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Pitch

Driverless vehicles reduce emissions, eliminate congestion, accidents, and food deserts by enabling vehicle and parking sharing.


Description

Guidance on collaborative pilot

This is a pilot test of a new, collaborative approach for getting work done in the Climate CoLab. It will run during March and April of 2012.

Just like in the 2011 activities, anyone can create a proposal. But there is also a community proposal, where members are encouraged to work together in a collaborative way. Any member can contribute to the community proposal as long as they are logged in.

The community proposal is like a wiki, so the history of edits is tracked, and you can revert to prior versions of the proposal if desired.

Please also use the Comments to express your opinion on whether or not you would like to see this collaborative approach used in the Climate CoLab in 2012.

Feel free to organize the proposal as you see fit. One thought—it's good to have a brief summary of the overall proposal at the top, as an aid to readers.

Proposal Text

Summary

Think: adaptive traffic lights on steroids.

Sustainable Digital Dividend derives from embracing the infrastructure of the 21st Century.  A dividend is a return on investment or a removed expense.  For example, we sometimes have peace dividends when wars end, as when President Regan created a “Peace Dividend” by forcing the Soviet Union to bankruptcy.

The digital dividend results from improving the safety and reliability of infrastructure primarily with 21st Century digital electronics technology.  This reduces insurance costs and waste relative to attempting to improve infrastructure primarily with 20th Century technology.  20th Century infrastructure technologies consume many more resources for much less safety and productivity improvement than do 21st Century technologies.

Perhaps the largest digital dividend is available in surface transportation with driverless cars.  Driverless cars can double freeway capacity (the equivalent of adding a new freeway for every existing freeway at a tiny fraction of the cost).  This means new concrete lanes, steel bridges, and iron rails are not sustainable because they are unnecessary.  Conversely, existing facilities need more maintenance for a smoother ride and perhaps increased structural capacity.  A smooth ride is critical to play chess, apply make-up, win video games, sew a quilt, or type at 70 mph.

While time-saving is a big dividend, the most visible dividend is reduced vehicle insurance costs.  Americans (individuals and businesses) spend about $500 billion per year while congratulating ourselves for only 33,000 traffic fatalities during about 11 million accidents in 2010.  When 90% of cars are driverless (and the others are communicating) we should expect annual vehicle insurance costs below $50 billion per year.  The savings is more than money.  The savings is public health and safety, the independence and mobility of our seniors, the reduced costs of moving food and goods, and the lives and health of our loved ones. 


Category of the action

Reducing emissions from transportation


What actions do you propose?

 

1)     Write the rules for Driverless Cars for minimum emissions – Several states including Nevada and California have “write-the-rules” laws.  That is the legislatures have directed their Department of Transportation to specify the conditions and features of driverless cars.  If we allow auto manufacturers to write the rules, the rules will maximize car sales.  If society funds people to write rules for maximum society benefit, the rules will:

Ensure safety – Perhaps with two independent systems: a) an inexpensive primary system employing communicating devices with GPS, accelerometers (the virtual force field) and b) an expensive backup system employing cameras, lasers, and radar.

Connect people to minimize emissions – The features that protect pedestrians, enable sharing ownership, enable on-the-fly carpooling, enable everywhere real-time parking meters on private and public property, enable motion-predicting traffic lights and street lighting, etc. are standard (not options).  For example, every car is sold with two pedestrian “force field” devices or $100 off if you own a smartphone with force field technology.

2)     Accelerate driverless vehicle deployment – Make driverless technology mandatory for the “fast” lane in freeways with more than two lanes in each direction beginning January 1, 2015.  Accelerating driverless vehicle deployment minimizes the emissions from building unneeded infrastructure to reduce traffic congestion.

3)     Build America’s Digital Infrastructure –

·       Produce and advertise a study calculating the Sustainable Digital Dividend.  The study should include a list of features (services) to build into Digital Infrastructure to maximize the infrastructure’s value: super-convenient economically self-sufficient public transit, virtual force fields for pedestrians and bicyclists, post-disaster water rationing instead of ‘boil water’ warnings, continuous distributed leak sensing, etc.

·       Team with technology leaders and political advocacy organizations such as Google, General Motors, the American Association of Retired Persons and the League of American Bicyclists, to help foresee valuable features and improve the rebranding effort. 

·       Communicate with those who may be threatened by ASCE’s Sustainable Digital Dividend: traditional infrastructure engineers; insurance companies; automobile manufacturers; accident lawyers; auto body shops; used car dealers; and truck, bus, and taxi drivers.

·       Prepare Digital Infrastructure planning documents for transportation agencies and utilities to reduce uncertainty in their twenty year planning documents.

4)     Capture the Digital Dividend – There are two Digital Dividends.  One is the sudden drop in insurance costs, leaving Americans with $450 billion per year to spend on other concerns.  The other is a reduced need for new infrastructure capacity.  For example, traffic congestion disappears with computer chips, software, and new cars instead of new asphalt, steel, and concrete, while the demand for smoother roads with bicycle lanes and flood-resistant features increases.


Who will take these actions?

United States Federal and state governments, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Association of Retired Persons, software and hardware companies (Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc.), cell phone companies, motor vehicle manufacturers, and others.


Where will these actions be taken?

Initially in the United States, unless other countries jump into the lead on digital transportation infrastructure.


How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

We would produce less than half of current emissions from the cumulative effects of:

1. Bicyclists will feel safe and be safe.

2. You don't need a big car to feel safe and be safe.

3. You can merge safely (without paying any attention) with a small motor (more fuel efficient all the time).  Human-electric hybrids become practical at freeway speeds.

4. You can safely draft in a platoon of vehicles (like bicycle racers).

5. More multi-owner vehicles with the owners using on-the-fly carpooling to keep costs down.

6. The risk of pooling with a bad driver is eliminated and any of the 25 vehicles owned by 50 people can be summoned in emergencies.

 


What are other key benefits?

 

Time - Driverless cars can double freeway capacity (the equivalent of adding a new freeway for every existing freeway at a tiny fraction of the cost).[1]

Money - Americans (individuals and businesses) spend about $500 billion per year while congratulating ourselves for only 33,000 traffic fatalities during about 11 million accidents in 2010.  When 90% of cars are driverless (and the others are communicating) we should expect annual vehicle insurance costs below $50 billion per year.  The savings is more than money.  The savings is public health and safety, the independence and mobility of our seniors, the reduced costs of moving food and goods, and the lives and health of our loved ones.

[1] Drivers in Southern California follow about 2 seconds behind, not the recommended 3 seconds.  Say 2.2 seconds/car at 60 mph.  A platoon of five driverless cars could span 1.6 seconds and allow 3 seconds between platoons to achieve 0.9 seconds per car. 


What are the proposal’s costs?

Way less than the cost of a year or two of vehicle insurance and priceless relative to a loved one dying in a traffic "accident."

In 2005, General Motors' engineers estimated $200 to include GPS-based communicating car technology to their OnStar system in new cars with stability control.

The individually intelligent driverless car technology is much more expensive.  Ask Google.  I'll guess less than $2,000 for dual system of individual sensors, GPS, inertial navigation, and communicating velocity/acceleration information with other cars and bicyclists.  Either system can drive the vehicle to a safe stop, if the other system fails.

Consumers pay for the new technology because it pays off in reduced insurance costs in less than 2 years.  Not to mention that cars without driverless capabilities are nearly worthless.


Time line

With a concerted effort we can be emitting half as much CO2 from transportation within 20 years.


Related proposals

Similar proposals for employing digital electronics in transportation include:

Smart Mobility for the 21st Century/galen; and

Self organizing traffic lights/carlos.


References