Connected/Automated vehicles and infrastructure in Boston

Arlington

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In which we see AVs exploiting the mispricing of rush hour roads:

Self driving mobile-billboard trucks will be an obvious early and widespread commercial application of autonomous vehicles, particularly in rush hours, when they can be seen by a maximum number of high-income people.
 

Justin7

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Self driving mobile-billboard trucks will be an obvious early and widespread commercial application of autonomous vehicles, particularly in rush hours, when they can be seen by a maximum number of high-income people.
Are mobile-billboards specially taxed in any way? If not, they should be. Or banned.
 

bigpicture7

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Really interesting inside look at Uber's attempt at self-driving cars (about to resume after taking a hiatus following the death of a pedestrian).

Anyone interested in this should read this - it is not confidence inspiring. It speaks both to total dysfunction within Uber, as well as to the technological challenges.

The engineer in me, though, can appreciate that it is possible to do a much better job with this than Uber has been.

https://markets.businessinsider.com...ions-self-driving-car-unit-2018-10-1027740254
 

bakgwailo

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Really interesting inside look at Uber's attempt at self-driving cars (about to resume after taking a hiatus following the death of a pedestrian).

Anyone interested in this should read this - it is not confidence inspiring. It speaks both to total dysfunction within Uber, as well as to the technological challenges.

The engineer in me, though, can appreciate that it is possible to do a much better job with this than Uber has been.

https://markets.businessinsider.com...ions-self-driving-car-unit-2018-10-1027740254
Wow - that is completely terrifying. How have they not gotten in a lot more trouble, and why would they be allowed to get back into automated car testing on public roads.
 

Arlington

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I was at Assembly Square this week, which, between trader Joe's and Christmas Tree See was a zoo.

So of course the plan was that I would circle the block while my wife went in and shopped. I can only imagine that everyone will want to put their car into "circle the block" mode when there are no parking spots.

I will admit that my behavior was personally rational and value maximizing, but imposed high social costs (even worse traffic).

It is going to be a gridlock disaster unless we get both dynamic congestion pricing and parking pricing.
 

Arlington

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This falls somewhere between this thread and "Crazy Transit Pitch"

But start by taking a look at 2 versions of the "campus shuttle" (videos linked at bottom)

And then consider that these are uniquely:
1) Light weight: able to operate on roads without deep foundations (aka, board walks, sidewalks, and bike paths)

2) Quiet: able to glide past fussy residents' back doors

3) Potentially very frequent; great for "last 2 miles" transit, particularly in places that are not upzoning but do want car-free alternatives. 11 seats every 5 minutes beats 55 seats every 25.

I'd basically run them:
- Every place there's a bike path on a RR ROW that could be widened
- Alongside DCR parkways
- Along riverfront boardwalks

Specifically, I'd design the Assembly-Casino bridge to handle them, and would use them as circulators in places like:
- Oak Grove to Melrose
- Wellington to Meadow Glen & Gateway Plaza
- GLX @ MVP and "out the parkways" and "along the Lowell Ln"
- Alewife to Concord Ave, Belmont, Fitchburg Cutoff & Arlington Center

You get the idea...places where a guideway could be just a 14' wide multiuse path.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzIdE00crvs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GiY4pGJQFo
 

shmessy

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Urban cores will be automated vehicular by 2035.

I say this on a day in which the SECOND (in 8 days) mRNA vaccine ever know to humankind is being unveiled to the world. Where was that capability even 5 years ago? Where was Space-X? How many people paid by credit card (let alone cellphones) in grocery stores 15 years ago? How much cheaper was coal than solar back in 2005?????? Robert Murray died last week waiting for personal government financial aid. How powerful was he in 2005?

What if these automated pods are made of exteriors 3 or 4 times thicker and just as pliable as 2 liter coke bottles? If this is indeed just for urban core centers, the speed limit on these vehicles could be maxed at 15-20 mph. How dangerous is that?

Btw, everyone is focused merely on the automated vehicle. What about the OTHER SIDE of the safety equation? What about also transforming the physical aspect of the sidewalk/crosswalk with virtual and changeable barriers that can rise or fall with traffic signalling? How dangerous are today's evolving and multiplying bike lanes with the flex posts for increased safety? Too many people are thinking within concrete enforced boxes right now. The future will deem those barriers quaint.

