Many people around the world – looking forward to the era of autonomous vehicles – think that when it arrives, they won’t have to buy a private car anymore. Just order an autonomous car to get where you want to go, sit back and read or listen to music and step out at your destination, without traffic jams or looking for parking.
But this is not realistic, and forgoing private cars for autonomous ones will not lead to paradise, according to a veteran transportation expert at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. Instead, he argues, synchronized public transport is the answer.
Prof. Emeritus Avishai (Avi) Ceder, of the Technion’s Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering publishes his detailed analysis in the prestigious journal Scientific Reports (Springer Nature Publishing Group) under the title “Syncing sustainable urban mobility with public transit policy trends based on global data analysis” that is relevant to urban areas around the developed and underdeveloped world.
Ceder skillfully details the extent of confusion that will result from current development plans and the application of automatic vehicles. His four-part paper addresses the magnitude of traffic and transportation damages, provides a comparison of private and public vehicle travel times, designs a model of autonomous transportation based on the first two parts and concludes with a discussion envisioning the decision-making necessary for its realization.
As the world nurses its wounds and recovers from the devastating effects of COVID-19, there is an opportunity to plan and surrender to changes that will result in a healthier, improved world, he wrote. “Moreover, globally, in the post pandemic crisis, people may be more willing to change their thinking paradigm, habits and behavior. This brings us to the observation that rapid progress in technology has resulted in revolutionary development of the Internet and cellular phones, while tremendous confusion continues to inhibit the evolution of automated urban mobility. On the verge of a dramatic change, mobility faces a window of opportunity, yet seems to resist submitting itself to the process, albeit ultramodern, yet similar to the complicated and disconcerting 50-year transition from horse to car.”
In part one, Ceder – an internationally recognized expert in the field who previously served as chief scientist of Israel’s Transportation Ministry – developed measures for representing transportation problems around the world in a four-dimensional space, with data from 19 countries across five continents.
The damages of global transportation in average terms include
The direct cause of deaths – traffic accidents account for 35.6% of all deaths from accidents of any kind; the indirect causes of death from pollution in the atmosphere that originates from human actions and 25% of the energy emissions, with 14.4% emissions of the PM2.5 particle proven to be carcinogenic and causing global warming; wasting time, with 22.5% of the time we spend traveling, during peak times, spent in traffic jams; and wasting space, as the average vehicle is in motion for only 5.3% per day; 94.7% of the time, it stands dormant, taking up precious space without serving its intended purpose.
In part two, Ceder compares private cars vs. public vehicle travel times, for all types of public transport vehicles (train, bus, taxi, ferry and cable car), in 17 major cities and metropolises throughout the world. The comparison deals with trips from city centers to destinations within the perimeters of 30, 45, 60 and 90 minutes of travel. Surprisingly, and contrary to intuitive expectations, his analysis shows that public transport brings the passenger to one’s destination in less time than a private car in 94% of the cases.
In part three, he describes a system of exclusively autonomous public transport vehicles that provides service from suburbs to the centers of the 17 cities he analyzed in the second section. Two options exist –individual movement from the point of departure to the destination in a reserved autonomous vehicle or individual movement from the point of departure to the point of departure of the autonomous bus and from there to the destination. An analysis of the data shows that on the average, the total number of vehicles moving on the roads will be reduced by two-thirds.
Finally, Ceder provided a vision of how vehicles will move in the future in “smart cities.” The transition from a private car to any kind of public vehicle (even elevators and air traffic) must be based on the individual’s decision to prefer public transport vehicles to private ones, Ceder urges. “The changes will only emerge if proactive, transcontinental government actions are taken in two major directions: developing autonomous vehicles exclusively for public transport and setting standards for automatic connections of different vehicles,” he wrote. He believes that many patterns in our lifestyles that changed due to Covid are likely to provide leverage for change in the world of transportation.
There will have to be compatibility of the system with the needs of the individual and preferences with designated telephone apps;
prioritization of emergency vehicles; standardization of connections between public transport vehicles such as seamlessly moving from one bus to another or to a train, so that it will be simple, fast, and convenient He suggested that it should be like coordinating an encounter between spaceships.
“Driving habits have to change,” he concluded. “The addiction to driving cars is similar to the addiction to smoking, and here too, real withdrawal is required. I believe the jolting experience of the pandemic offers us an opening to new ways of thinking. We can’t afford to lose the momentum.”