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Heather, maybe you hide it well but I have always seen you as very strong. You are down right now, but the strong Heather is still there, waiting to come back, and will return ere long.
Toggle Commented Mar 15, 2013 on Amsterdam, Trust and the Tao at heathervescent
To answer a few questions: a) A single lane of freeway with robotic 40 person buses and 2 second headway would move 72,000 people per hour (seated) dwarfing the 35,000 (mostly standing) people on the heavy rail. At one second headway it's double. Not that we would do this, we don't need to. But the nice thing about a robotic, unscheduled transit system is you use the capacity you have. If you only have 3,000 people per hour to move, you can do it with a lane of road (average is 1.47 people/car.) If you have more, and you are METERING the road, you start saying, "Hey, there are 40 people all going from exit A to exit B -- let's offer them a bus, and raise the congestion price for the cars until they switch." And you keep doing that. b) But, as I noted, you can load balance over a whole grid in many cities. You ask, why would somebody go out of their way to use a grid street 5 blocks west? Well, because there's metering and the direct street is full. The non-full street that's a bit out of the way is better than a clogged street, if you're even allowing the street to clog. c) Redirecting 3/4 streets is something you do when the flow is mostly downtown. If you get to a world where you can redirect streets in a dynamic fashion, and drivers are directed by their cell phones to follow the right path, you redirect what you need, not more, not less. Today there are lots of redirected lanes on highways and bridges, but we only do it when we can make separated lanes if possible. Once you have a smarter computerized system you can do a lot more. Redirecting to one-way is safe for humans -- robots could even handle lane by lane redirection. It does require every driver have a smartphone that is tracking the street redirections and listening to it. That's not too far in the future if we want it. d) I challenge the statement about the success of grid transit systems. Riders hate transfers, at least in the US. (Japanese and Swiss trains are a different story.) They hate them with good reason. Especially on less frequent non-CBD lines. People going between two points in a city not via the CBD want to go directly, door to door, and they overwhelminigly choose cars for this even when they might ride the train into the CBD. This is the curse of the transit line though -- because once people see even a modest number of trips they need to take that the transit will not serve well, they cave in and buy a car. And having bought it, they use it even if the transit might have done a decent job.
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There are a lot of things you can do, depending on the city, for the situation of "everybody wants to go downtown" in the morning, and I have outlined a number in my essays. While we're some decades away from it, grid-based cities have absolutely huge capacity if you can do things like seriously reduce accidents, time lights and traffic flow, clear away all street parked cars, redirect 3/4 of the streets one-way in the rush direction, load balance over the entire grid of streets, encourage smaller vehicles, reduce headways and do congestion charging to meter usage. If you start combining unscheduled vans and buses which use small robotic taxis to feed them coming in and to distribute their riders at the destination zone, the capacity of road lanes filled with such buses can be absolutely astounding, beyond anything conceived with today's transit modes. But instead, let's look at the question at a higher level. Cities are moving away from pure CBD style to a more polycentric style. That means that you don't have everybody going downtown. This is a problem that limits the ridership of many transit systems, which only function well to and from the CBD and do poorly at the majority of trips which today do not involve the CBD. We're also seeing more variation in work hours (in response to the commute being a bitch if you work 9 to 5.) With full metering you could simply say, "Sorry the capacity on these congested roads is X cars/hour, so we are not allowing more than X cars, period." Whether it's the top bidding X cars, or X lottery winners or people lining up on highway onramps as they do today, when people become clear they are not allocated road use, then they do something else -- move to transit, move their house, move their job, or most likely, move their hours. Computers can do more than drive the cars and make their movements more regular. If we regulate traffic we can eventually move past the idea that more people try to use a road than it has capacity to handle. Once you reduce the accidents and the irrational slowdowns of human drivers, the roads stay at their capacity most of the time. I am fond of using markets here, but some oppose congestion charges because they can make the prime road space only for the wealthy. If that's the case there are other methods I have outlined in other essays at
