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On the Potential of Self-Driving Cars

When people write about self-driving cars they write from the perspective of people living in cities. I live in the Swiss countryside at the foot of the Jura which results in me seeing the potential of self-driving cars differently. For a start at the moment buses operate from 5 in the morning to 9 in the afternoon. There is a tow hour gap at lunchtime when there is no service and at other times the frequency is once an hour, except at rush hour. When self-driving cars are available I see the bus and taxi services being discontinued. I also see the space dedicated to parking in cities vanishing.

I see cars being used to connect villages to town. You get into the self-driven car and it takes you to the train station. From the train station in Nyon you get to Geneva or Lausanne. From Geneva or Lausanne you have trains and buses to take you to your final destination if you are either recovering from an injury or carrying too much weight. Scuba diving and winter sports require a lot of gear so a self-driven car would be helpful.

I also see self-driving cars as being great for teenagers living in the countryside. Self-driving cars will provide a 24 hour per day transportation. This means that teenagers will be able to take the last train home and catching a self-driven car from the train station to home.

I see this as being just as useful for grown ups who like to have more than one drink when out socialising with friends. For now society believe in designated drivers. With self-driving cars the designated driver will be a thing of the past. The train will transport you from the train station to your home. It will also provide country bumpkins with the opportunity to stay out even after the last train. It will equalise city slickers and country bumpkins.

On weekends when groups meet up to do activities self-driving cars will be of great use. At the moment when you hike or do Via Ferrata there is a need for wide open spaces where cars can be parked and sit for hours. Self-driving cars would bring people to the hiking or via Ferrata base and drop people off. These cars will be able to return to active use in the region until activity participants return to the starting point ready to return home.

Car ownership would be replaced by car allocation. For now when cars are not used they are parked and space is used for them to get in and out of that parking space. Space is also needed for the car driver and passengers to get in. When cars drive themselves that space will no longer be needed. Car will be parked as they are on ferries. Only a few centimeters are left between cars and unloading is one row or row at a time. Parking could be designed to maximise space and efficiency.

Mobile phones and smart watches can also be used to increase efficiency at rush hour. When two or more people are heading from the same train station to the same village their smart devices will see this and allocate a parking bay or vehicle with a display to show the name of the destination village. For now the limitation with buses is that they have a set route. If you are at the end of the route you have to wait for everyone to be dropped off and this can add minutes to your journey time. Self-driven cars you would be routed straight to your village square and walk from there.

The point of self-driving cars would be to minimise waiting times. Rather than wait from half an hour to an hour for a bus you would be taken home within 10 minutes of arriving at the train station.

Cities and traffic lights today are designed for human drivers, whether for trams, buses, cars, cyclists, pedestrians or motorbikes. In the self-driven future we could do away with traffic lights. Traffic flow in cities will be reduced because trains and public transport will make it easy and convenient to get from point A to point B. In a city like Geneva where the system is nodal from the centre out we would have private transport to go between distances where a 15-minute walk is needed. The point is to reduce the need for people to go from the periphery to the centre and then back out to the periphery.

The point of self-driving cars would be to maximise network efficiency and provide people with a smooth and efficient way to commute and participate in social activities. It should equalise life for city slickers and country bumpkins. The purpose of self-driven cars should be to maximise use of the existing infrastructure whilst making the last mile more convenient and flexible.



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