower.
In places without expansive and deep mass transit systems, people don't ride buses for exactly the reason you said. But the answer isn't to figure out self-driving cars, the answer is more buses (and other vehicles like light rail), drivers, and routes.
> In fact, I think self-driving is a necessary ingredient for a public transit system that meets everyone’s needs in the US.
Well, it doesn't exist at all right now, so I think that's pushing it when it comes to "needs". Something else that would satisfy that is if we installed light rail and started switching wholesale to remote work, things we know how to do super well right now. It's also even safer than self-driving cars, easier on the environment, cheaper, etc.
Self-driving cars remind me a lot of blockchain: a solution looking for a problem. It's a little more vexing than blockchain though, because commuting really seems like a drive time problem, but the root problem there isn't that a working human has to drive, it's that a working human has to move 30 miles every workday. The smart, efficient solution here is better mass transit and more remote work.
Recently I lost my car (I used to have a company car in front of my door, but switched jobs), now I am solely using public transport and my bicycle. It takes more time, doesn't really cost me anything more than having a car and because it takes more time I have more space to clear my mind. To let my mind wander for a while to process thoughts.
I'm talking about distances that typically take 5 - 20 minutes by car, that are now maybe 15 - 40 minutes by public transport.
See also: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mental-downtime/
The average public transit commute in most cities is twice as long as the average driving commute: https://abc7news.com/5289025
> The study found San Diego had the nation's shortest commute times with an average of just 26 minutes by car, but 52 minutes by public transit.
That’s an hour a day (total) that public transit commuters aren’t spending with their families.
Even during rush hour in DC, it’s slightly faster for me to get to work driving clear across the city instead of getting on at the rail station at the edge of the city and taking a train straight to the station 8 minutes from my office.
By public transportation, it would be north of 1:15, because it takes 20-25 minutes just to walk to the nearest bus stop.
Maybe you can concentrate and do work on a bus, but I can't, so for me it's just wasted time (almost 2 hrs every work day, adding up to 400+ hrs/year). Having a car is essential (unless you live and work downtown, for which you're paying a premium, obviously)
It's true, but at least on an individual level, it's worth looking at what happens to the extra time. I'm a four season bike commuter, and my ride is 30 mins each way (~7.5km). It would be about a 10-15 minutes drive.
So I'm losing a half hour each day to my commute, but those five hours a week are essentially all the exercise I get— taking time to play an organized sport or go to the gym with three kids at home? Forget about it. I'm so reliant on this that I really noticed over the summer when I switched to my Boosted Board for a few weeks that I wasn't getting the workout I needed.
Anyway, it's not for everyone, and not every workplace has decent parking or would permit you to show up a bit sweaty. But between that and the savings associated with not owning a second car, biking to work is a no-brainer for me.
> The average public transit commute in most cities is twice as long as the average driving commute: https://abc7news.com/5289025
The average public transit system in the US is woefully inadequate compared to those in other developed countries, so it's hardly fair to pin this on public transit in general.
The whole point of the discussion around the future of transportation is to align the individual incentive to get some place faster and cheaper with the broader societal goals of affordability, access, and decongestion. Better mass transit is the probably best option we have for that so far. Continuing to grow the individual car based commute likely isn't, definitely not in our ever-growing and increasingly congested metropolises.
Even if today the best solution for a lot of people is to get in a personal car doesn't mean that we can't build better transport systems in the future. This is about making improvements, not about attachment to the currently dominant way of getting from point A to point B.
Getting more mass transit will not be easy - the barriers are as much cultural as they are geospatial - but let's not dismiss a solution that demonstrably works elsewhere.
Not every minute of your life has to be optimised.
Not on some of the buses I've ridden.
We'd have to solve a dozen or so social issues before buses were reliably a good place to do relaxing activities.
In many bigger cities in Europe, there are dedicated lanes reserved for public transport. You can grab an Uber and get stuck on the public lanes in a big traffic jam. Or you take the bus and arrive in half the time. Plus the bus is dirt cheap at a fixed-price $40 per month no matter how much you use it. I used to travel 12km by bus twice every working day and it took roughly 20 minutes per direction. Good luck getting an Uber ride for $1 per trip that'll average 36km/h = 22 miles/h through the rush-hour traffic in any big US city.