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You're right that our predictions of the future will have flaws, and people will do things we don't expect. However, I feel confident in predicting that the way we think about urban transportation, both by cars and by transit, is in for a huge change, and the only sure mistake is to assume it's going to be just like today. I have a number of articles on these topics for you to consider at but let me open up a few issues for you: Sprawl. Sprawl has many elements, but two important ones are low density housing (which is probably not going away) and automobile-oriented commercial zones -- buildings set back from roads, surrounded by parking, rarely walked to. As the robocars come, both parking themselves more efficiently and just dropping people off and going off to do other taxi jobs (car share) we will see the parking lots slowly emptying out, even at Christmas. The landowners will be rational and say, "I need to do something more efficient with that land." I have some forecasts of this in my article on Robocar Oriented Development at You're right to fear that transit investment will drop in the robocar world. Transit turns out to be efficient at rush hour, but less efficient than cars off-peak, at least in the USA, for a total average that's not very good. The rational and green thing to do is to have properly designed transit (including automatic vanpools as a prime method) at rush hour when road congestion is an issue and load is high, and leave things to robotic taxis off-peak, especially efficient "city car" style ones for trips that never touch the highway. However, that's not like today's transit planning at all. It's time for research in the urban planning community. We can't be sure which way the future will go but we should investigate the various probable paths so we can choose wisely. People can only have their behaviour bent so much. They will get what they truly want but we can adjust things a little if it turns out to give them that in a better way. They crave private, door to door transportation (even at a high price, but especially at a low price) without parking hassles and the ability to read while riding. The robocar is going to give them that. Liked off the rod article you will find some other questions I want urban planners to discuss.
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It's gotomeeting that is not allowing you to call in via SIP. One thing I had to give to, even though I am not fond of the rural-telco based "free" conferences, was they supported calling in via Skype and g.722 based SIP for high quality. We have a polycom HD voice conference phone and it was great on that service. Annoyingly when it calls into gotomeeting it does it over PSTN. We do that instead of using the higher quality audio in the PC because the polycom has 3 microphones and does a better job with the meeting room audio, sadly, even though it is then reduced to PSTN quality. The balancing of the different voices is better. A means to connect the polycom to gotomeeting over 722 would be ideal. Or tossing it out and buying one of the relatively rare USB multi-microphone conference table phones. But yes, otherwise I hate the muffled sound of the people who call in via phone rather than over IP.
Matt L: 1) Sure, they will still be around, what of it? 2) As the important part of a car becomes a computer, this math changes. Cars get used much more (they are shared) and reach their end of life much sooner. But they're disruptively better, so much better that people junk old cars for scrap sooner -- akin to, though not quite to the extent that we junk old perfectly working computers and phones. But yes, it still takes time, even with this. 3) Yes, but a lot still happens in the meantime while the old vehicles are out there. Some improvements are more ITS than robocars, and apply to an old car with a smart phone in it. Yes, at rush hour peds may not want to jaywalk -- it was always illegal. 4) They don't have to go home. Even without the fact that robocars could valet park at 2.5x or more density we actually have an oversupply of parking because people demand parking very close to where they are going. Robocars won't - half a mile away is just fine, so you balance over all the lots. And the taxis don't park at all, the go off to serve other people. And the robocars never actually park, they stand, and they can do that in front of non-busy driveways, fire hydrants, you name it. 5. Yes, but the ped who does that is photographed by the people in the car that came to a stop. These cars all have cameras pointing forward. I don't recommend you doing it a lot, not with the face recognition that's going to be out there in a few years. You'll find a fat jaywalking ticket in the mail. Not sure I like that but it's probably how it will be -- the people you you walked in front of will be very annoyed.