15 years is a long time these days. To paraphrase the well-worn phrase "Necessity is the mother of invention", I'd say trillions of dollars in real estate and urban economics benefits is the mother of invention. Money talks and there are trillions at stake. It might not happen in Boston by 2035, but I'm pretty damn sure it will in places like the city centers of Singapore or Tokyo or London or Portland, Oregon. Boston, most probably, would be a middle-to-late adopter. Places like Cambridge/Somerville might go earlier. It's only an opinion, and everyone is entitled to their own, but I'm looking forward to watching this play out.
 

theSil

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I'm not going to bother digging up the post, but someone on this board in the last month claimed that none of us will see autonomous vehicles in our lifetimes. By 2035? I'm not sure if I would take the over or under on that. The history of machine learning has involved long periods of "AI winters", interspersed with bursts of intense development, most recently with the advent of deep neural networks in the 2010s. Will we see autonomous vehicles in any of our lifetimes?? I'm in my twenties. If we don't have autonomous vehicles solved by 2080, it will be because it's truly an intractable problem (I don't think it is) or because some cataclysmic event thrusts us into a technological dark ages (let's hope not).

And as you rightly point out @shmessy, the changes we should make to our cities in anticipation of the technology don't require for the technology to be immediately or fully realized! A downtown Boston could be fully served by transit, rideshare, micro-mobility, cycling, and walking now! It's a matter of zoning and planning for it, not of immediate technological breakthroughs.
 
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stefal

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I'm comfortable saying 2050, but that's if the federal government starts providing regulation and guidance very soon.
 

George_Apley

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I said what I said because of regulatory issues. Not technological capability. We haven’t made significant structural change to our regulatory systems in decades. I don’t think a bunch of tech bro lobbyists are going to get automated-vehicle exclusivity in urban cores anytime soon (and 2035 is soon).
 

F-Line to Dudley

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I'm comfortable saying 2050, but that's if the federal government starts providing regulation and guidance very soon.
This. It takes two to tango: acceptably bulletproof AI *and* a regulatory environment ready to pivot for both the product (car -side) and "application" (road -side) interfaces. And then on top of that there's the fact that readiness for widespread adoption has to conform to very traditional means of manufacturing & supply-chain scale-ups in reaction to both maturing tech and maturing regulations.

"Disruptive innovators" too often count on the tech revolution steamrolling straight into the regulatory revolution and supply-chain revolution, when really those pieces are entirely out of the hands of the technology. Government is as government does...move slowly and in political zigzags rather than straightforward practical moves. Whether we are or are not in an especially bad era for government's stimulus-response reaction to regulatory change is kind of moot; on a sliding scale of better to worse the inherently inefficient political reaction from the regulatory state is a rote-standard feature in every First/Second -world (or even Developing-Third World) region on the planet. Disruptive innovation never ever pushes the regulators from the source...despite MANY self-claims of the innovation being badass enough to have exactly that power. If that were truly possible some of the more regulatory-efficient regions on the planet would've gone all-electric cars a solid 20 years ago when the raw technology was first ready for mass adoption...instead of still sitting at/under that cusp in 2020. For that reason alone the 2035/15-year target is way, way overoptimistic for tech that fundamentally changes the driving "interface"--so heavily regulated across the board--at way more disruptive a level than electric power plants ever did/will. Immediate self-check is needed if one finds themselves starting to buy that hype that regulatory change can be pushed at tandem pace with technological change.

Then there's the manufacturing side. It's one thing to have the disruptive underlying tech refined into production-ready state...it's another thing entirely to get the production scale implanted. You're dealing with global supply chains that are a mismash of new & old. You're dealing (esp. with cars) with a lot of certified craft labor. You have to ensure an aftermarket supply chain for maintainability outside of the lock-down control of the manufacturer for up to 20 years/100,000 miles. So whether you rebrand your facilities as "gigafactories" or not, the scale-up to mass market supply has to play a very traditional game with a lot of heterogeneous moving parts and labor. Bleeding-edge tech in the auto industry is already getting thrown for a loop on this with the unintended consequences of monolithic computer firmware updates inducing fit/finish problems with heterogeneous components. It's not enough to simply reclassify the car brain as the equivalent of updading an Android phone; Tesla's tried that customer service tact and gotten loads of criticism about that is NOT an okay equivalence when the car handles differently to the driver after a firmware update. Self-driving's going to have an even bigger hurdle to clear with those unintended consequences of behavioral changes by-update. If systems integration writ-large is still running a tad (not bigly, but somewhat) behind schedule getting on the same page with scale targets despite a whole lot of "disruptive" pressuring...how exactly does that gestation period get further shortened through several more degrees of "disruptive" pressuring? Movement across the spectrum to mass-market production paydirt seems to be the logistically immovable (or far less movable) object here setting the overall pace.