Oh and don't get me started on the Berlin / Hamburg / Singapore MRT systems. Trains every 3 minutes with dedicated underground tunnels that usually arrive faster than it takes you to pay a parking ticket and get your car out of the 3rd parking deck. Plus, the Singapore MRT is so spotless clean and people are so careful and polite, I'd be willing to sit down with a blanket on the floor and have my dinner there. Eating in the MRT is forbidden, though.
Also, I'm not sure if I had beginner Uber drivers untypically often or if they just have such a high turnover, but in 1 out of 4 rides the driver had problems finding me, despite having my GPS location and my street address. Having waited for 10 minutes only for the driver to then cancel and Uber support to scold me for hiding, I now usually walk to the bus stop and call the Uber from there. Much easier to find, even for beginners. But that kind of negates a big benefit that Uber was supposed to have, if they cannot pick me up where I am.
And speaking of beginners, I have been in almost-accidents more often than I can remember, both with Uber and Grab. The driver is texting on his phone, or trying to readjust the app's map, not paying attention to the road, and then we have to stop tires screeching to avoid running over a cyclist. I have never ever had a bus driver as careless as about half of the app drivers.
And then, there's the crazy aspect. When someone pukes in a shared bus, you can move to another seat. When your neighbor pukes in a shared Uber, you can only choose between accepting the smell or waiting 10+ minutes for the next Uber. Sadly, I speak from personal experience here.
Maybe it's just me, but something about sharing a ride with one or two random people in the back seat of a sedan just seems unpleasantly awkward. Whereas a bus has enough people that you're a face in the crowd.
(context: US, Boston/Cambridge/Somerville area)
Of course, you pay more!
It's even impacting the environment more, cities cannot plan for it and chose the path they should follow and ,in the end, why didn't you share your personal car with the people you know before Uber came along?
Because you want a cab and a driver to - if it's necessary - share with people like you, not a shared means of transportation that's doing a service to a larger community
- The car carries fewer people at any given time, so needs to stop in fewer places.
- The cars are smaller and cheaper, so can be more numerous (hence more frequent/available).
- The car has dynamic routing, so instead of carrying you along a predetermined route, it can carry you anywhere you want to go and you don't need to wait for the "right" car.
I imagine this could be a fantastic complement — not replacement — to a bus, specifically for low ridership areas, last-mile connections, and lower-frequency routes, so busses could focus on what they’re best at: high frequency arterials with dedicated ROW carrying many passengers at once.
Honestly I believe a system trained on so many millions of driving interactions would tend to act like an average good driver in SF, and so would ultimately blend in.
Which is genius as in every city that is (a) the most lucrative taxi route and (b) the one with the newest and safest roads.
Yeah that doesn't describe 101 around SFO one bit.
What? You should try driving the roads around DTW. Bring your off-road tires.
Many airports across the rust belt and northeast of the US suffer the plague of under-maintained infrastructure. CLE and BWI are coming to mind as well. And driving any highway in ATL can hardly be considered safe.
I imagine something like this will arrive more quickly, not stop 15 times on the way, and get people closer to their home/work.
The city is a pretty big one: Rome, Italy.
The only real solution is ban private cars. I don't like it, but it's unfortunately like cancer: kill it before it kills you.
It may share 90% of the trip with that bus route, but the remaining 10% are very important.
I could count with my fingers the amount of crazy people I saw in my life while in public transport or on the streets in general. The same while traveling around Europe.
But in the USA, it was incredible to see the amount of crazy people going around, talking alone, yelling out of nowhere, or "having episodes" (e.g. one guy rubbing a plastic fork intensely on the top of his head for like 15 mins while staring into space).
I wonder what would be the reason for that? (Maybe the lack of a public/universal health service?)
Would I like to ride a tram with only smart and beautiful people? Sure I would, but I could not enjoy it knowing about the implications.
Being exposed to a sample of society is actually one of the things I like most about public transport. But it's only a positive if the sample is at least somewhat representative and not a self-selected showcase of the down and out. Classic chicken/egg. Where I live, subway and tram are fine whereas urban buses sharing the same general are and ticket are borderline depressing (suburban buses are somewhat ok, rural buses are completely devoid of driving age population).
There isn’t a good reason why it should be this way in a wealthy country. It amounts to saying ‘Let the people that need the most help wither and die.’
Which means if you want to be comfortable, you’re going to have to minimize time spent in the commons.