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Well, they do change the landscape -- for both cars and transit. But they'll start looking very much like cars and taxis, and as they grow have a grander effect. Let's face it, outside of Manhattan and a few other places, transit ridership is quite minor compared to car use, and so the effect on car use is probably much grander in its effect on cities, but both are interesting to study. The data we have today covers who lives where and what trips they take, and often what modes they use. Initially, this does not change much. Eventually people may change where they live based on new transportation options. So I'm not sure why transit analysis has any particular data advantages. It is my contention, for example, that Manhattan's taxi fleet is vital to it having the lowest car ownership by far in the USA. Manhattan has the biggest transit system too, and many ride it, but the thing that lets you give up the car is that you can ride the transit where transit goes, but you can get anywhere else in the cab. It's the "everywhere" that's important. Outside Manhattan people look at the world and say, "If I don't have a car, there's a lot of places it's really hard to go. Thus I will spend a huge wad of cash on a car. Ah, now I have a car, and having spent that money, I would be silly not to use it and take transit." Robocars -- and taxis -- break this cycle. And so yes, they are important if you are debating should I put in a subway or LRT. (Not sure if they have a lot of bearing on bike paths, other than the ability to go one-way by car and then one-way by bike makes the bike path much more appealing for a commute, if you have something -- robots or people as in Velib -- to redistribute the bikes.) If I were trying to plan future transit lines I would focus on where and when the lines are most efficient. I would plan not to run them at off-peak times. I would consider if my ROW can carry other automated vehicles when not in use. I would expect people to be much less tolerant of doing transfers or taking trips that go way off the direct route. I would go with BRT over LRT if I was doing either at all. I would expect it to be easier for people to get to and from stations from further distances. I would design platforms for easy mode-switch from train to robocar. I would (if doing BRT) have different sizes of vehicle and dynamically allocate the right sized vehicle to the load. And many other things. At least if I don't want my plan to seem silly in the late 2020s. I note you say we must discourage car usage. Why, if the cars use less energy than the transit vehicles, is that a must? Don't we want to encourage the most energy-efficient forms of transport? As I describe in we have the opportunity to improve walkability a lot as the robocars gradually reduce parking lot demand and we naturally infill and push for walkability in the urbs. I am not sure what you mean by "heh." I'm serious. I was there. I was one of them. We had mailing lists in the 70s on the arpanet where we talked a lot about how the world was going to change and get connected. And it happened. Yes, the general public was shocked in 1994 when the internet "exploded" but for many people that was not a giant surprise. (Or rather, what was a surprise was how surprised people were.)
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Lots to note here: Miles Bader: There's tons of data on car use. Transit use is just a small fraction of it. What we know from that data, among many things, is that in today's cities, most trips are no longer in the old "in and out of CBD" style, and transit has trouble serving them. Actually, most of our dramatic new trends (like the internet and many of its consequences) were predicted and known well in advance by people in the know. Not the general public, that's all. The predictions of impossiblity were also quite unreliable, especially by the public but sometimes by experts. No, the cars with people in them will go the speed people set. Up to the people to decide if they wish to obey the law, not the machines. Insurance for manual drivers should not go up much. Insurance shares the cost of accidents over all drivers. Unless accidents by manual drivers goes up, their insurance doesn't. However, if the robots are safer their insurance goes down. Safer cars are a win for everybody. All-walking towns are interesting (and enabled a bit by robocars) but the truth is you can only force things so much. People will get what they want. If they have children, they seem to want large lots, quiet streets, safe trips to school etc. They give up a lot to get those things. The driver is not a small part of the cost of running a Taxi. In Manhattan, it's 57% of the cost. No, cars are actually more energy-efficient than off-peak transit, and modern efficient CNG or electric cars are a LOT more efficient than off-peak transit. Over time, I expect people to move off of off-peak transit into robocars for the convenience, and the planet will be better for it once those services shut down. @Frosty: I don't mean to imply that software reliability is trivial, but your current cars, airplanes, elevators and much more are all running critical safety functions through surprisingly complex software. It's not easy, but it's not impossible.
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Generally the term "driverless car" is pretty widely disliked. These cars have something driving them -- it's just not a human. The world has not settled on the popular term yet. Terms like self-driving car, autonomous vehicle, robocar are seen. In the USA at least, you can get by observing the traffic laws by and large. Double parking is not a problem because these cars don't ever not have a driver in them so they are never parked. And yes, the future won't be quite like what we paint, I agree. But one thing I know is it won't be like how things are today, and nor will it be like a simple linear extrapolation of today, which is what most transportation planners assume, though perhaps not our gracious host. @Ben seems to feel that just because some past predictions of big changes for the future were wrong, they are all wrong. That's entirely wrong, I suspect.
