Monday, January 7, 2008

Welcome to the Future

GM envisions driverless cars on horizon

DETROIT—Cars that drive themselves—even parking at their destination—could be ready for sale within a decade, General Motors Corp. executives say.

But will they fly? This is the future, and I want my flying car.


gary said...

Sorry, but the flying car was always a bad idea. This idea is generally a good one, except that you need to put the vehicles on tracks for better reliability...


Then you have the energy problem solved as well...all electric without the large battery requirement.


princewally said...

1. This post was all snark.

2. Flying cars aren't a bad idea, it would just require more training/testing in the driver's license.

3. PRT doesn't strike me as practical with the existing infrastructure.

4. PRT as public transportation is a commie plan. "No Private Ownership". Ick.

gary said...


2. You've got to be kidding.

3. That's exactly it's strong recycles the existing infrastructure rather than build skyways and such.

4. You don't own the bus or lightrail either, so what's your point?

princewally said...

2. Not at all. Hovercrafts are commercially available with few accidents. If you are going to call flying cars a bad idea, you might want to provide some proof.

3. It doesn't look compatible with existing infrastructure being used with traditional cars, which means there is no possibility of a 'phase-out' stage, which means it's not practical.

4. The fact that I don't like PRT somehow means I approve of buses or LRT? I don't like those commie money-sinks either. They have proven to be ineffective at reducing congestion or pollution, while ALWAYS going over budget and never paying for themselves, even if fare prices triple every few years. Government programs don't work as advertised. Ever.

The buses in my area don't run early in the morning. LRT stops at 11PM, I believe. If it's government run, it's government scheduled. How would you make an emergency run to the grocery store for baby formula at 3am?

What happens when the government decides that single user runs are inefficient and start packing it as full as a bus during rush hour? Instead of peacefully checking your email, you get to dodge grimy kids playing tag?

How do you propose this works in rural areas? Are you proposing overlaying this track on the gravel roads running out to every farm in the midwest? If yes, have you ever seen a gravel road? If no, how do you propose users transition from traditional cars to Pipedream Rapid Transit? Will there be transfer stations at the edge of metropolitan areas? If that's the case, will every urban/suburban resident need to buy a car and pay rent in a transfer station?

Other that 'it feels good', has anybody pushing this taken a look at ANY practical consideration regarding its implementation?

gary said...


Hovercraft? I didn't realize this was your idea of "flying". Anyway they are not energy efficient for city travel unless you have some other design in mind. Maglev might have a chance.

All of the questions you raised are covered in the proposal. This system like other proposals isn't very practical for the farmlands of Iowa. But most driving is on city roads, which is the intended target. I agree completely with your issues with existing mass transit. That's why I came up with a new proposal. This idea is sort of a cross between your car and public transportation, giving you the best of both. The reality is that the system we have now is not sustainable in the future due to energy issues, congestion, and such, so we need to find alternatives. This is one proposal.


princewally said...

I don't see anything addressing the government run schedules and future proofing government interference.

Every other point I made is just acknowledged as a shortcoming of the system. I don't see PRT as a viable alternative to what we have now.

princewally said...

More importantly, I don't see anything AT ALL addressing the 'robots run amok' scenario. What happens when the cars spontaneously develop consciousness and personality and decide they don't like us?

princewally said...

Also, I didn't say hovercraft was my idea of flying. (It is, technically, flight.) I was using it as proof of the concept that a commercially available craft can be successfully piloted by regular people with a minimum of training.

The energy efficiency, if it's a true flaw, is still a much smaller hurdle to overcome than all of the PRT shortcomings.

gary said...


I'm not a big fan of our government, so you're not alone in that regard. I suspect given our declining technical edge that it might be some other country that pioneers new transportation systems.

Robots run amok? So are you proposing that all future high technology projects need to be abandoned because you believe the Terminator movie plot is about to come true? For the record the only real cutting edge technology needed for the PRT project is image recognition...everything else (routing, safety aspects, etc) are just application of older technologies. That's one of the selling points about the system. We could pull it off now. And just to be clear, the vehicles do not contain weapons.

As for hovering, most people make a distinction between flying and hovering. Flying to most people means traveling through the sky like an airplane. And the reason flying is such a terrible idea is:

1) most people can barely drive, let alone fly
2) what is your power source? flying makes the energy situation worse, not better. It certainly isn't going to be an all-electric vehicle (the most efficient approach)
3) the skies are already too crowded from what I hear about traffic control, delays and such
4) it's just a silly idea


princewally said...

You're new to humor, aren't you? I'm not seriously worried about 'robots run amok'.

"And the reason flying is such a terrible idea is:
4) it's just a silly idea"

That's circular logic, if I've ever seen it.

The rest of your points:

Flying cars are generally assumed to NOT be flying like airplanes. More than hovering, less than airplanes. The technology is generally assumed to be along the lines of roads in the sky, with radio beacons delimiting allowed airspace. Think: Jetsons or Back to the Future. My point with the hovercraft WASN'T the tech. It was the skill level. The issues with driving a hovercraft are almost identical to the issues with an aircar. Three dimensional steering, lack of braking other than retro thrust, etc. Self-trained individuals do that on a regular basis, without injury. I think it's more likely that the general populace can manage it than to expect the government to manage our cars for us, efficiently and benignly.

1. So it would require a skills test to get a license for an aircar.

2. Since we're using technology that isn't commercially viable, while discussing technology that doesn't exist beyond the prototype stage: Hydrogen. We've got the tech, we just don't have the distribution infrastructure.

3. It wouldn't be run by air traffic control. It would be run by the drivers, using radio beacons to delimit the roadway.

gary said...

ok, so let me get this straight. You see the odds of us flying in hydrogen powered "aircars" as more likely than electric vehicles on a track? I guess time will tell. One is doable today, the other is not.

I'm not new to humor. It's just that communication via text is not easy to ascertain emotions, especially when I don't know you.

And yes, my last comment was circular own attempt at humor.


princewally said...

Not more likely. I think the biggest problems with PRT are related to being government-run, not infrastructure.

The transition will be messy enough that I don't think it will happen, in the near future.

Are you in the US? What part? The majority of the country is rural, or near rural areas. Having to store a car at the border of a PRT zone to take a vacation or visit family will be a deal killer for a geographical 80%(ish) of the country.

In the heavily populated, mostly interconnected east coast, I think this would be a great improvement over current mass transit and congestion.

In Minnesota(home), not so much.

gary said...

I'm in California, just south of San Francisco. I'm under no illusion that this system would be practical for everyone in the country, but MOST people do live in the large cities and that's where it could really make a difference. You would probably also want a high speed connector of some sort to get vehicles from one city to another. But the farmer in Iowa will most likely still drive his Ford from home to work for the forseeable future.