And neither are they symptoms of a specific biological malfunction. We just happen to be highly social animals and if we are continually denied social interaction we'll start to do increasingly stupid things to provoke a reaction. Programs that give those people an outlet for their interaction needs will work wonders for almost all of them. Zero care freedom versus lockup/forced medication is a false dichotomy.
If only accessible mental health services were easy to reach for those whose lives are so crippled by mental health that they have little other options (even if some would still "opt out") ...
> and their medical decision-making as you do
For many, there is zero medical decision-making involved because there is zero or near zero access to mental health care.
As an EMS provider, I truly believe (and I'm certainly not alone) that the two major health crises facing the US are mental health and opioid use, misuse and abuse.
But you could certainly make rules about doing the first two on a bus.
After all, do you deny boarding to people who look like they might break the rules? Ask them nicely to disembark if they start? Have the driver manhandle them off? Stop the bus and call the cops? Rely on scowls and tutting from other passengers?
With that said, I spent a few years riding busses in university, and didn't encounter problems from other passengers. Punctuality, service frequency, crowding and journey times were much bigger problems for me.
And this is how progress has always looked. Life will be better for this.
The market is a close analog for lightning. It's finding the fastest path.
And let me tell you, the Bay Area is flush with money. Funding is not the problem.
Yes. Buses are cheap, but slow and uncomfortable.
Buses are big and unmaneuverable. That makes them slow over long distances. In low densities, the size means lots of inefficient stops. In high density, the manoeuvrability means subpar navigation and traffic avoidance.
Buses are also uncomfortable. If you raise ticket prices to buy a better ride, the quantity demanded drops and one ends up with vans.
Vans are expensive because they need drivers. Driverless vans are superior to private cars and buses for their market. (Nobody is close to providing this.)
We know how to make that go away: create separated bus only right of way with traffic light synchronization.
Uber has probably made this worse. The only way it's helped with congestion is fewer people looking for parking.
If a self-driving vehicle like OP could hit such a price point (a big if, admittedly) I think it could make a substantial dent in inner city driving, beyond what Uber is able to achieve.
While it is clear that self-driving cars won't have steering wheels in the future, these prototypes are jumping the gun and a waste of time. As Waymo quickly realized, you can iterate much faster staying away from these futuristic prototypes.
Cruise has one advantage that Waymo didn't - General Motors. They don't need to build an automotive product development and manufacturing org from scratch; it's already there and it's got a hundred years of institutional memory.
Since GM has been working on things like this for decades, I imagine it gives Cruise the opportunity innovate on the vehicle itself quite capably without taking their eye off the ball.
The point still stands that it's mostly a waste of time and resources while we are still years away from fully functioning self-driving cars. You could argue that if GM has artists and designers who are bored and need a side project, it may be worth the news cycle generated by the reveal, but other than that it doesn't add much to the conversation.
There have been plenty of such prototypes; just at CES a few weeks ago, LG had an almost identical prototype .
Here are the CA DMV's autonomous vehicle accident reports for 2019. Cruise has a lot of them. Mostly being rear-ended by a human-driven car. A surprisingly large number are with the vehicle being driven manually, or right after the human driver took over. True driverless still seems a long way off given those results.
I've seen Cruise cars in SF, most recently making a left turn off Union St in manual mode.
GM's first try at self-driving, Firebird III in 1958, was far cooler than this mini-bus thing.
The mini-bus area seems a good place to start with self-driving. I was once thinking airport parking lot shuttles. Controlled environment, low speed - that could work. But the financial numbers don't work out. You get rid of the driver cost, but you add sizable engineering cost and vehicle cost, and you don't sell many vehicles that way. Local Motors and some other startups have been struggling quietly in that space for years now. Local Motors' Olli has three live installations, with about six vehicles total, all very recent. A college campus, a casino area, and a dedicated track at an industrial park are the public installations. Demos, basically. The thing is so slow that walking might be faster, and any bicycle or electric scooter would be much faster. Not fast enough to get people from Economy Parking to the terminal.
Navya, from France, seems to be further along. They provided the self-driving shuttles for the Las Vegas strip. They have a number of live mini-bus installations in Europe. They've announced an autonomous cab, but it is not deployed yet.
This is still something that can only be done if someone is willing to finance a money-loser. However, this is perhaps the best time in history for that.