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I will admit we are often guilty of talking about the consequences of a world with high robocar and robotaxi penetration. That doesn't mean we don't think a lot about the incremental paths that can get there, but it is harder to judge their effect on urban spaces because it is both hard to predict which path will be taken, and the steps will be short-lived -- too short lived for cities and planners to have time to notice, study and act upon them before the world is different. One fairly clear gradual effect will be a reduction in the need for parking. Robocars are going to need a lot less parking, both because they can valet park more densely, they can park in "standing" locations or remote locations, but more simply because if they are robotaxis they will not park at all -- they'll go off and transport somebody else. Even a small robotaxi fleet starts having a small but visible effect in the parking lot. There are fewer cars in it. And this grows until it's quite noticeable that the parking demand is less and we start finding that the lot that was sized for peak demand is never full any more. You start seeing this with only modest penetration. Then lot owners start wondering if they should repurpose some of that wasted land and start going to the city to talk about it. I have called this robocar oriented development, a parallel to TOD, and describe it at The effects on congestion are not as quick. I believe an interesting approach is moving people into smaller vehicles (which they would never buy but would happily ride in on short urban trips) and eventually half-width vehicles. Any serious penetration of half-width, 2/3rd length vehicles on the urban street begins having a noticeable effect. The half-width vehicles are still several years away, but well within the transit planning horizon which is often 2 decades. 3 cars in 2 lanes is an interesting question. Turns out one of the problems of half-width (which is easy to pack into today's lanes) is stability. You need vehicles that can bank, or only go at low speeds. 2/3rd width is more doable but as you note, doesn't mesh with our lane patterns. To make it happen you need to find 2 such vehicles in 2 lanes, and have them let a 3rd vehicle enter the middle as they move to the sides. This has the issue of creating a barrier to traffic for those who want to pass. In light traffic that's manageable but in heavy traffic it's an issue. So I'm not quite sure if the 2/3rds approach works but I don't see it as inherently impossible. The half-width approach has a clearer path -- and a greater traffic benefit. What excites me about small vehicles is their huge energy efficiency. Half-width electric cars are super-green. It is possible to make them so that they use less energy per passenger-mile than any transit system (even East Japan Rail) and much less energy than U.S. transit systems. (Not that this is hard. The average bus in the USA gets about 4mpg and has 9 passengers on it, less than 4 0 passenger miles per gallon, which is worse than a solo Prius. That's shockingly bad. And don't get me started on the light rails, which are worse. Only the subways and commuter rails get a decent green score compared to cars and they can't beat the efficient electrics over their whole cycle -- though of course they beat them during rush hour, but the transit system is not just rush hour.) Small, light vehicles offer the potential for a much greener transportation system. But up to now, we have not found a way to get people to ride in small efficient vehicles even on solo trips where they are just fine. I think robotic taxis can start changing that. And yes, incrementally, not just all at once. And yes, people are designing small, light vehicles in the sub 100 wh/mile range which are crash safe even with crazy human drivers on the road. We don't have to await a completely imagined future. In the 20-teens, you won't see urban planners wake up, though. What we'll see this decade is more private, such as the 2104 Mercedes and Volvo models (coming out in 2013) that cruise the highway steering themselves. Their main social consequence will be the fact that, like their ACC predecessor, they smooth out human driving patterns and don't rubberneck, which helps with freeway congestion. You'll also see auto-parking cars mid-decade that valet park in lots, but not remote lots. When the taxis come -- perhaps in the teens, perhaps early in the 20s -- we start seeing the bigger changes. But make no mistake about it. The "completely imagined future" is coming, and sooner than you think. Nobody can predict everything about it with perfection. But for transportation planners to ignore the key elements of it would be a serious error. I have made a summary of robocar potential changes which affect urban planning at http://www.templeto . Yes, some of it is about the completely imagined future but I think all the issues need consideration soon.
