What if you could travel at 65 mph using 100 watts of power – less than sitting at home? What if you could safely read, rest, or talk while traveling? What if the transportation system is so fast and efficient it can deliver your dose of medications and your favorite beverage in minutes wherever you are?
Imagine enclosed roads making transportation fast, safe, and out of sight and hearing. Imagine pipes and wires protected but accessible. Imagine sustainable cities integrated on top of this transportation system. Imagine the opportunities for living, learning, working, and playing, while saving money, resources, and energy.
30,400:1 Economy of Scale
How is this possible? Currently, one tablespoon of oil fuels a freight train to carry one pound of ripe oranges all the way across North America. Your car can’t get out of the grocery store parking lot on one tablespoon of oil. That’s a 30,400:1 economy of scale! Most of that is due to the excess weight of the car and driver. But inefficient internal combustion engines, rubber tires, and poor roads are also significant factors.
Nested Family of Autonomous Electric Vehicles Sized for Different Loads
Autonomous electric vehicles carry everything from just-in-time medications to food and beverages, to people, including seniors, children, and others disadvantaged by our current car-centric system. Smaller vehicles nest inside larger ones using the economy of scale for speed and efficiency. Sharing vehicles further reduces costs and increases efficiency. Reusable Containers are optimized for the loads they carry and are readily cleaned for reuse. Mobility Platforms carry these containers and are optimized for the surface they ride on, such as rails, roads, or carpets. Standard Interfaces provide physical support, power, and other services. Convoy Vehicles can include different levels so people and large items move separately from smaller items, further increasing convenience and efficiency.
Enclosed Autonomous-Ways Protecting Vehicles
Some vehicles move among people, delivering goods, and enabling people with mobility challenges to move about freely, even joining walkers and joggers. Otherwise, vehicles move inside enclosed Autonomous-Ways or A-Ways. Excluding weather, debris, animals, pedestrians, and human drivers enhances safety, simplifies navigation, and reduces costs. A-Ways provide power directly to vehicles, eliminating costly, heavy batteries, and further improving efficiency. A-Ways provide ideal homes for pipes, wires, and other infrastructure. This combination of protection and ready access reduces costs and enables easy upgrades. A-Ways can also be designed for smaller vehicles.
Efficient High-Capacity Convoys
An innovation called Continuous Convoys & En Route Sequencing provides full-speed, non-stop mobility from any station to any other station. You enter a convoy vehicle waiting at a station, A. Within a few minutes your convoy vehicle accelerates to join the front of the approaching convoy. The convoy continues at full speed all the time, hence Continuous Convoys. You move to the convoy vehicle that will stop at your destination station, hence En Route Sequencing. As the convoy approaches the next station, B, the last convoy vehicle detaches, slows and stops at the station.
The Continuous Convoys & En Route Sequencing technique delivers capacities over 100,000 people per hour. Energy use is only 64 watts per person for air drag and wheel friction at 65 mph, less than one percent of an efficient electric car. Air drag dominates energy loss at higher speeds because it increases as the square of the speed. Adding additional vehicles to a convoy increases air drag very little, so long convoys are efficient. Rolling resistance is proportional to weight, so less overhead weight per person is more efficient. Only a few of the convoy vehicles stop and start at each station, so continuous convoys are more efficient and faster than conventional trains at the same speed. The energy needed to accelerate a convoy vehicle is transferred directly from a nearby convoy vehicle decelerating.
Continuous Convoys work efficiently at any speed for people, people riding personal mobility vehicles and packages. At higher speeds the stations are farther apart to allow people and packages to move to the vehicle that stops at their destination. The lower speeds can deliver travelers to higher speed convoys for longer distances forming efficient enclosed transportation corridors.
One of the technologies that enables modern cities is the elevator. Current elevators occupy up to 20% of the floor space in a tall skyscraper and peak at up to 40% of the total building power, while frustrating travelers with delays. Imagine many autonomous electric vehicles bringing speed, flexibility and efficiency by driving up and down a multi-lane vertical autonomous-way, stopping and passing, with efficient regenerative braking.
Cheap transportation and excellent infrastructure attract many types of organizations. These organizations attract people as employees and customers. People attract services and the other organizations that create a thriving city. In addition to providing transportation and infrastructure, A-Ways can provide the land and physical foundation for buildings, dramatically reducing the costs and delays in construction. One of the challenges of high capacity transportation systems is gathering sufficient demand for efficient operation. A city sitting astride the transportation corridor provides just this density. Higher speeds force transportation corridors to be straight and flat, hence a Linear City.
One measure of the ideal size of a city, going back even to ancient Athens, is an average commute of ½ hour. A mobility corridor enables a person to travel about 100 miles in either direction in ½ hour. Assuming 10 floors of residences with 20 linear feet per person on one side of a floor, yields about a million people within one-half hour, which is larger than all but the 10 largest U.S. cities.
Opportunities for Living and Sustainability
Imagine the personal opportunities these technologies provide to improve our lives? Instead of isolating seniors, enable them to participate fully in society. Instead of warehousing children, enable them to move to learning activities matching their individual interests and needs. Instead of adults wasting time driving around and doing chores, give them time to use their skills and creative abilities. Enable seniors to help children learn and enable children to help seniors, fulfilling all their lives. Match each person into intentional communities with complementary interests and skills adding training for success and mutual support.