Could that also be because the driver took over to try to avert the imminent collision?
The images of the "Origin" are renders. Not all vehicles. They have plenty of data and footage from their actual self-driving cars.
This is so disingenuous. Every car has a human safety driver in it that they failed to mention.
Anyway, I guess this is an unmanned self-driving taxi service. Looks good, honestly. If it's significantly cheaper than a taxi with human driver, then maybe it really could help people not need to own a car. Especially if they can optimise routes to get more people riding at once.
Having to hunt for what the thing actually is also got me to notice the small disclaimer though:
> All on-road images of the Origin are renderings.
That's ok though, especially if you target your marketing towards early adopters who would know who you are. I doubt some of these companies could handle the hype or scale of being a household name.
Getting new screenshots doesn't seem very work intensive plus you can easily put screenshots of an earlier version and a disclaimer that the screenshots may not be fully up to date.
Doing it for marketing pages is similarly easy.
1) Release vaguely worded press release announcing your imminent thing-which-will-change-the-world.
2) Read all the guesses at what you might be about to release.
3) If any of those guesses are better than your actual idea, then they become your idea all along!
Even if these weren't point-to-point, smaller vehicles can a) serve more routes that would otherwise be below breakeven for minimum passengers served by a bus, b) be more comfortable for passengers to enter/exit, and c) take up less room on streets. Buses barely fit on streets, they only make sense on very dense thoroughfares as an alternative to rail.
Not on a per-passenger basis, which is the metric that matters more in streets full of people traveling.
What matters isn't people per square foot, it's throughput. And the larger the vehicle, the more likely:
a) people are to want to stop at each stop,
b) multiple people are to get on and off at each stop,
c) the less likely it is to be full, and
d) the more awkward and slow it is in maneuvering on streets.
A/B/D all delay every other passenger, and make 3 mile trips take half an hour through a city.
Cruise Origin isn't the only autonomous bus. The great thing about autonomy is that it allows us more degrees of freedom to optimize transportation needs including offering a variety of shapes and sizes and densities, while removing the labor cost and the physical space cost of a driver.
You can just as easily design an autonomous bus to have density to match a larger bus while retaining the footprint of smaller vehicles, which improves all of the above issues with larger busses.
Remember Supershuttle? They had vans. "Never more than 3 stops". Remember the long, long indirect routes of Supershuttle? Remember what happened to Supershuttle?
Network effect must be huge for a system like that. Imagine a large fraction of the cars on the road was shared in the way of supershuttle, you'd already have in that pool a near-perfect itinerary to tie into for almost any trip. And the remainder could easily be fulfilled by assigning a new trip. If you just have a few cars and price for shared occupancy tours will inevitably be much worse. But once you have a critical mass network, route inefficiency will be just a load factor price/performance tradeoff like in a hash-map.
Supershuttle was concentrated pickup but distributed dropoff, whereas with network effects leading to more vehicles & considerably more efficient routing, you can even that equation out a bit more.
Given there are many different bus/rail stops along a route (and many routes for buses), there's a relatively small geographic area to pick up in and drop of to when the other side of the trip is bus/rail. So you might have an automated van drive through an area and make a quick 4-6 pickups in a few block area, drive to a bus stop or rail station, drop those people off, and pick up 4-8 people for drop-off in close geographic proximity. Rinse and repeat.
The point doesn't have to be that they solve the last mile by replacing current mass transit, but by supplementing it in a way that allows for people that were far enough away that it was hard to use previously now have an easy and cheap way to do so, because you've expanded the coverage area of mass transit stations.
Is there work in that area? I feel it shouldn't be a massive technical challenge, cars are stationary, lights are visible and in the future could even "talk" to each other to pass along critical information (if the car infront needs to brake for example).
Theoretically buses are best for throughput, but there's very few routes out there that can fill up a street with full buses. In most cases to totally alleviate traffic we need to take something like 4 people in 4 cars and put them in 1 van. Taking 100 cars and putting them in 1 bus is overkill.
Travel time is where big buses are going to lose. You have to balance density, transfers, and stops. There's no way to get them all. If you want density your buses have to go on the main thoroughfares. Which means you need to transfer to get to the secondary streets. Often trips will look like secondary route -> primary route -> secondary route which vastly increases travel time. Anywhere I want to go by bus in my city takes 3-4 times longer than driving because of this.