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Hmm. I'm not sure "I invoked the clause, some haggling, verification of my status" would go down in my great service book. If a hotel didn't have such a policy and I complained and they comped the room, I would be satisfied, but if they advertise a feature to me a s a premium guest, and I have to haggle to get it, that doesn't count for much to me.
Toggle Commented Oct 29, 2012 on The Perks of Travel at VoIPWatch
Calling it "sending party pays" is not the right view, because on the internet, there is no real division between "sending" and "receiving." if I am uploading a photo, you would call me the sender, but if the photo sharing site is paying, that's what I would call toll free data. In fact, the actual way this would be done is "server pays" which means the party who initiates the connection is the one paying, even if it means that the initiator is mostly the receiver of data. Now I personally feel that this is a horrible idea, because it slows down the deployment of the way the internet is meant to work, which is "both parties pay for their connection to the middle point." I even argue, and many agree, that if you are not paying this way it is not the internet, it is one of the older network architectures that the internet rightly defeated, brought back to life and stuck on the side of the internet. It looks good at first, very seductive -- it has seduced you -- but in the end kills innovation because it requires that all apps have a financial justification before you can try them out.
Toggle Commented Aug 20, 2012 on Toll Free Data = Sending Party Pays at VoIPWatch
Wow, I'm the opposite. When the hotel tells me there is a charge for wifi, I ask, "and how much is the electricity? What's the water fee?" Yes, I expect good electricity, good water, good sheets etc. from my hotel, and yes, that's all included in the rate. But $20? Any ISP is able to sell decent connectivity to all the houses in town for a price that's around $1 to $2 per day per house. And many of the people in the houses are watching movies, too. And they make a reasonable profit at that price. Now $2 per day is not enough to charge a special fee for, it makes more sense to consider it part of the price of the room. And that way you can get rid of those annoying wifi login screens too which screw up all your applications.
Toggle Commented Jun 28, 2012 on Bye-Bye Free Wi-Fi When In Hotels at VoIPWatch
You SoCals are so jealous that you don't have a good sense of rivalry.
Toggle Commented May 26, 2012 on NorCal vs SoCal at heathervescent
I never saw this photo before, but you sure look amazing in it.
Toggle Commented Dec 1, 2011 on Continued Awe at heathervescent
Andy, I have to disagree. What happened to Skype as far as we can tell -- a bug in their relay node code which took down many supernodes and thus crippled their network -- could have happened in paid-for relay nodes or Skype's use of user computers just as easily. It had only a little relation to the fact that Skype doesn't pay people to be supernodes. (This may have affected how quickly they could come back.) And I think that "Run high quality 99.9% of the time for free but fall back very rarely to a paid lower-fidelity service" is a great model and I think it counts as running a business on free. I'm not saying there aren't reasons to use paid services, but I don't think this speaks to whether a fremium system like Skype isn't a success and something that you can use and rely on in business. The point is you do have many backups available, and the reality is that in Skype they are called upon quite rarely -- perhaps more rarely than many of the commercial services I have used. And you want a fallback for your commercial services too.
Just because the carriers want this self-destructive billing model doesn't mean they're going to get it. Their argument that the external web sites are using "their network" for "free" is absolutely ludicrous. And the threat is idle too. Unless they all want to collude, nobody is going to be the one network that says, "Sorry, customers, no Google for you on our phones because we asked Google to pay for it and they wouldn't." If they all collude they will face both anti-trust and customer revolt.
Toggle Commented Dec 10, 2010 on Sending Party Pays at VoIPWatch
Actually, Andy as bloody annoying as the chatterbox in the row behind you can be, studies have shown that humans are much more bothered by a conversation they can only hear one half of than they are of a two-way conversation. Of course, sometimes with the chatterbox, their voice is loud and the other person, perhaps trying to not have so long a conversation, is quiet, to the same result. Phone callers tend to also talk more loudly than they need to. I have proposed for years that phones, since they know quite well the ambient noise level and the abilities of their microphone to pull out your voice, regulate your volume by beeping in your ear when you start talking too loud. Soon you would be trained to talk at the lowest volume the phone can still make out in good fidelity. Phone booths would be good but no doubt the security people would find some reason to hate them, as they forbid "congregating."