Friday, July 25, 2014


The USA’s Transportation Research Board held the 3rd Automated Road Vehicle Symposium (ARV-3) in San Francisco mid-July. More precisely it was a hotel near SFO, the international airport south of the city on the way to Silicon Valley.  ATRA was a full participant, as well as the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). Podcar thinking was well received. Sometimes ARVs are better off on an exclusive guideway - a way that also overcomes battery limitations.

 ARV-1 was held in Irvine in 2012. Interest was so intense that organizers immediately set sight on a second, which took place last year at Stanford University in Palo Alto. It took on more solid footing with growing attendance and interest growing. This year mid-summer, it was at the Hyatt at SFO.

Driverless Road Vehicles or Guideway?

At ARV-3, much of the discussions focused on vehicle automation for personally owned cars. ATRA’s main contribution was a breakout session on the impact of vehicle automation on public transit and shared mobility.  The Symposium Committee included several ATRA members.

 TRB up to the challenge?  - Source: 

Eleven speakers shared perspectives and thoughts on the influence of the mobility revolution taking place with web- and app-enabled ride- and vehicle-sharing. How do automated vehicles intersect with public transport?  Sam Lott noted that it has been about fifty years since full automation was introduced to mass transit -- yielding many lessons for the ARV world. Indeed transit operations are excellent testing grounds for automation concepts. 

Christer Lindstrom described Stockholm’s interest in ATN to prevent more ‘rubber on the roadways’ in their complicated, island-speckled metropolitan area.  ATNs were mentioned in the USDOT’s research agenda by Vincent Valdez of the FTA. He organized a breakout session on ‘Mobility on Demand’ -- transit that puts a premium on passengers. 

The week ended with ATRA’s workshop entitled   Vehicles within the Built Environment: 2020, 2035, 2050. It was targeted to metropolitan planners and had a strong planning contingency with a charrette exploring ATN-enabled built environments.  Over eighty-five professionals broke into smaller groups. In the words of one participant, it was a back-caste vision for the future that included ATN.

On to Podcar Futures

ARV-3 and ATRA’s workshop opened many minds to the promising new forms of urban development and re-purposing made possible by podcars. Many problem and design scenarios discussed came to inevitable conclusions that point to ATN. This necessitates some level of public ownership and the need for some kind of central 'control'. A fleet of autonomous vehicles alone won’t cut it.

Without central management and controls, ARVs predictably bring more congestion, more sprawl, and perhaps greater social inequities, On-street ARVs will have to interface with walkers and bikers as well as manual vehicles. One observer noted an overall lack of attention to energy issues that figure big into policy-making for future transportation. He regretted that many ATN 'enthusiasts' pay little attention to the bigger energy picture, GHG and climate violence.

How real is the promised energy plenty of fracking? - source: Association for the Study of Peak Oil

ATRA Chair Alain Kornhauser announced a new Princeton-affiliated R&D facility at Fort Monmouth along the New Jersey coast.  It is dedicated to supporting transit and public mobility agencies in dealing with ARV technology. You will learn more at PCC8 in Stockholm September 3-5. 

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