The sweet spot is Uber Pool/Lyft Line. You get there much faster and when you account for all subsidies it's price competitive with the bus.
Is that the case? A quick Googling indicates that buses get 4–6 mpg; let’s go with the pessimistic end of that and assume 4 mpg. Diesel currently costs $3/gal and the average bus travels at 12.7 mph, which means that a bus is spending $9.53/hour on fuel. That’s a lot more than I expected, but how does it compare to bus driver wages?
Another quick Googling indicates that a bus driver makes a little over $15/hour. Double that for fully-loaded costs, and that comes out to $30/hr. That’s treble the cost of the gas, but still in the same ballpark. I’m genuinely surprised that the cost of fuel is so close to the cost of the driver. It may indeed be that fuel efficiency is a factor in bus size.
Efficiency-wise a large diesel vis-a-vis traditional car yes the bus wins by a lot, but with smaller multi-person autonomous electric busses I'm not sure if there are any meaningful efficiency gains.
Traffic-wise it may actually be better to have smaller autonomous busses than hulking road giants, because they're not stopping as frequently and they're more nimble. I swear every fifth time I'm around a bus it's stuck idling waiting for a bicyclist or someone to get out of the way, because it's too big to maneuver. Separated bus lanes help, but that isn't a property of the bus as much as urban planning.
They're big because they fit 50 people inside a single vehicle instead of 50 different cars.
I want a door to door bus without the homeless guy and two kids yapping on their phones.
I would love to never own or be responsible for a car ever again. Just summon them when needed or book them in advance.
You can have public buses as well as a private fleet of self driving cars.
In any case, I'm not arguing for guilt trips as a means of solving the problem. Instead, I think the right solution is the bedrock of any community: shared experience.
1. Does not go from where you are to where you need to go. Having to go from and to bus stops increases travel time and reduces convenience. Even worse if you have transfers.
2. Scheduling issues. The bus may not go when you need it to. Late evenings, maybe not at all.
3. Stops lots of places where you don’t need to get off, making travel speed much slower.
4. Personal space problems. Having to sit thighs-touchingly close to strangers is unpleasant, and unless the bus is pretty empty, unavoidable. Even worse if it’s so full you have to stand.
5. Privacy problems. You can’t use the ride time to make a phone call, scratch your balls or do something else without having to share it with everyone around you.
6. Reliability problems. Depending on where you live, busses are often delayed or cancelled.
7. Noise problems. The bus is loud, the other passengers often noisy.
8. Comfort problems. Bus seats are usually a lot less comfy than a car seat, with less leg room, etc.
Busses are cheaper than taxis, and in some ways more convenient than driving, but those advantages do not outweigh the downsides for most people.
There are also only so many bus stops and it’s not on demand.
True fact: Not everyone who needs a bus is able to get to a bus stop, which is why cities have door-to-door paratransit services. Does it make you feel better if this replaces that instead of replacing buses?
Even if we eliminated congestion though, with 30 people on a bus, average riders wait for 30 people to get on and 30 people to get off on their ride. The average person also has 30 people walk past them and possibly bump into them. Also, any time you get 30 random people together, probably one of them will be doing something unpleasant.
The alternative smaller busses. More, smaller busses make you wait less for others getting on and off, and there are less people to disrupt the ride. It means that the bus system can serve more routes, moving people more directly. ince you're not making 30 people make a detour, you can make bus routes dynamic and get closer to a perfect route for every passenger. With more busses, you can run more frequently, so there's less waiting for your bus to arrive. Smaller busses are also more maneuverable, so it's easy to get in and out of traffic. Smaller busses can also serve areas where the ridership doesn't support a big bus driving past every half hour.
The only thing stopping this from happening before was the cost of all of those drivers. If we solve that, public transit has the potential to get way better.
This is too simple a model: not all stops are equally popular and especially it’s leaving out the time needed to stop and start again relative to the time it takes people to board, not to mention the limiting factor in many areas being traffic and signals.
However, it is completely unavoidable that if there are 30 people on the bus at all times, the average person will have to wait for 30 people to board and 30 people to get off. That could mean 60 stops, or it could mean one stop where everyone gets off and everyone gets on. Obviously the second one is faster, but reducing stops also means people have to walk further, which increases travel time.