So duly noted: AI tech advancement is a non-linear endeavour. That still doesn't explain where if/when the next great leap does come, the production-readiness is going to leap-and-bound in tandem let alone push the inefficient-by-design worldwide regulators to adapt quickly. That does not mean improvements to any one of those realms are for naught. It just means "disruptive innovation" doesn't jump whole-realms easily for a whole lot of structural reasons that are neither good nor bad...but just 'are'. There's an over-tendency within the innovation realm to see that as an indignity that shouldn't be if only 'they' got the same innovation spirit...but at the end of the day that's irrelevant. It's not attitude that makes advances go mass at the speed they do...it's writ-large realm vs. writ-large realm vs. writ-large realm gravitational pull. When regulation and supply-chaining are such extremely large gravitational wells...how they move in relation to each other is basically little more than macro-physics. You can't speed them up by reasoning with them; they just are, and are just masses reacting to masses. We haven't failed if it takes to >2050 instead of that too-aggressive-for-credulity 2035 for this to happen; that's just the pace the masses end up reacting.
 

JeffDowntown

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This. It takes two to tango: acceptably bulletproof AI *and* a regulatory environment ready to pivot for both the product (car -side) and "application" (road -side) interfaces. And then on top of that there's the fact that readiness for widespread adoption has to conform to very traditional means of manufacturing & supply-chain scale-ups in reaction to both maturing tech and maturing regulations.

"Disruptive innovators" too often count on the tech revolution steamrolling straight into the regulatory revolution and supply-chain revolution, when really those pieces are entirely out of the hands of the technology. Government is as government does...move slowly and in political zigzags rather than straightforward practical moves. Whether we are or are not in an especially bad era for government's stimulus-response reaction to regulatory change is kind of moot; on a sliding scale of better to worse the inherently inefficient political reaction from the regulatory state is a rote-standard feature in every First/Second -world (or even Developing-Third World) region on the planet. Disruptive innovation never ever pushes the regulators from the source...despite MANY self-claims of the innovation being badass enough to have exactly that power. If that were truly possible some of the more regulatory-efficient regions on the planet would've gone all-electric cars a solid 20 years ago when the raw technology was first ready for mass adoption...instead of still sitting at/under that cusp in 2020. For that reason alone the 2035/15-year target is way, way overoptimistic for tech that fundamentally changes the driving "interface"--so heavily regulated across the board--at way more disruptive a level than electric power plants ever did/will. Immediate self-check is needed if one finds themselves starting to buy that hype that regulatory change can be pushed at tandem pace with technological change.

Then there's the manufacturing side. It's one thing to have the disruptive underlying tech refined into production-ready state...it's another thing entirely to get the production scale implanted. You're dealing with global supply chains that are a mismash of new & old. You're dealing (esp. with cars) with a lot of certified craft labor. You have to ensure an aftermarket supply chain for maintainability outside of the lock-down control of the manufacturer for up to 20 years/100,000 miles. So whether you rebrand your facilities as "gigafactories" or not, the scale-up to mass market supply has to play a very traditional game with a lot of heterogeneous moving parts and labor. Bleeding-edge tech in the auto industry is already getting thrown for a loop on this with the unintended consequences of monolithic computer firmware updates inducing fit/finish problems with heterogeneous components. It's not enough to simply reclassify the car brain as the equivalent of updading an Android phone; Tesla's tried that customer service tact and gotten loads of criticism about that is NOT an okay equivalence when the car handles differently to the driver after a firmware update. Self-driving's going to have an even bigger hurdle to clear with those unintended consequences of behavioral changes by-update. If systems integration writ-large is still running a tad (not bigly, but somewhat) behind schedule getting on the same page with scale targets despite a whole lot of "disruptive" pressuring...how exactly does that gestation period get further shortened through several more degrees of "disruptive" pressuring? Movement across the spectrum to mass-market production paydirt seems to be the logistically immovable (or far less movable) object here setting the overall pace.


So duly noted: AI tech advancement is a non-linear endeavour. That still doesn't explain where if/when the next great leap does come, the production-readiness is going to leap-and-bound in tandem let alone push the inefficient-by-design worldwide regulators to adapt quickly. That does not mean improvements to any one of those realms are for naught. It just means "disruptive innovation" doesn't jump whole-realms easily for a whole lot of structural reasons that are neither good nor bad...but just 'are'. There's an over-tendency within the innovation realm to see that as an indignity that shouldn't be if only 'they' got the same innovation spirit...but at the end of the day that's irrelevant. It's not attitude that makes advances go mass at the speed they do...it's writ-large realm vs. writ-large realm vs. writ-large realm gravitational pull. When regulation and supply-chaining are such extremely large gravitational wells...how they move in relation to each other is basically little more than macro-physics. You can't speed them up by reasoning with them; they just are, and are just masses reacting to masses. We haven't failed if it takes to >2050 instead of that too-aggressive-for-credulity 2035 for this to happen; that's just the pace the masses end up reacting.
There will also need to be a huge shift in the legal framework, particularly around liability. This is a huge leap in who is, or might be at fault in case of an accident, with big, deep pocket players much more in line for blame (car manufacturers, technology suppliers), and government entities responsible for infrastructure that generally try to claim liability shields! There is a lot to be sorted out.
 

shmessy

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There will also need to be a huge shift in the legal framework, particularly around liability. This is a huge leap in who is, or might be at fault in case of an accident, with big, deep pocket players much more in line for blame (car manufacturers, technology suppliers), and government entities responsible for infrastructure that generally try to claim liability shields! There is a lot to be sorted out.

