Up to: Progress


Many reformers want to get rid of cars. They say that having each individual drive his car to work and back is wasteful. It would be more efficient, they say, if we all took trains and buses. Let's pass on the pejorative word "wasteful" for the time being, and just agree that people driving individually to work uses more energy than would be used if everyone (with a few exceptions) took the bus.

Maybe I shouldn't have been so quick to agree even with that. At the height of the energy religion in the 1970s, much Government money was spent on subsidizing bus systems. Mostly the results were disastrous. One project in Marin County, California was cancelled at a time when the subsidy amounted to $15.00 per bus ride.


Here are some.

  1. Cars have permitted vastly more people to have homes of their own and yards. Before cars, suburbs grew up along the railway lines, but the number of people they could accomodate was limited.
  2. They permit husbands and wives to have widely separated jobs.


Here are the .dvi and .ps and html versions of my 1970s essay on computer controlled cars. A Web page is included in my Technological Opportunities for Humanity page. This Computer Controlled cars is being updates. Here is the Web page for the CMU Automated Highway System project. The CMU project is proceeding with similar goals to those suggested in the ancient essay.

I don't know if the proposed 1970s schedule could have been met had there been enough money. I suspect that even if there had been the money, there wouldn't have been enough capable and dedicated people. The hardware would also have taken a while to catch up with the requirements of the project.

From a posting to sci.environment.

1. I agree with everything he [Len Evens] wrote about the disadvantages [of suburbia and commuting by car]. Nevertheless, enough people choose it that there must be corresponding disadvantages to other ways of life - or advantages to suburbia.

2. Why do people live far from their work? (a) They value some aspect of where they live and where they work enough to justify the trouble. Neither different available work or different available living accomodations seem as good to them. (b) They are taking advantage of relatively easy transportation to optimize for different family members - husband and wife having different jobs or optimizing the children's schools as well as the adults' jobs.

3. The partial solution is more technology rather than more morality. More morality is harder to achieve. The birth control pill improved people's lives more than 20 centuries of preaching. Carl Djerassi clearly did a lot of good. Whether Saint Paul did any good is doubtful.

4. The computer driven car will solve some of the problems of those who can't drive. It won't come soon for two reasons. (a) Hardly anyone works on it; the CMU project has got to where I hoped we would be in the late 1960s. The money Greenpeace or the Sierra Club spend on anti-car propaganda might actually make a dent in problem. (b) But maybe not. Maybe fundamental advances in artificial intelligence are required before computer driven cars can be 10 times as safe as human driven cars.

On another matter. People, including the car companies, are being persuaded that cars of greatly lower performance, e.g. in size, in range and in acceleration, are acceptable and will be required in the future. However, if just one manufacturer, e.g. with a liquid hydrogen powered car, succeeds in maintaining present performance, then all the fine words about lower performance cars will amount to nothing. BMW seems to have a good liquid hydrogen powered prototype.

Slogan: If you want to do good, work on the technology, not on getting power.

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