Except in extraordinarily dense cities, the iron math of transit is that if you want to have 30 people on a bus, you're going to have to make people do some walking, they're going to have to wait a little while for a bus, and even without any congestion, they're not going to go very fast because of all of the stopping. That makes the door to door time very unfavorable relative to driving, and so except in those extraordinarily dense cities, very few people that can afford a car use transit.
Because there are a bunch of people on the bus, getting on and off has to be hurried and stressful, because you're making 30 people wait. This is particularly annoying if you're traveling with luggage or kids.
The environmental benefits of transit are potentially big, but let's do the math. A city bus gets about 3.3 MPG (https://afdc.energy.gov/data/10310) It's low mostly because the bus is so heavy and has to stop so frequently. If you have 30 people on the bus, it's about 100 passenger miles/gallon. The average car is about 24 MPG. If you have 4 people in it, it's 96 MPG. If you have 1 person in it, it's 24 MPG, so we can see that the big efficiency benefit of putting people together happens with just a few people. Smaller vehicles are also more flexible. The city bus that is running full at rush hour is also running with 2-3 people on it at 10 at night. It might be getting 6 MPG with less stopping, but it's very wasteful to run such a large vehicle almost empty. Smaller pooled vehicles can still run relatively full in off hours, and the extra capacity sits parked not using any energy.
My point overall is that transit just gets much better in basically every dimension if you reduce the number of passengers per vehicle.
The only reason transit agencies aren't doing this now is the cost of the drivers. Even with the cost of the drivers, UberPool is a similar product with non purpose built vehicles that has been fairly successful. If you took out the cost of the driver and reduced the ride price accordingly, it would dominate passenger transportation.
I'm so down with small self-driving buses.
Small buses that run more frequently address this problem.
No it won't. At most it adds about a block. At best the new route is closer.
However, Uber/Lyft exist, and this divide exists as we stand today. I really hope these are cheaper, and help us drive down the cost of transportation.
Secondly, I'm very excited about areas that are subruban-ish where we could get rid of many many cars and use something like this instead.
The person is getting on a different place to the rest... ?
Fewer stops than a typical bus, more nimble, and more flexibility with locations/routes. I imagine we'll see apps that offer a further discounted fare if you move closer to a thoroughfare for pickup or accept a dropoff short of your house (e.g., end of the street).
And that's the answer. Who invests in something with negative ROI? (Which is, indeed, why so many mass transit systems are taxpayer-supported).
So, this method is easier to roll-out, easier to bring profits from (especially with an ageing population who don't want to live in city centers), and can easily fit into nearly any community in America with ease.
Ideally, you would be right, we would instead be investing in a massive public transit overhaul from trains to buses but as the saying goes, we do not live in a perfect world.
The service we're talking about with the Cruise vehicles (and "easier to bring profits from") is getting more buses on the road in huge suburbs, right?
Why couldn't a service like this be purchased/leased by a community/city/state to become part of its public transport mix?
It's not like this will be the only self-driving minivan in the future.
What counts as a transportation cost? Do average San Franciscan households have $5k of local (i.e. replaceable with a robocab) transportation costs? We're one of the US cities with the most households without vehicles .
But even looking at the US average, $5K would be a big promise.
E.g. a quick search finds claims  that average US households are paying $250 in gas per month (-> 3k per year). That same source says the household average for transportation (including planes, trains, ships, vacations) is $9k.
For comparison, an SF muni pass with bart within the city is $98/month.
Gas is definitely not the only expense to driving. Amortization of the vehicle value, insurance, and maintenance are all costs that you have to consider as part of vehicle ownership (or leasing).
If Origin were the difference between someone owning and not owning a car, it would be pretty easy to get to $5k. As you noted, $3k per year for gas. Another $1k for vehicle insurance. Another $1-2k for the value of the vehicle.
I've been meaning to track my actual TCO for a vehicle, but I've always been too lazy. Appreciate you sharing.
Writing down the average liters/100km the car displayed for each tank gave me a good general feel for how much fuel it really used for various situations. Driving 220 km/h to Frankfurt for an emergency flight home? 14 l/100km (do NOT recommend, but hey, I got on that plane and had that last week with my mom). Normal Autobahn speeds down from the Austrian Alps? 5 l/100km. Speed or Stau (traffic jam) Autobahn traffic that's the usual situation in Germany and helped convince me that I really do prefer German trains, despite some schedule problems? 6.5 l/100km.