With regard to the concern about liability/danger, once again, people are envisioning these vehicles to be the cars of the present with their heavy chassis, etc.

Urban core pods would be small vehicles that travel no more than 15-20 mph and have exteriors of pliable/flexible plastic. Akin to electric rickshaws with 3-4 layers of 2 liter coke bottle plastic for weather/sound concerns.

The speed max ceilings and the pliable/flexible exteriors of the pods mean collisions will be less damaging than a bicycle accident.
 
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bakgwailo

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I'd say, maybe, we will have the technology ready around 2030/2035. That was one of the takeaways I had talking with one of Google's lead engineers on their self-driving project (now Waymo). In fact, they pointed out that Boston/Cambridge was actually their ultimate worst-case scenario where things just fall apart, and by far the hardest part of everything to solve for. So even if in a decade we here there tech-wise, there is no way you have 1-2+ million people giving up their second most expensive purchase (on average after a home), to then either buy a self-driving car, or... what give it up totally and use what is effectively a rental model? Decades out to get critical mass to fully retire manual cars, and that is just for residents in core towns/neighborhoods.
 

George_Apley

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^ I agree. The business infrastructure and the prevailing car-culture will take decades to be ready for a general switch from personal car ownership to automated taxi cabs.
 

JeffDowntown

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With regard to the concern about liability/danger, once again, people are envisioning these vehicles to be the cars of the present with their heavy chassis, etc.

Urban core pods would be small vehicles that travel no more than 15-20 mph and have exteriors of pliable/flexible plastic. Akin to electric rickshaws with 3-4 layers of 2 liter coke bottle plastic for weather/sound concerns.

The speed max ceilings and the pliable/flexible exteriors of the pods mean collisions will be less damaging than a bicycle accident.
Aren't you neglecting the initial deployment phase, when the pods are mixed in heavy vehicle traffic. It is not like vehicle mix is going to suddenly change in an instant.
 

JumboBuc

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Aren't you neglecting the initial deployment phase, when the pods are mixed in heavy vehicle traffic. It is not like vehicle mix is going to suddenly change in an instant.
Yeah, cars on US roads today are already seriously beefed up compared to their European / Asian counterparts in order to meet US demands. Fiat 500s bound for the US, for example, weigh a solid 20% more than their counterparts bound for European markets. (The exact same dynamic exists in trains too, where US rolling stock is FAR heavier than its European and Asian cousins.)

The entire automobile industry and culture isn't going to instantly reject decades of precedent once cars become "self driving." Driver behavior influences only a very small fraction of vehicle design and consumer demand. There's little reason to believe that changing who the driver is will reverse decades' worth of trends that have nothing to do with driver behavior.

We could, for example, have "small vehicles that travel no more than 15-20 mph and have exteriors of pliable/flexible plastic" using existing technology today with human drivers! But we don't, for plenty of reasons that have nothing to do with human drivers vs. computer drivers.
 
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shmessy

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Aren't you neglecting the initial deployment phase, when the pods are mixed in heavy vehicle traffic. It is not like vehicle mix is going to suddenly change in an instant.

Concentrically introduced from inner core in stages. It won't be a switch flip. Manually driven cars would be prohibited. There would be no mix.

Delivery trucks, etc. would be allowed only during off-peak times such as Midnight to 7am, or such.

And we are not talking about this stretching out to Newton or anything. Society can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can have a different transpo system in urban cores than we have in suburbs/rural. Parking lots/depots around the circumference.
 
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shmessy

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Yeah, cars on US roads today are already seriously beefed up compared to their European / Asian counterparts in order to meet US demands. Fiat 500s bound for the US, for example, weigh a solid 20% more than their counterparts bound for European markets. (The exact same dynamic exists in trains too, where US rolling stock is FAR heavier than its European and Asian cousins.)

The entire automobile industry and culture isn't going to instantly reject decades of precedent once cars become "self driving." Driver behavior influences only a very small fraction of vehicle design and consumer demand. There's little reason to believe that changing who the driver is will reverse decades' worth of trends that have nothing to do with driver behavior.

We could, for example, have "small vehicles that travel no more than 15-20 mph and have exteriors of pliable/flexible plastic" using existing technology today with human drivers! But we don't, for plenty of reasons that have nothing to do with human drivers vs. computer drivers.
Sigh.

Once again, the manually driven car as we know it is not going to go away in 95% of America..

I'm talking about inner core of cities. (where every inch of space/real estate is precious).

Don't fret, people in Weston will still be able to drive their reinforced tanks.
 
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