Imagine the sustainability opportunities created by this new architecture. Instead of wasting the heat generated by the transportation system, use it for heating water and living spaces, and use the air flow to replace fans. Instead of throwing everything in the trash, send individual items for reuse, repair, repurposing or recycling. Instead of every home having a dishwasher, send dirty dishes off to use the food waste, then clean and return the dishes. Instead of having floor space sitting idle when not needed, extend sharing through rearrangeable walls and furniture. The same floor space that is a business during the day could be a restaurant in the evening and a dance club late at night. These are just a few samples of the opportunities for residents in these linear cities to be creative, productive, and fulfilled – all these innovations need to be designed and built, providing ample opportunities for people and groups to be productively engaged.
When I look out my windows and enjoy my balcony garden, I want to see nature: fields, forests, and water. When I go out my door, I want to be in an intentional neighborhood with stimulating people supporting my interests and needs. When I leave my neighborhood, I want to be in a welcoming community with intriguing activities, local stores and services. When I leave my community, I want all the advantages of a great city: concerts, libraries, theaters, museums, hospitals, a university… When I go outside, I want to walk, bike, paddle, picnic, and grow a garden. In a linear city I can have all these opportunities in easy reach.
If you have a different vision you can live a few miles away in the same linear city, or even just on the other side of the building, and enjoy a totally different environment. Want to look out on sports facilities? a crowded cityscape? a French-style country village? Choose your own environment and enjoy people with similar visions.
Prospects for Implementation
Does this all seem far in the future? Does it seem impossible to get there from here? Consider how easy it is to make the small vehicles using 3-D printers, open source software, and crowd-funding. Consider that many of the typical restrictions to progress don’t apply inside buildings and campuses.
Imagine a senior living facility that offers just-in-time medication services, fresh food and beverage deliveries on demand, and a choice of personal mobility vehicles. Imagine it is cheaper than conventional facilities because it is cheaper to build and operate, and requires fewer staff to provide these excellent services. Imagine it is fully staffed because the jobs are more rewarding both monetarily and with more focus on the people. Imagine that the facility is more profitable than competing facilities because there is always a waiting list and costs are lower.
Imagine a health facility where patients, equipment, and staff arrive just in time, rather than being late or waiting in hallways. Imagine doctors and nurses prefer to work here. Imagine an outstanding reputation for level of care. Imagine competitive and investment success.
Consider the railway line from Manhattan to Albany, running next to the Hudson River almost the entire way, with cliffs on the other side most of the way. Imagine building a linear city along this scenic right-of-way. Imagine 750,000 people living within an easy commute of Manhattan and Albany. You might think this is a unique opportunity, a straight right-of-way in a metropolitan area, but consider much of the length of the New Jersey Turnpike and other major highways and rail lines.
Barriers vs. Drivers
What are the major barriers to implementation? Are the drivers for implementation sufficient to overcome these barriers?
- Lack of alternative memes for transportation: the future of transportation is widely viewed as electric self-driving cars, with a possible role for drones and a dream of flying cars. The success and publicity of ride hailing, bike sharing, and electric scooters, is fueling the public imagination for light-weight, autonomous, shared, personal vehicles.
- Laws, regulations, and standards often inhibit innovation: the legal and regulatory systems enshrine current systems, often unintentionally inhibiting innovation. Vehicles operating indoors on private property are not subject to many of these outmoded laws and regulations.
- Business and political inertia: existing businesses are built around the current transportation system and many, especially the powerful oil and car industries, view disruptive innovations with suspicion, if not active opposition. Rapidly growing potential markets and low costs for new technologies create compelling business opportunities for both existing and new businesses, driving change.
- Challenges faced by self-driving cars: widely publicized fatalities have slowed progress, upsetting projected dates for implementation. Enclosed A-Ways protect against most of the challenges by excluding weather, debris, animals, pedestrians, and human drivers, while providing optimized riding surfaces, electric power, and integrated traffic management.
- Poor public perceptions of mass transportation: mass transportation is viewed as inconvenient and slow, competing poorly with the flexibility and freedom of cars, while new projects are expensive and much delayed. Fast, cheap, safe mobility for people and objects with automated scheduling creates a highly desirable alternative unlike any current transportation system.
The Bottom Line
Consider the many towns and cities that are choked with traffic and might welcome a small overlay to deliver packages of all sorts. Consider the over-crowded highways and underused railways that could be enhanced with A-Way overlays. Consider the value of all the land covered with paving, larger than the state of Georgia. Consider the improved lives for seniors, children and others. Consider how easy it is for makers to design and build the small vehicles. Consider that prototyping efforts are already in progress.
This may happen sooner than you think, starting inside senior and health facilities, spreading to package overlays and highway overlays, and growing into sustainable linear cities. Get ready for a fast, fun, frugal future.
Categories: Driving Tomorrow Book
Join successful innovators and entrepreneurs, Warren Gifford and David Turock driving an exciting adventure to a fast, fun, frugal future.