Tag Archives: Transportation

Move over Monorail, It’s Electric Bus Time

I still remember researching electric cars being developed during the beginnings of the auto industry and being surprised when my dad mentioned that there were still electric vehicles on the road when he grew up in the 40s and 50s. Old models of delivery vehicles were still being used by thrifty businesses — and, in fact, the Walker Vehicle Company made such vehicles up until 1942 in Chicago.

The reason the vehicles were still on the roads was because electric motors cope with lots of starts and stops… such as delivery vehicles make. Delivery vehicles usually also don’t need to worry about extended range. They’re headed across town, not cross-country.

Being the practical engineer type, my dad was always befuddled by the fact that no one had decided to continue making electric vehicles for the urban environment.

It might not come as any surprise that many practical engineer types have had similar thoughts of late, only this time with buses versus delivery vehicles. In fact, they’re on track to be a significant percentage of all buses inside the next 10 years. Not only that, their use is already making a noticeable dent in oil use. My dad would especially like the passage in the latter article where the electric bus company was laughed at for making a toy not too many years ago. There’s no hubris quite like status quo hubris. (Especially since many people have mused about this happening, as you’ll see in a similar article from last year).

Of course, the only surefire way to have local governments adopt electric buses is to come up with a catchy song. You, know, something like…

Will the Oil Industry Collapse in Less than a Decade?

As the engines of disruption continue in the form of automation, one trend I keep following is the coming changes to transportation. No, I don’t mean the fabled hyperloop (though I’m following that too). I’m thinking of electric vehicles.

Seth Miller over at an outfit called NewCo Shift hypothesizes that a major shakeup in the oil industry and our car culture is coming sooner than we might have thought — all based on replacing the internal combustion engine. You can compare his predictions with what the car companies themselves have predicted.

I’d say their predictions would place the collapse or restructuring would happen closer to the 2025 – 2030 timeframe, but it I’m wondering how many more cars any of us will individually own in the future.

The Shiny and Chrome Future of Cars… According to the Companies Themselves

Not long after I shared an article about some of the latest innovations in self-driving cars, news broke that Volvo was planning to have all its cars be electric or, at least, hybrid by 2019.

Well, Volvo isn’t the only one with grand plans for the automotive future. Alexis Madrigal in The Atlantic goes over the plans of about a dozen car companies for the cars of the future.

Though, spoiler alert: none of the car companies have plans for flying cars. None.

What’s he supposed to drive?          A Corolla?!? Shame!

I suppose that’s for the best.

Still, if all their lofty dreams come to pass, streets and highways will look very different by 2025.

The “Cadillac of Self-Driving Cars” May Be… Cadillac

One of the trends I casually, yet actively, watch is how “self-driving” automation is coming along. I’m sure many of us have followed Google’s efforts as well as Tesla. So I was shocked to read Alex Davies’ piece in Wired about the self-driving technology of Cadillac… which I suppose may mainly point to my pre-conceived notions of Cadillac.

But I bet I’m not the only one.

Automation and American Growth: Robert Gordon Edition

I’ve been reading and commenting a decent amount about automation this year, enough to make it seem inevitable. A popular topic with journalists and feature writers has been the impending automation of transportation which I noted back in May. Just recently, Vox ran another article about self-driving trucks and pending unemployment.

As the topic appears to be developing into a “future trend trope,” I was very intrigued to learn about the work of Robert Gordon, which Vox also did a piece on. Of course, I first learned about Robert Gordon when I got caught up listening to the Freakanomics podcast as they did an episode about American economic growth this Spring which prominently featured Robert Gordon. There’s also a transcript of a similar segment on Marketplace from 2012.

It certainly makes me consider what the economy might and can transform into.

More on Transportation Disruption

A week or so ago, I linked to an article in Vox about the self-driving car and how its wide use will change transportation as we know it.

This article, also from Vox, goes into how three different “disruptors” to transportation will really shake up Detroit. As the title suggests, it’s more focusing on Silicon Valley/tech companies shaking up Detroit/car companies, but it follows on some of the same themes, especially where self-driving cars are likely to be first adopted and why.

Recommended Reading: Coming Changes to Transportation

One of the reasons I’ve become more interested in learning about basic income and future potential economic models has been what appears to be the growing automation of everything. In other words, we’ve moved beyond automating factory and manufacturing processes (though we still automate that and refine that automation), and into automating service and analytical processes.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the race to implement the self-driving car, because when the self-driving car becomes more omnipresent, it will absolutely shake up delivery and transportation paradigms we live with today.

I’ve read a number of different pieces about various companies’ attempts to implement the self-driving car and their varying successes. This longer piece by David Roberts in Vox goes into how the future of transportation will radically re-define “how we get around” in terms of autonomous (self-driving) vehicles, vehicle electrification, and the integration between those two.

Somehow, this seemed fitting on the eve of one of the great commuter holidays.