[clug] An idea

Paul Wayper paulway at mabula.net
Sat Aug 20 20:13:53 MDT 2011

Hash: SHA1

On 08/19/2011 07:42 PM, David Austin wrote:
> On Fri, Aug 19, 2011 at 7:08 PM, Sam Couter <sam at couter.id.au> wrote:
>> https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Morgantown_Personal_Rapid_Transit
>> Hell yeah! Why have these systems not progressed at all in the past 50
>> years? We can do way better.

You can invoke conspiracy theories here (and some are credible), but the
simple fact is that the cost of setting up the infrastructure is still seen as
an impediment.  Not only do you have to build new tracks beside existing roads
(which raises lots of problems not only in building but clutters up the space)
but buses and taxis being able to reuse existing roads is seen as a cost saving.

In the long term the cost evens out - even the Morgantown system (which went
considerably over budget because it was rolled out quickly) is much cheaper to
run and more reliable than ACTION buses.  And we wouldn't have to pump hot
water-glycol mix through the rails to stop them getting clogged up with snow.

> In November 2008, I proposed a buses on demand system to both the
> Greens (who didn't bother to respond!) and the Labour party (Stanhope
> replied that it wasn't the place of government (never mind that the
> ACT is one of the most regulated transport markets around)).

One may well wonder whose place it is to construct mass-transit systems in
Canberra.  I certainly don't see any private company getting together the
billions of dollars to construct one without massive government assistance.

> As a robotocist, I don't think that this is quite true.  Certainly there is
> no
> off-the-shelf solution and I can't see our Microsoft-dependent government
> taking on this level of risk.  If the mooted (ridiculous, IMHO) busways
> ever get built then I hope that they are made suitable for automation,
> but I just don't think that automated driving in free traffic with our
> current road (and marking quality) will work.


Aside from which, I don't see automation of driving being a useful or
practical consideration.  Once you've engineered in all the safety systems -
even on a separate track you get vandals, fallen trees and debris - you find
out that a human being is cheaper to run and much more reliable.  And I
personally would rather pay bus drivers well to do their job than see them

(I also think that we should make it mandatory that corporate car parks are
explicitly charged in your salary after tax, rather than buried in the
business's costs.  At the moment for many people working in many parts of
Canberra the choice is between using the company's free car park or paying for
a bus - which would you choose?)

> At present, battery recharge times are likely to be a challenge.  Most
> of your trips would fall in two peaks and most of the taxis could recharge
> between the peaks, but I suspect there might be issues will all that
> capital sitting around during charging.

No more than it already does with buses.

Battery charge times are going to be an issue for a while yet, and rapid-swap
systems work well and will become much quicker as testing and development
continues.  That's probably the future of electric motor vehicles.

The Chinese already have a system for loop buses where each bus stop has a
recharging station that the bus automatically hooks into when exchanging
passengers.  The bus can go for three or four stops on its own batteries but
effectively it remains mostly charged all the time.  This is currently in use
in Beijing.

Have fun,

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