Driver-less car technology fails nearly all transport system objectives and has a fatal flaw

Submitted by john on Tue, 17/12/2019 - 15:26

Driver-less cars are already safer than the normal car, and are likely to be introduced progressively over the next 30 years. For this assessment, driver assisted cars are assumed, but not for the poorest 40% of people. Functions assumed include lane keeping, and crash avoidance for rear-ends and with pedestrians. The technology can permit close spacing at high speed on freeways, but not during lane changing, yet when mixed with pedestrians and cyclists, slow speeds are required for safety, to such an extent that capacity is reduced at critical arterial locations, congestion is increased, and mode shift is to public transport.
As a result, Driver-less Cars will:
* only reduce crashes by 60%;
* have no monitoring, have slightly increased exposure during travel, at vehicle change, for PT, and when waiting, so will increase assaults;
* not improve amenity, but will retain car traffic, so retaining pollution, and not improving amenity;
* not remove congestion, but will increase it by decreasing capacity at critical locations, yet increasing it at others;
* not make trip times faster, but make congested trips slower;
* not generate extra revenue, but will create an increased demand for public transport subsidies;
* not create more jobs, but the increased subsidies required and congestion created will waste more jobs, far in excess of the jobs created by construction;
* not create trip time reliability, but will greatly decrease the number of traffic incidents associated with congestion;
* not reduce CO2, but the increased congestion will reduce the benefits accruing from reduced emissions by cars
* and it is not cheap enough to improve rural service.
In short, it fails nearly all objectives, but does something for safety, and has a fatal flaw of not enough mode change. It fails on equity.
Comment: Car makers with deep pockets have an imperative to sell cars, and will continue to improve them to gain an edge over their competitors. Safety improvements will protect the occupants, but not necessarily cyclists and pedestrians. Shortcomings are hidden from public view, including impacts on capacity and safety where there are pedestrians and cyclists. Models of high capacity would rely on “driver-less” cyclists and “driver-less” pedestrians, an unlikely prospect. On freeways where existing lane-changing gaps are 0.3 seconds, driver-less cars can barely match that, but note that lane changing gaps of 0.3 seconds are the main cause of freeway crashes. Regulation of 1m spacing from cyclists would have serious implications for driver-less cars.