Monday, April 23, 2018

They Could Win By Winning

The perpetual fantasy is that some inexpensive neato technology comes along and solves the supposed "last mile problem" (which I am sick of hearing about, because it takes 20 minutes to walk a damn mile and the last mile problem is more of a last 5 miles problem usually so...). Even with this, nobody ever does the damn math. You know, conservatively, 100 people spill out of a philly commuter rail train at a moderately busy station during the afternoon rush hour. So you want 50 of them to hop in self-driving cars. The fantasy is these can be shared rides, but the logistics of that are not promising in this situation. And that fleet of cars needs to be back in half an hour for the next train. Multiply that by tens of train stations. And, well, this is a rush hour thing, mostly, so that fleet is going to sit idle or need something else to do (peak period use is always a problem no matter what transit mode we're talking about, but you can't just wish it away). It needs to be cheap and fast and convenient enough that people who likely already own cars because they live in a place where they need them, decide they'd rather do this than just drive the damn "last mile" in the morning and evening and pay the 2 bucks to park there all day.

It'll be neato, but not neat enough. And it won't be cheap.

Here’s another idea for Waymo, Uber, Cruise, and everyone else working on computer driving: Start a shuttle service for people in suburban towns, taking them home from the local train station. It’s an easy to way to solve the last mile issue, especially for people who don’t have cars—and will make the people in neighboring towns eager to have the tech, too.

The group of "people who live in the suburbs but don't own cars and yet can afford an extra taxi ride home every day" is...not very large.