Here are un-avaoidable things you are overlooking, at least for passenger vehicles people own/lease:
* Depreciation (with very few exceptions)
* Routine maintenance (brakes, tires, wipers, filters, oil, transmission fluid, coolant) and cleaning. Even on electric cars you have still have most of those.
* Parking (where applicable)
* Inspection (where applicable, minor)
* Registration (minor)
Transportation is very consistently a Top 5 expense for a given household, and for many households, Top 3. For people who go through cars like toothbrushes, usually second only to housing.
For those taking commuter rail, pass costs are a lot higher based on zones. In most markets, Zone 1 and Zone 2 isn't the most common users, but Zones 3 and further out. That puts costs substantially higher than BART or MUNI, and will usually be a portion (not complete) transportation costs.
If you are able to take a metro system exclusively, you're fundamentally paying part of that cost through higher housing costs (not doing so is an exception). Not something that may be directly attributable as "transportation cost", but the increase is there and very material in terms of higher housing costs.
Re your comments about commuter rail/muni:
1. If you live in the peninsula or the South Bay, are you a San Franciscan? Should you count towards such a stat?
2. Yes, people living in the city pay very high housing costs, and part of the value of that housing is convenient access to everything else. But I'm really not expecting robocabs to bring down the cost of housing by decreasing demand. Even if it's cheap and convenient, transportation will always take time.
This one however says the average household spends $13,350:
The $5k number from Cruise is probably a bit suspect since I doubt this could totally replace vehicle ownership for even the majority of current drivers, but it's probably not more than $1-2k off.
If Lyft (and most of the other commentary on self-driving cars) is an accurate picture of the current state-of-the-art, then let's just say the tech has a long way to go before its ready for the kind of everyday use that we're being hyped up for.
Also, Cruise’s disengagement rates are already ahead of what Waymo averaged in 2018: https://miro.medium.com/max/1644/0*lYhqv0Bd82ocQP5T
Waymo disengagement rates were halved in 2018 though so they might be continuing to exhibit substantial improvements as well.
I also noticed on their technology page  they say that they have "Deep Resources"
>> We have raised $7.25 billion in committed capital from General Motors, Honda, SoftBank, T. Rowe Price, and others. These investments help shave years off of our timeline to launch all-electric, self-driving vehicles at scale.
Edit: More details in this video from The Verge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3E7p4S_1m4
1) Board the CEO and the CTO (with their families)
2) Drive from downtown LA to Lax.
Jeepneys are great though, I hope this mode of transport catches on.
Which reminds me that one concern with the Cruise vehicle is that, understandably, it looks as if it's heavy and built to US passenger car safety standards.
Whereas a tuk-tuk or jeepney designed exclusively for slower speed urban travel could be built sub-500kg which would be better for pedestrian safety and energy efficiency.
(Of course, especially in the US market, there are other factors that go into consideration, such as the perceived or real need to travel in 30+ mph mixed traffic, the need for large batteries that allow a high utilization factor between charges, etc.)
Yep, same GM, now add Honda and Son-sama and we're ready for act 2: https://youtu.be/p-I8GDklsN4
Just in time for global warming
Anecdotally, Cruise has been cruising around the city for years like they're helping rebuild Apple Maps or something.
Now we know, hard to miss the big launch, getting out of the 47 Van Ness and seeing the usual special event at SVN West.
How ironic it was at the old Honda dealership and less than 1/2 block away from the homeless navigation center.
Seeing as homeless folk ride free in MUNI, I have to wonder will they get to cruise in Origin, too? Maybe good Breed PR gesture.
Probably not. Wrong use case.
If they crash and burn hopefully the IP will be worth something. Otherwise seppuku time.
All the data from tooling around the city has got to be worth something.
"Quote-tweets of the form "You've invented <thing that already exists>" are almost always false. That form of witticism must for some reason be especially attractive to the mistaken."
Their UI looks incredibly sexy
Also the quality of their simulator, I've never seen anything like this in production.
Are you talking about the GIFs in that article? I work on that tool, and just in case you're interested, it's open source, so you can play with it yourself: https://webviz.io :)
Needless to say, if each bus company runs two busses an hour, such a system changes a one-bus-every-ten-minutes route into a one-bus-every-thirty-minutes if two thirds of the busses won't accept your ticket.