thundril wrote:Reviewing potential energy savings by radical redesign of entire systems (eg traffic) is surely overdue?
I don't think such a major change is possible, but incrementally, certainly. I wonder how things might progress with driverless vehicles? Convoys of trucks, at optimum speeds. Many billions and much energy to be saved there.
Exactly. Imaginative thinking, but based on solid R&D.
Picture our current basic bit of motorway: Three lanes, a hard shoulder, and on and off slipways. Now picture the right-hand lane converted into a mirror-image of the hard-shoulder/sliproads arrangement, with dedicated overhead junctions every 10 or 20 miles leading to 'container-ports' serving major conurbations or industrial estates.. The left-hand lane, with the hard shoulder and the currently existing sliproads, is avasilable for light vehicles, (both driven and driverless), running at some constant speed, with no overtaking or lane-changing allowed, except when using (what is currently) the hard shoulder, for on/off slipway moves, and to bypass breakdowns in the main lane.. Similarly, the (current) middle lane is exclusively for the use of heavy goods vehicles, again with a mix of driven and driverless vehicles. Each of these two lanes runs at a steady specified speed; no overtaking or lane switching is possible. The light vehicles enter and leave the system by the junctions already in existence; the heavy goods vehicles by the right-hand equivalent. The driverless heavy-goods vehicles ply only between and within the 'container-ports'; local drivers pick up and distribute the goods from there.
A system of smaller and larger containers, with dimensions that tesselate well, would require merely a system of smaller and larger flatbed vehicles to collect and deliver these boxes. Less accidents, less congestion, more efficient fuel use. Plus of course the energy saving that derives from the fact that a driverless vehicle doesn't have to stop every two hours for a teabreak. It doesn't get bored. It could run non-stop, at the most energy-efficient steady speed, from Southampton to Inverness.
Then, think about electric driverless taxis.
There is already an app in use in London, and some other places I think, for calling the nearest mini-cab, getting a firm quote for your journey, and making payment over your smart phone on completion of the journey. Of course the London black-cab drivers don't like it. But do London black-cab drivers ever like anything?
Now subtract from the fare the cost and work-time limitations of a human driver. Now subtract the cost in fuel and seating capacity of a human driver.....
As towns get restructured (gradually) to accomodate driverless vehicles, the private owner of such a vehicle could 'hire' her car to a taxi-company while she is at work. So the car pays for itself. It's a short step from there to realising that you are better off not owning a car at all.
This would not in itself reduce the number of vehicles on the road, but it would, longer term, reduce the amount of industrial work needed to maintain the global car-fleet.
Here are the main factors that (I think) would effect that.
First; look at the way cars are advertised. It is clear from these adverts that a car is, for the owner, not a mere form of transport, but a garment
that is worn in public: "Look at me; this is the image I want to present to the world; this is what I want you to think of me.
" Thus many people feel a need to trade in a perfectly sound vehicle every couple of years.
A taxi has no such function. London black cabs, NY yellow cars, Indian tuk-tuks. With respect to appearance (image) the requirement is to be ikmmediately recognisable as a taxi
; ie in any town a taxi needs to look like any other taxi.
Look at the cars used by minhicab drivers in your nearest town. (If you are thinking of buying second hand, this is a useful tip, to learn which models have proved most reliable in recent years. ) A mini-cab needs to be robust, reliable, capable of being worked long hours day after day with little wear and tear damage. Seatbelts, door handles, everything needs to be built to last. Nothing needs to be fancy or fashionable. Once built, a good taxi should not need to be replaced for many years.
This robust design, if applied in the current private-car market, puts manufacturers in fear of going out of business. They rely very strongly on the hope of selling a newer better model to the same user or fleet operator every two or three years. But in the case of the driverless electric taxi, no such consideration should trouble the manufacturer, because at the moment there are very few driverless electric cars in the whole world. If manufacturers started to build such vehicles with (say) a thirty year design life, the replacement cycle would probably start at around the time the initial demand dried up (ie when most cities in the world are supplied with fleets of these vehicles).
This is where the real energy saving would come in; the manufacture and repair of private cars currently consumes an amount of energy roughly comparable to the amount of fuel those cars use during their lifetimes. (This is from memory. I'll try to find the source of this statistic later.)
And there would be a bonus; all that in-town parking space freed up for homes and other developments.
A because 'your' car doesn't have to sit around in the street all day, waiting to take you home.
B because driverless cars can park much closer together. The occupants disembark and unload their luggage where there is convenient room to do so; the car then parks itself in the nearst designated driverless carpark; they can be tightly packed right next to each other because there is no need for door-opening space between them (and also because they are capable of very precise close-quarter manoevres!).
With taxis, a further space-advantage is that a user does not need to extract a particular car from a specific place in the car-park; the nearest sufficiently-charged vehicle will do the job..