Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Aug 22 2015, Page 84

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - August 22, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba C M Y K PAGE D8 JUSTIN SULLIVAN / GETTY IMAGES FILES Google has been testing driverless cars near its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., The company’s self- driving project began in 2009. shifting into high gear D8 cover SATURDAY, AUGUST 22, 2015 2 The Conference Board warns governments to start planning now for what it calls Automated Vehicle ( AVs), with new laws, new urban- planning strategies and new ideas for roadway construction. The board’s report is entitled Automated Vehicles: The Coming of the Next Disruptive Technology . It paints a fascinating, and, at times, frightening picture of a future without drivers. The 72- page report lays out some benefits — reduced collision costs, savings in fuel costs, increased productivity — and some negative implications — increased urban sprawl, job losses and infrastructure costs to accommodate automated vehicles. “ AVs will be nothing less than the first widely available ‘ autonomous robots’ to be used by nearly everyone in the world’s advanced economies,” the report states. Perhaps the most interesting part of the report — much of the technology has been demonstrated already — was the predicted impact on urban planning. With nothing to do on the way to the office, the board suggests many vehicle occupants will use the commuting time to work — catching up on emails, finishing reports, making phone calls — all of which isn’t currently legal or advisable. Because commuting time will suddenly become productive, the report predicts many people will be encouraged to seek out lower- cost housing further from city centres. That will put a major crimp in any effort to contain urban sprawl, creating potential infrastructure headaches for cities, some of which are already straining to service outlying areas. “ There is a strong likelihood that people will be willing to tolerate longer commutes if they are able to be productive in the vehicle, especially if it means that they can buy cheaper housing as result of the longer commute. This will result in sprawl, and a possible reduction in land values in existing suburban and ex- urban areas,” the report states. Robert Galston is a Winnipeg master’s student in urban planning and a frequent commenter on urbanplanning issues. While he sees many benefits to automated vehicles, he’s not convinced a big drawback will be urban sprawl. “ The ability to browse Twitter or play Candy Crush a little bit longer might not outweigh the benefits of being physically closer to things,” he said. “ Technological improvements have not lessened the need for face- to- face contact in the knowledge economy. “ Being able to get to work earlier to meet with colleagues or clients over breakfast, for example, is more important than being able to email them from the road.” Still, Galston sees an upside. “ These kinds of technologies and efficiencies work well for mid- sized cities such as Winnipeg, which are not dense enough to support subways or an endless supply of taxicabs, but are big enough to have demand for alternatives to car ownership, which growing numbers of millennials and retiring baby boomers are looking for.” Car sharing may well become the next boom business, possibly even supplanting traditional taxi, carrental services or even automotive sales. Since an AV doesn’t need to be parked, one customer could use it to get to his destination, then it could go on to pick up another client, overlapping customers and rarely being out of service. As well, a fleet of AVs could be managed centrally so customers know an available vehicle is never far away. The ability to overlap multiple trips, particularly among family members, may drastically reduce the demand for vehicles, write Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle, of the University of Michigan Transport Research Institute, in their report Potential Impact of Self- driving Vehicles on Household Vehicle Demand and Usage . Their analysis was comprehensive and complicated. Suffice it to say, they wrote a computer algorithm to predict the impact of AVs on vehicle usage based on U. S. driving statistics. They showed demand for vehicles per household being cut nearly in half, while the miles driven per vehicle yearly nearly doubling. John Estrada, CEO of advocacy group and trade journal Driverless Transportation , said some estimates have shown that by overlapping clients, the current number of vehicle miles driven could be covered with 80 per cent fewer vehicles. The news isn’t all bad for carmakers, however. Sivak and Schoettle point out doubling the miles driven per vehicle will increase the repair and maintenance business and reduce the lifespan of vehicles, with the resulting turnover at least partially offsetting the decline in demand. Automated vehicles also have the potential to completely change the automotive business landscape. Jac Nasser, who was president of Ford Motor Co. from 1998 to 2001, touted a plan where instead of buying a vehicle, you’d have a contract with the carmaker for a certain amount of personal mobility. The advantage, he said, was you could access that mobility wherever Ford operated. Taking a trip to Britain? Use your contract to drive a Ford in that country. Needs changed? Alter your contract so instead of, say, a four- door sedan, you now can drive an SUV. Think of it as time- sharing, but for cars. With automated vehicles, Nasser’s plan might finally make some sense. The Conference Board report lays out several benefits to AVs, including reduced fuel costs, since AVs will use one predicted bit of infrastructure called smart roadways, where traffic authorities share real- time information about construction, congestion or other delays with cars, allowing the cars to plot different routes to save time and fuel. Estrada said with cars talking to each other, you could stuff them into a special traffic lane at much higher numbers, since they can be spaced much more closely together. ( By talking to each other, when braking, for instance, the lead vehicle isn’t merely applying its own brakes, it’s applying the brakes of every vehicle in the convoy.) Galston said the technology will alleviate some of the human factors that create congestion, such as driver inexperience or lack of training, but doesn’t overcome the fact demand always seems to expand to fill available road space, particularly while driverless cars are still sharing road space with driven vehicles. A big question, particularly in cities such as Winnipeg, is how will driverless vehicles respond to snow? Slippery roads are easily handled by technology, but many of the systems in use today require clear lane markings to set the position of the vehicle. What happens if the markings are under a windrow? Will a driverless car know what to do about ice ruts? The Conference Board also predicts a rise in the use of public transit, as the people now beyond the reach of public transit who opt not to park and ride choose to do so, particularly since the “ park” in park and ride is eliminated. “ Similarly, the need for large, expensive transit park- and- ride lots will decrease,” the report says. “ People will be able to travel from home to a transit station via AV and then send the AV home, possibly to enable other family members to go to work or school.” For transit operators, such a system will be a boon, the board suggests, as the transit system would only ever need to service hubs. “ This will significantly reduce the cost of the ‘ last mile’ portion of using public transit.” The Board predicts massive job losses as delivery drivers and taxi and limo drivers are rendered moot. As well, the report suggests an unpredictable impact on the hotel industry, as some drivers who visit nearby cities for work may opt to replace overnight hotel stays with having their cars drive them home. Quoting a report by U. S. investment firm Morgan Stanley, the report suggests worldwide savings of $ 5.6 trillion per year, primarily from reduced collision- repair costs and productivity gains. Those productivity gains come in a few ways: people can work while on the road and when they get where they’re going don’t need to spend a nanosecond looking for parking, just get out and let the car take care of itself. There are also expected to be savings in fuel consumption, as congestion is avoided and acceleration, deceleration and cruising are all programmed for optimal fuel economy. ‘ The ability to browse Twitter or play Candy Crush a little bit longer might not outweigh the benefits of being physically closer to things’ — Robert Galston, frequent commenter on Winnipeg urban planning issues, who is not convinced a big drawback regarding automated vehicles will be urban sprawl CONTINUED ON PAGE D9 ERIC RISBERG / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES The kill switch inside a Google self- driving car. D_ 08_ Aug- 22- 15_ FF_ 01. indd D8 8/ 20/ 15 5: 33: 01 PM

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