Autonomous Vehicles, New Mobility & the Built Environment

Two Peas in a PodCar – Brief Overview of Podcar City 2019

It is important to build autonomous transportation systems that meet the needs of individuals while reducing congestion and pollution by sharing vehicles is the message from Princeton Professor Dr. Alain Kornhauser. Reflecting on day 1 of the Podcar City 2019 Conference, Kornhauser emphasized that whether these systems are on existing roadways or, in some cases, guideways, automating the driver promises to reduce the cost of mobility and improve safety.

Mobility hubs as envisioned by David Vega
Mobility Hubs

Automation of mobility will change the built environment and usher in, what architect and Syracuse University Instructor David Vega-Barachowitz, terms the sixth migration in U.S history. This migration will center around mobility-oriented development, while, at the same time, the built-environment can be much more people-oriented, what Vega-Barachowith calls the “Pedestrian City.” As Kornhauser alludes to in the above interview, this new approach focuses on accessibility to jobs and destinations through multiple modes. Mobility becomes a service, which, as Vega-Barachowitz presented, has the attributes of autonomous, on-demand, real-time, flexible, dynamic and demand-driven.

As such, Mobility as a Service is more of a point-to-point offering compared to transit systems of the past. This approach could create mobility hubs, which would serve as catchments for automated and other micro-mobility networks (sounds similar to this proposal).

The concept of the Automated Mobility District (AMD) is depicted.
Automated Mobility District

In many ways, the mobility hub concept parallels NREL (National Renewable Energy Lab) research presented by Sam Lott at the Podcar City 2019 Conference and its concept of Automated Mobility Districts. These are geographically confined district or campus sized areas that implement

“connected and automated vehicle (AV) technology for the purpose of publicly accessible mobility by which all of the potential benefits of a fully automated mobility service can be realized.”

Vega-Barachowith called this a “once in a lifetime opportunity to change the rules of the road” and, as such, argued for performance-based zoning to adapt to the changes in mobility. Cities are starting to make changes that will impact the built environment, such as Minnapolis’ which banned single family housing in December 2018.

An example of one such idea is found in Tempe, Arizona where the Tempe Micro Estates will include 13 each, affordable microunits with common areas, a common room and other shared things (e.g. tools) on 0.57 acres. And this back of the envelope estimate showing the economics how a widow might redevelop her suburban California house into a tiny community. And lastly, this rough model of how a relatively massive (6-acre), virtually car-free tiny home community would be affordable without subsidy

The upshot is that improved mobility (along with fiber broadband) could effectively start to balance the flows of traffic, whereby people could live, work and play in the same area, without having to traverse dozens of miles to a job in another city. Instead of smart cities, Kornhauser suggests the smarts should reside in the community and that starts with creating built environments where people can gather and fulfill many of their needs without having to get in an owner-occupied car.

More importantly, automation brings the possibility of accessibility to those who otherwise wouldn’t have it or, in the case of those who have been drinking, should be chauffeured. Finally, the video ends with a brief glimpse of a company that is starting to deliver mobility as a service via apparently driverless minivans.

Author Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

By Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

Ken Pyle is Marketing Director for the Broadband Forum. The mission of this 25+-year-old non-profit “is to unlock the potential for new markets and profitable revenue growth by leveraging new technologies and standards in the home, intelligent small business, and multi-user infrastructure of the broadband network.”

He is also co-founder of Viodi, LLC and Managing Editor of the Viodi View, a publication focused on the rural broadband ecosystem, autonomous vehicles, and electric aviation. He has edited and produced numerous multimedia projects for NTCA, US Telecom and Viodi. Pyle is the producer of Viodi’s Local Content Workshop, the Video Production Crash Course at NAB, as well as ViodiTV. He has been intimately involved in Viodi’s consulting projects and has created processes for clients to use for their PPV and VOD operations, as well authored reports on the independent telco market.

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2 replies on “Two Peas in a PodCar – Brief Overview of Podcar City 2019”

Praetor Capital’s 2021 bullish view of PRT and its associated ecosystem. In a nutshell, they believe PRT industry’s pipeline of projects are undervalued and overlooked. “The author believes the
industry will succeed, not necessarily all the incumbent firms.” For larger networks, the systems should be able to be privately financed (page 23).

The status-quo may be the most significant obstacle “Politicians and unions can be expected to
oppose job losses both in the operations and at the headquarters, and the organization may have
obligations, contractual and otherwise, that cannot easily be reneged on.” (page 15).

A change in thinking will be needed by public urban transportation buyers as outlined on page 36.

It seems like the opportunity will be in greenfield applications, probably mostly outside of the U.S., where congestion and pollution are the greatest concerns and the increase in urbanization will be much greater (e.g. Asia expected to increase from 48 to 62% and Africa 41 to 57% by 2040).

San Jose’s RFI is referenced in the document, which was for a point-to-point system, although several of the respondents proposed more extensive PRT networks. The city staff does a good job of summarizing the alternatives.

Last August, Council tasked City Staff to address, by this August, questions around how they might implement a privately funded/run PRT system. With that said, the council hopes they can lobby the MTC (the Bay Area-wide agency that doles out federal funds) to make this a “Period 1” project for completion by 2035.

It’s too bad the City doesn’t handle PRT the way cable franchises used to be offered; give the franchise and get out of the way of the private sector (of course, there were kickbacks & corruption with that approach, so maybe that’s not the best idea). The lengthy process described in the above-referenced memos is probably why most of the opportunities Praeter identifies are outside the U.S.

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